The INC-4 is underway in Toronto, Canada.

INC-4 on Plastic Pollution underway and how RECLAIM’s prMRF aims to deliver on Circular Economy 

The fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (Plastic Pollution INC-4), is underway in Canada. What happens here will advance the draft global treaty towards its final version, ensuring that the stage is set for ending plastic pollution in the next session (INC-5) in Busan, Korea. At RECLAIM Project, we wholeheartedly support this instrument but are also taking active steps to be the solution to the plastic problem.
The INC-4 is underway in Toronto, Canada.
INC-4 is taking place in Canada. (Image courtesy: UNEP)

The fourth session of the 7-day International Negotiating Committee (INC-4) is underway in Toronto, Canada, which aims to develop a legally binding instrument to curb plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.  

At the opening plenary session, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme Inger Anderson reminded the stakeholders – policymakers, heads of state, representatives of the UN member states, non-governmental organisations, civil society – of the urgent need for these negotiations that were given a green light through a United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) resolution two years ago. 

In her statement, Anderson reiterated:  

“Two years have passed since the United Nations Environment Assembly resolution that green-lit these negotiations. This resolution, I remind you, called for an instrument that deals with the full cycle of plastics. 

So, to stop plastic pollution, we need to start at the start and end at the end. This means crafting an instrument that ensures we use fewer virgin materials and less problematic plastic. That we avoid exposure to harmful chemicals. That we design for circularity. That we use, reuse and recycle resources more efficiently. This is the instrument we need to protect human and ecosystem health – while ensuring a just transition and space for the private sector to thrive in a new sustainable economy.

The statement reflects the growing global concern to collectively stem the tide of plastic pollution by addressing the entire life cycle of plastics, from production to end-of-life, and shift to a circular economy benefiting all, including civil society, businesses, national governments and financial institutions.  

This transition from a linear (take-make-use-dispose) model to a circular (reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle) model has the potential to cut the volume of plastics leaking into oceans by 80 per cent by 2040, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent, create additional 700,000 jobs, and help save nearly $70 billion by 2040.  

Globally, 400 million tonnes of plastics are produced each year (UNEP). Much of these plastics end up in landfills or in oceans, harming vulnerable populations and marine habitat, on land and sea respectively. Plastic production and pollution exacerbate the triple planetary crises of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution and waste. But plastic pollution, especially microplastics, also affects human health. A growing body of science corroborates this fact. A US study examined 62 human placentas and found microplastics in every one of them. 

And these are just a few of the many hard-hitting facts!   

This is why the INC-4 in Toronto needs popular support to thread together a credible, collaborative and implementable legally binding instrument on plastic pollution that is just, practical and transparent.  

What is INC-4? 

In March 2022, at the resumed fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2), a landmark decision was made to create a global treaty on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. This resolution (5/14) mandated the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to convene an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC). The goal of this committee is to craft a binding international agreement addressing all aspects of plastic’s life cycle, from production and design to disposal. 

Follow INC-4 developments here

When and where is the next session following this? 

The next session, INC-5, is scheduled to take place in Busan, Republic of Korea, from November 25 to December 2, 2024. This will mark the culmination of the negotiation process. Following INC-5, a Diplomatic Conference will convene, where Heads of State will officially sign the agreement, cementing global commitment to combating plastic pollution. 

Why is this important for the RECLAIM Project’s objectives? 

INC-4 advocates for the implementation of a legally binding instrument that promotes the reduction of virgin material extraction, minimises human exposure to harmful chemicals, and emphasises circular design principles to enhance resource efficiency through use, reuse, and recycling.

RECLAIM’s technologies – that is the development of a low-cost, portable, easy to install and increased productivity prMRF that will help to achieve full material recovery anywhere – are the crucial cogs in the leakage-free circular economy wheel. 

Read: Delve deeper into RECLAIM’s 3 material recovery scenarios

By employing AI-powered robotic waste sorting technologies, RECLAIM Project aims to increase the use of secondary raw materials, thereby reducing virgin material extraction and the associated environmental costs. Use of robots will also reduce human exposure to plastics but also enhance sorting productivity.  

Read our previous story on AI and Robotics for waste sorting

At RECLAIM, we know that a circular waste system won’t work simply by collecting waste. Because the collected waste needs to be processed to remove hazardous substances and sorted to recover reusable materials from mixed waste for recycling purposes.  

Thus, our prMRF is expected to play a key role in developing a global, leakage-free circular economy model benefiting businesses, the society, and the environment. 

Find the highlights from the INC-4 below, from day 1: 

Day 1 highlights

The day commenced with a clear objective: to advance the draft global treaty towards its final version, ensuring that the stage is set for ending plastic pollution. The aim is to finalize the treaty text by INC-5 in Busan, Korea. 

After the opening plenary featuring national statements, the meeting divided into two contact groups to address different sections of the 69-page document. Each contact group comprises five sub-groups, each led by a facilitator focusing on specific text elements. Discussions within these groups will refine options, with outcomes reviewed by the contact group. 


