Large pile of plastic waste

Assessing plastic policies around the world

Developing sustainable, evidence-based solutions

Plastics have been found in every location that has been surveyed, from the depths of the ocean to the heights of the Himalayas — and even in human blood.  

And plastic has another, less visible, environmental impact — climate change. Seventeen million barrels of oil are used for plastic production each year. With the anticipated growth in the plastics sector, by 2050 production and disposal will be responsible for up to 13 per cent of the world’s total “carbon budget” of greenhouse gas emissions. Plastic pollution is also reducing the resilience of communities and the natural world to cope with the effects of a changing climate.

Plastic pollution is a global, transboundary problem requiring urgent coordinated policy action on all levels, from local to international. 

Addressing the plastic problem

Around the world, many countries and businesses have adopted measures to reduce plastic pollution, including banning certain plastic items such as bags or straws, introducing better waste collection, sorting and recycling facilities, and introducing taxes to discourage the use of certain plastics in products. But it’s not enough to look at interventions in isolation. The entire lifecycle of plastics must be considered holistically to identify sustainable solutions. 

To do so, evidence-based analysis of plastics policies is needed to help policy-makers and decision-makers successfully tackle plastic pollution and its effects on people and the planet. And this is exactly what the Global Plastics Policy Centre aims to achieve.

Current policies to tackle plastics

We’ve found that the existing plastic policy landscape often addresses specific plastic products or stages within the plastic lifecycle in an isolated way that inhibits joined-up approaches to tackle the plastic problem. 

Currently there are no global agreements that offer an all-encompassing framework for plastics sustainability. But the commitment from 175 nations to end plastic pollution, agreed at the UN Environment Assembly in March 2022, offers a pathway for a legally-binding agreement to be in place by 2024. The Global Plastics Policy Centre will play a key role in generating evidence to inform the agreement and its subsequent implementation.

What is the Global Plastics Policy Centre?

The Global Plastics Policy Centre is the first of its kind. It’s designed to give governments and industry groups the evidence needed to make better decisions on plastic policies. It’s the latest development from the University’s Revolution Plastics initiative.

Focused on positive change, the Centre will analyse and share plastic policies as they are developed around the world. It will provide a central point for information, effectiveness and barriers to plastics policy success. We aim to convene a global community around plastics policy.

In July 2022 the Centre will launch an online platform with resources, case studies and videos to showcase effective practice in plastic policy. Our researchers believe this unique resource will ultimately help reduce the negative impacts of plastics.

News from the Centre

Research outputs

  • Global Policy Review

    We’ve independently reviewed over 100 plastics policies and initiatives from around the world, including bans on single use plastics, incentives such as subsidies/tax rebates, regulations on recycling and waste management. Each policy has been scored against criteria to determine its effectiveness and to identify barriers to progress. In light of this evidence, we offer recommendations to enhance future policy making. The review will be published in July 2022.

  • Modelling solutions to end plastic pollution: Driving systems change across the plastic life cycle

    We're supporting the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on policy options to tackle the global plastics crisis. Prof Steve Fletcher presented at a UNEP webinar to share an overview of the methodology and findings from our recent research on plastics policy.

  • Policy options to eliminate additional marine plastic litter by 2050 under the G20 Osaka Blue Ocean Vision

    Prof Steve Fletcher and Dr Keiron Roberts from the University of Portsmouth authored this Report of the International Resource Panel, United Nations Environment Programme. 

Funding

The Global Plastics Policy Centre is supported by the Flotilla Foundation, the UN Environment Programme, the World Bank, and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Contact us

For further information about the work of the Centre, please contact globalplastics@port.ac.uk.

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