Several of the world’s major businesses and financial institutions have called for a comprehensive legally binding treaty to combat plastic pollution.

More than 70 companies, including Unilever, Nestle, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Walmart, have signed a joint statement, as has the BNP Paribas bank.

In their statement, the businesses stressed the need to include both upstream and downstream policies to ‘keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment’ and reduce the production and use of virgin plastic.

The firms also called for plastic production to be decoupled from the consumption of fossil resources.

This is the first time businesses have come together to call for such a policy and comes ahead of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) 5.2, where UN member states will meet to begin negotiations for a treaty on the plastic issue.

It is in line with a resolution tabled by a group of 42 countries, led by Rwanda and Peru, to set up a negotiation mandate for a new treaty at the conference.

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The statement also follows the publication of a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Published in 2020, the report showed how plastic pollution should be stopped ‘before it starts’ by a treaty that sets global standards and helps countries and industries play their parts.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation CEO Andrew Morlet said: “Plastic pollution doesn’t stop at borders; it is a global problem that requires businesses and governments to work together on global solutions.

“Today marks the first time so many leading businesses have come together and called for a legally binding, robust treaty; one that sets common rules and regulations, establishes a level playing field and creates the conditions needed to deliver coordinated global solutions.

“This statement sends a powerful signal to policymakers that they now have an unprecedented opportunity to turn the tide on plastic pollution.”