Five of the world’s leading industrial powers, including the UK, signed up to a charter to protect the oceans from plastics pollution at the G7 summit in Canada.
But the US and Japan refused to join, potentially limiting its effectiveness.
A summit communique said: “We recognise the urgency of the threat of ocean plastic waste and marine litter to ecosystems and the lost value of plastics in the waste stream.
“We commit to building on previous G7 commitments and taking a lifecycle approach to plastics stewardship on land and at sea, moving towards a more resource-efficient and sustainable management of plastics.”
It said the current approach to producing, using, managing and disposing of plastics “poses a significant threat to the environment, to livelihoods and potentially to human health”.
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the EU committed to move towards “a more resource-efficient and sustainable approach to the management of plastics”.
They said they would aim to “avoid unnecessary use of plastics and prevent waste, and to ensure that plastics are designed for recovery, reuse, recycling and end-of-life management to prevent waste, through various policy measures”.
The five countries committed to work with industry towards 100% reusable, recyclable or recoverable plastics by 2030, use ‘green’ public procurement to reduce waste and support secondary plastics markets and alternatives to plastic, and to increase recycled content by at least 50% in plastic products where applicable by 2030.
They also pledged to recycle and reuse at least 55% of plastic packaging by 2030 and recover 100% of plastics by 2040.
WRAP in April launched a plastics pact for the UK with some more demanding targets.
Despite the US government’s stance, the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) vice-president of plastics Steve Russell said: “Marine debris is a pressing global issue, and the ACC is committed to being part of the solution.
”Our plastic makers have set and are working to achieve aggressive goals for the reuse, recycling and recovery of 100% of plastic packaging by 2040, with interim goals by 2030.”
Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan said: “While the leadership to outline a common blueprint is good news, voluntary charters focused on recycling and repurposing will not solve the problem at the source.
“It’s time for the world’s largest economies to recognise that we cannot simply recycle our way out of this problem while we keep churning out so much throwaway plastic in the first place.
“Governments must move beyond voluntary agreements to legislate binding reduction targets and bans on single-use plastics, invest in new and reuse delivery models for products, and hold corporations accountable for the problem they have created.”