While some delegates cautioned against standalone articles on principles, objectives, and scope due to lack of consensus, others argued for their inclusion, suggesting they could provide guidance for implementation. There were significant differences of opinion with regards to the definition of scope, with some advocating for alignment with UNEA resolution 5/14 and others proposing mergers to enhance clarity. Additionally, there were debates over the inclusion of principles such as extended producer responsibility (EPR), with concerns raised about introducing potentially contentious elements.


Regarding product design and performance, many delegations expressed support for integrating measures within the ILBI aimed at improving the design of plastic products. Some countries advocated for these measures to be legally binding, aligning with a predefined set of minimum criteria outlined in an annex. However, there were calls for clarity on implementation measures, especially concerning technology availability. Suggestions included the establishment of nationally determined targets and timelines.

Regarding the reduction, reuse, recycling, refill, and repair of plastics, and the adoption of circularity approaches, some proposed prioritizing a waste hierarchy and incorporating provisions to facilitate the establishment of reuse systems. However, there was opposition to imposing uniform targets, as countries vary significantly in their waste management capacities. Discussions on the use of recycled plastic contents often overlapped with waste management considerations.

Regarding alternative plastics and plastic products, many argued for their exemption from differentiated regulations, emphasizing their inherent plastic nature.

Concerning non-plastic substitutes, delegates stressed the importance of ensuring the safety, environmental sustainability, and cultural compatibility of substitutes, while avoiding those with adverse impacts on various aspects. There was consensus on subjecting substitutes to comprehensive lifecycle assessments covering environmental, economic, social, cultural, and health dimensions. Suggestions included establishing global criteria for substitutes, forming a post-ILBI working group on lifecycle approaches, and advocating for intersessional work. Additionally, there were calls to recognize technologies and services promoting reuse and refill models as viable non-plastic substitutes, alongside the need for adequate mechanisms of implementation, including technology transfer and financial resources.


The INC-4 negotiations are wrapping up today in Ottawa, Canada, with representatives from 174 countries dedicating their weekend to refining the revised draft text of the international legally binding instrument (ILBI) targeting plastic pollution, particularly in marine ecosystems. Deliberations within various subgroups delved into critical issues like extended producer responsibility (EPR), technology transfer, and the establishment of robust financing mechanisms.

DAY 6:

Contact Group 1:

  • Subgroup 1.1 (Facilitators: Sara Elkhouly & Julius Piercy):
    • Considered the Co-Facilitators’ streamlined text on objective, scope, and just transition.
    • Decided to base further discussions on Co-Chairs’ initial streamlined text on the objective.
    • Made technical edits on scope and just transition before validating the texts.
    • Negotiated the objective, with support for ending plastic pollution and protecting human health/environment.
    • Debate over lifecycle of plastic versus plastic waste and inclusion of time-bound targets.
  • Subgroup 1.2 (Facilitators: Maria Angélica Ikeda & Erlend Draget):
    • Discussed provisions on micro- and nanoplastics, exemptions, and trade.
    • Presented submissions on micro- and nanoplastics, focusing on research promotion and transparency.
    • Debated exemptions availability, with concerns over overarching provisions and hazardous chemicals.
    • Considered global rules on trade in listed chemicals, polymers, and products, with support for measures to prevent illegal dumping.
  • Subgroup 1.3 (Facilitators: Andrés Duque Solís & Abdulrahman bin Ali Alshehri):
    • Addressed provisions on fishing gear placement and scope.
    • Agreed with Co-Facilitators’ proposal and began textual negotiations.
    • Proposed additional language on overarching obligation regarding fishing gear, including addressing “lost and damaged” gear and tackling pollution.

Contact Group 2:

  • Subgroup 2.1 (Facilitators: Naomi Namara Karekaho & Antonio Miguel Luís):
    • Continued discussions on financing and began discussions on capacity building, technical assistance, and technology transfer.
    • Considered plastic pollution fee under extended producer responsibility (EPR) provisions.
    • Debated compelling EPR schemes to provide technology and increasing financial flows to prevent plastic emissions.
    • Raised issues of sovereign rights, technology transfer, and South-South cooperation in capacity building.
  • Subgroup 2.2 (Facilitators: Marine Collignon & Danny Rahdiansyah):
    • Finalized discussions on subsidiary bodies and final provisions.
    • Discussed establishment of a clearing house mechanism and scientific, technical, and socio-economic subsidiary bodies.
    • Considered secretariat composition and final provisions, including signature, ratification, and dispute settlement.

Synthesis: The contact groups discussed various provisions related to combating plastic pollution, including objective, scope, exemptions, and trade measures. Key debates centered on the lifecycle of plastic, exemptions availability, and global trade rules. Additionally, discussions covered fishing gear placement, financing mechanisms like plastic pollution fees, and capacity building for a just transition. The groups also addressed the establishment of subsidiary bodies and final provisions for the treaty, with considerations for sovereign rights, technology transfer, and dispute resolution.

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