28 Jan 2021

Venue: Online | Webex

The Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues aim to facilitate further engagement and discussion among the stakeholders in International Geneva and beyond. In addition, they intend to address the plastic crisis and support coordinated approaches that can lead to more efficient decision making.

About the Dialogues

The world is facing a plastic crisis, the status quo is not an option. Plastic pollution is a serious issue of global concern which requires an urgent and international response involving all relevant actors at different levels. Many initiatives, projects and governance responses and options have been developed to tackle this major environmental problem, but we are still unable to cope with the amount of plastic we generate. In addition, there is a lack of coordination which can better lead to a more effective and efficient response.

Various actors in Geneva are engaged in rethinking the way we manufacture, use, trade and manage plastics. The Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues aim at outreaching and creating synergies among these actors, highlighting efforts made by intergovernmental organizations and governments, businesses, the scientific community, civil society and individuals in the hope of informing and creating stronger synergies and coordinated actions. The dialogues will also look at what the different stakeholders have achieved at all levels, present the latest research and governance options.

In addition, although the dialogues target stakeholders from all continents, they primarily aim to encourage increased engagement of the Geneva community in the run-up to various global environmental negotiations, such as:

  • UNEA-5 (1st and 2nd sessions) in February 2021 and February 2022
  • BRS COPs in July 2021
  • SAICM ICCM5 in July 2021

This first session of dialogues will end in February 2021 to build momentum towards the first session of UNEA-5. It will aim to facilitate further engagement and discussions among the International Geneva stakeholders and actors across the regions and support coordinated approaches that can lead to more efficient global decision making. It will also intend to provide a platform to further carry the discussion from the recently conclude Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group (AHEG) on Marine Litter and Microplastics towards UNEA-5 part 2 in 2022.

The Plastics and Standards session is the fifth dialogue to be organized leading to and making recommendations towards the High-Level Dialogue on Plastic Governance Dialogue in February 2021.

The dialogues are organized in collaboration with the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Secretariat, the Center for International Environmental Law, the Global Governance Centre at the Graduate Institute, Norway, and Switzerland.

Plastics and Standards

There is growing interest among governments and stakeholders in the role of standards as a policy instrument for supporting efforts to reduce plastic pollution. Already, a vast array of standards play a role in shaping the plastics economy. In addition to standards on the design and characteristics of plastic products, there are standards on topics as diverse as the chemical composition of plastics and the labeling of products. In addition, an array of intellectual property standards also shape the plastics market, regulating matters such as the ownership of trademarks, industrial designs, copyright and patents on plastics and technologies relevant to waste management.

Looking ahead, efforts to reduce plastic pollution frequently refer to the need for stronger environmental requirements, including through higher and clearer standards. Calls for a more circular plastics economy, for instance, include proposals for improved standards on issues ranging from recyclability and recycled content of plastics, to the labeling of the plastic footprint of products, as well as on the reusability of plastics.  Existing multilateral environmental treaties also contain numerous standards relevant to plastics. Further, proposals for a new UN global plastic pollution treaty also underline a role for international cooperation on standards. At the same time, international trade rules include a set of provisions around standards with an eye to ensuring that standards are designed and implemented in ways that are transparent and do not discriminate among countries.

At the same time, there are important concerns about the transparency of processes through which standards are developed and the challenges that many businesses, especially  in developing countries, face in implementing a proliferating array of standards. Notably, standards can take numerous forms – ranging from standards embodied in government regulations to private voluntary standards that emerge from industry or civil society efforts.  Across these processes, the opportunities for participation by a diversity of stakeholders vary as does the degree to which governments, industry and the scientific community participate. At the same time, there are concerns about consumer fatigue in the face of a deluge of product standards and growing scepticism where standards are used to give credibility to products for which the environmental benefits remain contested (e.g., certain ‘bioplastics’ and biodegradable plastics).

In this session, leading experts will discuss the relevance of standards to efforts to reduce plastic pollution. Key questions for discussion include:

  • What is the landscape of standards relevant to efforts to reduce plastic pollution? What efforts are underway to develop new standards relevant to plastics? What is missing on the standards landscape?
  • Which are the key national, regional and global actors at the government level? What are some of the key private initiatives?
  • How best can governments cooperate internationally on standards to reduce plastic pollution? What are the options and processes that could be harnessed? What are the respective roles of organizations like the International Standards Organization (ISO), the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), and the World Trade Organization?  And of organizations like SAICM and the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions? What are the options for governments to cooperate bilaterally or regionally through stronger harmonization or mutual recognition of their respective standards?
  • How much confidence should we have in standards as part of the solution? What are the limitations and challenges of standards – both in terms of the process of their development, timeframes and implementation?  How can we ensure that these are informed by environmental expertise? How great are the risks of consumer fatigue and cynicism in the face of standards and labels in terms of consumer fatigue in the face of standards?
  • How are intellectual property standards relevant to the challenges of reducing plastics pollution?
  • What are the lessons learned about implementation of and compliance with environmental standards? How can governments address concerns of developing countries about compliance with a proliferating array of public and private standards?

Other Sessions


This event will take place on Webex. Kindly register directly on the Webex platform.


In addition to the live WebEx and Facebook transmissions, the video will be available on this webpage.


  • Invitation


The update on Plastics and the Environment provides relevant information and the most recent research, data and articles from the various organizations in international Geneva and other institutions around the world.