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Plastic waste on a Galapagos beach

Global Plastics Treaty

We're calling on world leaders to agree an ambitious, legally-binding Global Plastics Treaty that ends the scourge of plastic pollution.


In the face of escalating plastic pollution, Galapagos Conservation Trust is at the forefront of a global movement to establish a comprehensive Global Plastics Treaty. This agreement, currently being negotiated at the United Nations, aims to unite the world in a common goal: drastically reducing plastic waste and safeguarding our planet for future generations. The urgency for a unified international response has never been greater.

Our approach to the Treaty brings together scientific research, policy advocacy and public engagement to foster a sustainable future that is free from plastic pollution, both in Galapagos and worldwide.

Plastic pollution in numbers

8 m

tonnes of plastic are dumped into our oceans annually

90 %

of plastic waste globally is not recycled


Galapagos species found to be negatively affected by plastic pollution


companies account for over 50% of branded plastic on Galapagos beaches

Beach clean-up in Galapagos
© Conservation International / GNPD

The problem

Plastic pollution now affects every corner of the globe, from the deepest ocean trenches to the highest mountain peaks. Even in the Galapagos Islands, one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world, the devastating effects of plastic pollution are plain to see. The challenges in combatting this crisis are complex, encompassing the relentless production of single-use plastics, inadequate waste management systems and the absence of a cohesive global strategy. The consequences are dire, with marine life being decimated, ecosystems disrupted and significant human health risks due to the accumulation of plastics in the food chain. Plastic accumulating in the environment is also a serious threat to the future of tourism and fisheries – key industries for oceanic islands like Galapagos.

There has never been a greater need for a unified solution across the world: a Global Plastics Treaty.

GCT and PPSS team in front of the Greenpeace art installation in Paris
© Jess Howard

How we're engaging with the Treaty

Our team is actively engaging with international leaders and policymakers, providing scientific evidence to support the adoption of a strong Global Plastics Treaty. Our role includes advising the Ecuadorian delegation, which is jointly chairing the negotiations with Peru, and we lead the  Pacific Plastics: Science to Solutions (PPSS) network together with the University of Exeter, bringing together researchers, NGOs, government and business from across the Pacific region.

By championing an evidence-based, collaborative approach, and raising up the voices of island and coastal communities directly affected by plastic pollution, we aim to put pressure on world leaders and galvanise public opinion in support of an ambitious Treaty that effects real change.

Galapagos sea lion with plastic around its neck
© Andy Donnelly

What we're calling for

We are calling on world leaders to agree an ambitious, legally-binding Global Plastics Treaty that ends the scourge of plastic pollution. The Treaty must:

  • Ban single-use plastics and accelerate the transition to a circular economy where virgin plastic production is minimised, waste is eliminated and products are designed to be reused, repaired and repurposed.
  • Strength international laws on waste management at sea, and provide financial incentives for fishing vessels to retrieve ghost gear and other plastic waste such as fish aggregating devices (FADs) and return them to shore.
  • Enforce the ‘polluter pays’ principle through polices such as extended producer responsibility, to ensure that those responsible for creating plastic pollution are liable for the costs associated with cleaning it up.
  • Provide financial and technical support to remote island communities such as Galapagos that are unfairly burdened with an influx of international plastic waste.

Get our report

Later this year we will be publishing a landmark report that summarises the last five years of plastic pollution research in Galapagos and the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Sign up now to receive your copy.

Global Plastics Treaty timeline

In March 2022, at the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, a resolution was adopted to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (aka the Global Plastics Treaty). An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) was convened, and the first of five rounds of negotiations took place in November 2022. Negotiations are due to conclude in 2024, and the expectation is that the Treaty will be signed in 2025.

An interview with Luis Vayas Valdivieso

The GCT team was in Paris for the second round of negotiations on the Global Plastics Treaty between 29 May – 2 June 2023. We spoke to Luis Vayas Valdivieso, Ecuador’s Ambassador to the UK and one of the elected Chairs of the UN Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee, about how the treaty negotiations were progressing, why he believes the treaty should be signed in Galapagos, and the threats to both wildlife and human health posed by plastic pollution.

Key research papers

Marine Pollution Bulletin

Plastic pollution transcends marine protected area boundaries in the eastern tropical and south-eastern Pacific
Marine Pollution Bulletin – April 2024
Zara L.R. Botterell, Francisca Ribeiro, Daniela Alarcón-Ruales, Eliana Alfaro, Joanna Alfarao-Shigueto, Nicola Allan, Nicole Becerra, Laura Braunholtz, Susana Cardenas-Diaz, Diamela de Veer, Gabriela Escobar-Sanchez, Maria Virginia Gabela-Flores, Brendan J. Godley, Inty Grønneberg, Jessica A. Howard, Daniela Honorato-Zimmer, Jen S. Jones, Ceri Lewis, Jeffrey C. Mangel, Maximilian Martin, Tamara S. Galloway

This study, co-authored by GCT’s Dr Jen Jones and Jess Howard, shows that marine protected areas (MPAs) such as the Galapagos Marine Reserve do not stop the movement of plastic pollution across our oceans. Researchers collected plastic pollution data from 430 locations in nine countries, of which 90 were within MPAs. The team concluded that an MPA did not significantly affect macro or microplastic levels.

Environmental Pollution - October 2022

Plastic ingestion in giant tortoises: An example of a novel anthropogenic impact for Galapagos wildlife
Environmental Pollution – January 2024
Karina Ramón-Gómez, Santiago R. Ron, Sharon L. Deem, Kyana N. Pike, Colton Stevens, Juan Carlos Izurieta, Ainoa Nieto-Claudín

Research supported by GCT found that giant tortoises on Santa Cruz island are ingesting items including medical face masks, glass and plastic bags. The collaborative study focused on the Western Santa Cruz giant tortoise (Chelonoidis porteri). This species, classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, is the Galapagos tortoise that spends the most time in and around urban areas.

Science of The Total Environment - October 2021

Plastic contamination of a Galapagos Island (Ecuador) and the relative risks to native marine species
Science of The Total Environment – October 2021
Jen S. Jones, Adam Porter, Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez, Daniela Alarcón-Ruales, Tamara S. Galloway, Brendan J. Godley, David Santillo, Jessica Vagg, Ceri Lewis

This study, led by GCT’s CEO, Dr Jen Jones, explored the presence, composition and environmental drivers of plastic contamination across the marine ecosystem at an island scale, investigated uptake in marine invertebrates and designed a systematic priority scoring analysis to identify the most vulnerable vertebrate species.

Journal of Contemporary Archaeology

Contemporary Archaeology as a Framework for Investigating the Impact of Disposable Plastic Bags on Environmental Pollution in Galápagos
Journal of Contemporary Archaeology – May 2021
John Schofield, Jerry Aylmer, Andy Donnelly, Jen Jones, Juan Pablo Muñoz-Pérez, Elena Perez, Callum Scott, Kathy A. Townsend

This paper presents contemporary archaeology as a novel framework for investigating environmental pollution, specifically marine pollution. The ideas behind this approach were developed in 2018 during a multidisciplinary ‘Science to Solutions’ workshop led by the Galapagos National Park and Galapagos Conservation Trust and hosted by the Galapagos Science Center and the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos

We are working with partners across the Eastern Pacific to make Galapagos plastic pollution free once again, identifying the sources and impacts of plastic and supporting innovative solutions.

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