Press Release

Welch Joins Global Plastic Pollution Talks in Ottawa, Pushes for Bold Action on Plastic Reduction in Negotiations 

Apr 25, 2024

Ahead of the fourth INC Negotiating Session, 13 members of Congress and European Parliament urged international leaders to restrict industry efforts to limit treaty on plastic pollution

BURLINGTON, VT – Government leaders and international stakeholders are gathering for the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) in Ottawa, Canada this week to negotiate a global plastic pollution treaty. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.) attended part of INC-4 as a member of a Congressional Delegation to the conference this past weekend. Congressional Delegation attendees included delegation leader Senator Jeff Merkley (D-O.R.), and Senators Peter WelchSheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA-02). The lawmakers released the following:  

“We are championing an internationally binding commitment to reduce the harmful plastic pollution filling up the oceans and working its way into our food chain.  Negotiators should focus on achieving the strongest agreement possible – one that includes binding obligations that can be ratcheted up and transparent metrics to gauge environmental progress.  A small number of committed, high-ambition countries can create change and smooth the way for Congress to pass bold legislation cracking down on plastic pollution,” said the lawmakers in a joint statement

Senators WelchWhitehouse, and Merkley along with Representative Huffman and Member of the European Parliament Mohammed Chahim, also led eight other international lawmakers in a letter calling on world leaders to limit plastic producers and other industry officials from unduly influencing efforts by the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution to combat the scourge of plastic pollution.  

The lawmakers’ letter was addressed to U.S. President Joe Biden, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, and INC Executive Secretary Jyoti Mathur-Filipp. The letter was also signed by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Five members of the House of Representatives signed the letter in addition to Representative Huffman. 

“Given the great urgency of the plastic crisis, we must unblock the barriers that have kept us from advancing strong global collaboration to combat plastic pollution. The political influence and obstruction of certain plastic producing industries, petrochemical companies, and other relevant industrial stakeholders has been and remains one of the largest barriers to strong action,” wrote the lawmakers.  

“We urge you to institute new policies for corporate and industrial sector representatives’ participation at negotiating sessions, including requiring participating industries to submit an audited corporate political influencing statement that discloses plastics and climate-related lobbying, campaign contributions, and funding of trade associations and organizations active on plastics and climate issues. These statements should be reviewed, publicly disclosed, and scrutinized prior to any engagement in INC negotiations. The INC should also consider additional measures to establish a robust accountability framework to protect against undue influence of corporate actors with proven vested interests that contradict the goals of the global plastics treaty,” added the lawmakers

“These reforms would bring much-needed transparency to industrial plastics-related political influencing activities around the world, and they would help to ensure that the INC process is a good faith effort by countries to solve the plastic pollution crisis,” continued the lawmakers.  

Plastic pollution threatens the planet’s most important natural resources and disproportionately harms vulnerable populations. About 450,000,000 tons of plastic are produced every year, a number that is projected to triple by 2050. In the United States, around 5-6% of plastic waste is recycled into a similar quality product and research shows human beings swallow the amount of plastic in the typical credit card every week. 

Senator Welch has helped lead efforts in the Senate to combat plastic pollution and phase out single-use plastics. This month, Senator Welch and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) led the introduction of the Banning Toxics in Plastic Bottles Act, legislation to prohibit the sale of plastic beverage containers that contain certain toxic substances and dyes often linked to adverse health and environmental impacts, including Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS).  

Last year, Senator Welch joined Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) in introducing the bicameral Farewell to Foam Act, legislation to phase out single-use plastic foam food service products, “loose fill” such as packing peanuts, and non-medical disposable coolers – materials known to cause adverse health effects and pollute waterways.