Since reporting in April 2021, the Waste Reclaimers Workgroup (PRW) has continued to work closely with the Ocean Plastic Leadership Network (OPLN) to raise awareness of how plastic reclaimers lives are impacted by the rapidly growing quantity of plastic waste all over the globe. Meridian Institute, which works with both PRW and OPLN, facilitated a series of discussions in July 2021 in which multi-national companies, NGOs and governmental representatives were asked to articulate a wide range of issues pertinent to the possible initiation of negotiations for a global treaty on plastics. OPLN is a membership organization committed to engaging all stakeholders in a robust discussion of the challenges posed by plastic waste. The insights gained in these discussions will be used to educate country-by-country UN negotiators charged with developing the Global Treaty on Plastic Waste. The goal is to provide the UN negotiators with an overview of where stakeholders have alignment or differences regarding the extent to which plastic is causing harm to people and the planet. Consideration will also be given to what needs to happen to manage these wastes responsibly. Because many people are simply unaware of the role waste reclaimers play in global management of plastic waste, PRW, Meridian and OPLN continue to seek opportunities to share insights about the work of waste reclaimers.
To bring the role of waste reclaimers alive at the OPLN Global Plastic Waste Dialogues, PRW enlisted the assistance of individuals who had either personally collected waste (or were very familiar with the issues important to collectors), to attend the Global Dialogue and engage in the discussions. Using translation services, as well as facilitated cross-cultural discussions, the waste reclaimers shared information about types of plastic waste that are particularly difficult for them to collect, sell or dispose. In an unusual back and forth discussion, the reclaimers were willing to offer suggestions and make recommendations for what could be done to help them be more effective at collecting plastic waste from landfills and other locations. Companies, some of which produce the products the waste reclaimers had highlighted, participated in the meeting as well. Everyone was able to listen and ask clarifying questions. Despite the massive challenges created by plastic waste, the waste reclaimers noted that some plastic products have improved their lives and livelihoods.
In the coming months, the Plastic Reclaimers Workgroup will discuss principles of engagement they recommend be monitored when various organizations engage with this sector. Issues such as adherence to child labor laws, renumeration, access to clean water, food, safe shelter, medical care, and other humanitarian issues have been identified. In addition, Meridian will be working with OPLN to identify additional platforms for visibility including further participation in the development of the UN Global Plastic Waste Treaty.
With the support of organizations like GlobalGiving, Dow Corporation, and individuals like you, we look forward to continuing to support the work of waste reclaimers who play a key role in the creation of a circular economy of materials.