Governments, NGOs and businesses at the forefront of pushing for global rules to reduce plastic pollution meet for a decisive 4th round of intergovernmental negotiations 23-29 April in Ottawa, Canada.

The Global Plastics Treaty to end plastics pollution offers a major opportunity to accelerate the transition of necessary plastics like flexible packaging to a circular economy at a global scale.

CEFLEX and its stakeholders have been supportive of the treaty, with delegations attending every round: providing technical insights and engaging proactively in the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty.

The Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging (CEFLEX) initiative joins frontrunners from around the world in supporting a treaty that scales up solutions and provides global rules for businesses to operate with. Our recommendations for negotiators focus specifically on mandatory legislation on product design and effective Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and waste management as levers to implement and enforce.

A delegation of CEFLEX stakeholders and management team will be on the ground at INC4 in Canada, 23-29 April, to provide an informed and trusted voice for the flexible packaging value chain and its role in developing required infrastructure and solutions to end plastic pollution. Some fundamentals for these discussions include:


The Global Treaty to end plastics pollution offers an opportunity to drive and accelerate circularity of necessary plastics like flexible packaging

 Legislation is needed to keep materials circulating in the economy and to…

  • Set a level playing field so that companies investing in design-for-circularity and who use recycled plastics are not put at a competitive disadvantage
  • Ensure that the essential basic steps to achieve a circular economy (which will not be driven by market forces alone) are taken and sustainably funded

INC-4 should focus on:

  • Provisions related to product design requirements, extended producer responsibility, and waste management. These elements have the greatest potential to deliver positive change as urgently as we need it.
  • Consolidating these main provisions and general principles in a revised draft text. Sector specific criteria should be amended in technical annexes after the Treaty’s adoption– starting with defined priority sectors including packaging.

From a flexible packaging perspective, we are calling to include the following provisions in a reviewed draft text version (March 2024).

  1. Fostering design for circularity: Part II 5.a

The Treaty shall mandate harmonised design-for-circularity criteria for all plastic products, including flexible packaging and oblige all Parties to implement and enforce them. We recommend that the Treaty should oblige Parties to adopt national legislation requiring economic operators to meet basic design-for-circularity criteria harmonised at the international level. The “Golden Design Rules for Plastic Products” published by the Consumer Goods Forum could be one basis for these criteria.

Sector specific requirements and relevant standards on design for recycling should be included in technical annexes starting from plastic products that are short-lived such as packaging. These should be based on existing evidence-based guidelines such as the CEFLEX Designing for a Circular Economy guidelines for the mechanical recycling of polyolefin-based flexible packaging which are currently being used as a reference document in the drafting of European (CEN) design-for-recycling standards and are the result of a value chain consensus.

  1. EPR and waste management: Part II 7

The Treaty shall oblige the setting-up and management of sustainably funded EPR systems to increase collection and recycling rates as well as creating demand for the recycled materials from short-lived plastic products, including flexible packaging. The Treaty text should include the following essential principles:

  • EPR fees shall finance tasks in scope of the EPR scheme following the net-cost principle (ring fencing of fees)
  • EPR applies to all packaging including flexibles and collection must fully cover the whole area of responsibility (no cherry-picking)

CEFLEX has shared its expertise and experience in its ‘EPR ‘Criteria for Circularity’ with negotiators, hosted expert debates on EPR in the global south and exchanges with a number of groups on EPR and its role in the global treaty.

  1. Waste management: Part II.9

Creating end market demand for recycled plastic materials is the foundation of a robust strategy for growth in recycling capacities and capabilities.

In Europe, our analysis to identify and develop end markets for recycled content in both flexible and rigid applications in a range of sectors is helping establish a complete picture of the business opportunities in the circular economy. We believe our demand-driven model – which emphasises matching sustainable end markets to appropriate recycling capacities and technologies – can be adapted and applied in all global regions.

large piles of plastic waste

A global treaty in 2025? What happens next and the road ahead

To follow discussions during INC4 and beyond, consider checking in on CEFLEX’s LinkedIn page and the Business Coalition for a Plastics Treaty’s own social media.

Official events in Canada, 23-29 April 2024 include a myriad of sessions; but also side events and webinars. All this in addition to numerous official and non-official gatherings and debates from stakeholders and governments onsite.

Despite the first negotiating round only being held in December 2022, the global plastics treaty has set itself an ambitious timeline. INC4 will be decisive in seeing if these ambitions are met. For delegates and governments, Ottowa represents the penultimate talks before INC 5 in South Korea (November/December 2024) and a diplomatic conference in mid-2025.

Many observers have stated that to achieve an effective treaty by end of 2024, governments must make substantial progress this month – agreeing on the key global measures and priorities to reduce plastic pollution.

What measures of design, reduction, reuse, recycling and financial mechanisms will governments agree to prioritize? To be seen; but informed observers indicate expectations for topical discussions around:

  • a broad treaty scope and annexes details sector-specific approaches in textiles, consumer packaging and possibly fishing gear
  • a prominent role for EPR and reduce, reuse and reycle requirements
  • continued discussions around ‘chemicals of concern’ and ‘problematic plastic products’

One thing is sure, CEFLEX will continue to brief its stakeholders and try to bring data-driven input and expertise, especially on design, EPR and waste management. Wishing all participants a meaningful and productive INC4.

Follow us on LinkedIn and @MissionCircular on X