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Plastic pollution

Intergovernmental negotiations on the international treaty against plastic pollution


Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (

The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) gathered for the first time to adopt the formulation of a legally binding international treaty set to come into force from now to 2024.

Representatives of governments met at Punta del Este, in Uruguay, from 28 November to 2 December 2022, for the first of five international meetings dedicated to this subject. The European Union supports a legally binding agreement, unlike the United States.

Key figures on plastic pollution:

  • World production of plastic doubled between 2000 and 2020, to reach 460 million tonnes a year, and should come close to a billion tonnes by 2050 if nothing is done. By then, greenhouse gas emissions linked to the production, use and elimination of plastics should represent 15% of global emissions.
  • Only 15% of plastics are collected for recycling (and only 9% are actually treated): 46% are buried, 17% incinerated and 22% discarded in the environment.
  • To date, 31 million tonnes a year contaminate terrestrial ecosystems, 20 million tonnes contaminate aquatic ecosystems, 11 million contaminate the oceans.
  • By 2040, the quantity of plastic waste reaching the oceans is estimated at about thirty million tonnes a year.

To know more, you can follow the works of and recommendations of the Tara Océan Foundation: traite-international-pollutions-plastiques-FR.pdf (


The Tara Microbiomes mission shows that the plastic pollution of African rivers differs from that of European rivers

Maxime Horlaville / Fondation Tara ocean

For almost ten years, a 36-metre long scientific schooner ploughed the seas around South America, navigating on the waters of the Antarctic before sailing along the western coast of Africa. Its odyssey ended in October in the port of Lorient.

Jean-François Ghiglione, director of research at the oceanography laboratory of Banyuls-sur-Mer, boarded the boat for the last part of the journey to study the impact of rivers and the plastic pollution they carry into the Atlantic Ocean and its microbial communities. To achieve this, the scientists collected samples from the plumes of the rivers Orange and Congo, and sailed up the rivers Gambia and Casamance.

What has been learned at this stage?

  • We detected fewer microplastics in the African rivers than in European ones, but more macro-plastics around towns and villages.
  • We found less packaging debris in the African rivers than in the European ones, but more fishing nets and clothes.

Now back in the laboratory, the researchers will carry out chemical analyses on the samples to understand which pollutants enter in oceanic waters during their degradation. They will also study the life (microbes, bacteria, microalgae, etc.) that develops on these mini-rafts capable of travelling long distances and disseminating pathogenic organisms. They must also determine their interactions with the microorganisms that compose the microbiome of the ocean.

The samples taken in Europe and Africa make it possible to perform comparisons with the predictions of models as a function of the number of inhabitants and the morphology of river basins. The first results of the studies on oceanic microplastics “show that we have overestimated the quantity of plastics originating from rivers, says Jean-François Ghiglione. This means that the plastics that stagnate in the oceanic gyres are older than what was thought. Plastic, a marker of the Anthropocene epoque, could therefore last several tens to several hundreds and even thousands of years in the environment!” 

As a reminder, the previous mission in 2019 showed that the most polluted European rivers were the Thames in the United Kingdom and the Tiber in Italy.

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