The Prospects of an International Treaty on Plastic Pollution

In: The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law
Aleke Stöfen-O’Brien World Maritime University (WMU) - Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute Malmö Sweden

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On 2 March 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) requested the Executive Director of UNEP to convene an international negotiating committee towards the negotiation of an international legally binding instrument on plastics by 2024. This article examines some of the proposed elements of such an instrument and outlines the next steps that can be expected in the negotiations. It also reflects on the results of the ad hoc open-ended working group to prepare for the work of the intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, which was convened in Dakar, Senegal, from 30 May to 1 June 2022. Ensuring legal certainty of key features of the new agreement, such as the circular economy and support for developing countries and countries with economies in transition, will be subject to particular scrutiny.


All signs are pointing towards the adoption of a ground-breaking legally binding instrument that will address the problem of plastic pollution. During the resumed Fifth Session (second meeting) of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which was held from 28 February to 2 March 2022, the delegates adopted the resolution ‘End plastic pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument’ (UNEA Plastic Resolution).1 This resolution lays the foundation for a legally binding instrument intended to create a regulatory framework to achieve the overall aim of reducing and preventing plastic pollution.

Plastic pollution has been a dominant topic within ocean governance discourse and popular commentary on ocean affairs over the course of the last decade, and this interest seems likely to increase in the coming years.2 Indeed, a strong momentum towards the adoption of binding measures by governments has developed, underpinned by strong public awareness of and subsequent support for such steps. The current discussions are, however, not focused on the marine environment alone; measures have been earmarked for the full life cycle of plastic use.

The adoption of the UNEA Plastic Resolution paves the way for the establishment of an international negotiation committee (INC) that will seek to develop the text of a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. One hundred and seventy-five States agreed that an INC on plastic pollution should be convened by the second half of 2022.3 The delegates showed extraordinary ambition by aiming for the INC to complete its work before the end of 2024.4 This was preceded by initially unsuccessful attempts at earlier sessions of the UNEA to pitch such an instrument, and a successful ministerial conference hosted by Germany, Ghana and Vietnam in September 2021 to gather support for the establishment of an INC.5

This article will first reflect on the geographic and material scope of the proposed instrument before looking at the role of scientific data and key elements and aspects to be regulated. It is argued that due to the complex scientific and technical nature of plastic management, the science policy transfer must be centrally addressed within a newly established regulatory regime. This also encompasses the need that certain key definitions, such as on plastics and the plastic lifecycle, are included in the scope so as to cover the root causes of (environmental) harm.

International Legally Binding Instrument on Plastic Pollution by 2024

Although the UNEA Plastic Resolution provided a mandate for States to commence negotiations, it did not specify the objectives of such an instrument. The specification of the objectives of the instrument ought to be addressed by the INC itself.6 The diversity of possible objectives of an instrument is evident by the different resolutions which were initially introduced by different delegations.7 Despite differing ideas and concepts put forward by delegations before and during the deliberations, States agreed on a range of elements to be included for consideration in an INC. These are, inter alia, the promotion of sustainable production and consumption of plastics through, among other things, product design and environmentally sound waste management. It also includes support for resource efficiency and circular economy approaches, and the development and promotion of national action plans to work towards the prevention, reduction and elimination of plastic pollution, and support for regional and international cooperation.8 States also agreed to promote cooperation and coordination with relevant regional and international conventions, instruments and organisations, while recognising their respective mandates, avoiding duplication and promoting complementarity of action.9

Among the proposed elements and consideration for a new instrument, there are a few central elements which are highlighted below. These are selected following decisions taken at the first meeting of the ad hoc open-ended working group to prepare for the work of the ‘intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment’ (OEWG) from 30 May to 1 June 2022.10 The OEWG proposes that the following documents be prepared by the first meeting of the INC (INC 1) in November 2022: a glossary of key terms, potential elements, based on provisions in paragraphs 3 and 4 of UNEA Resolution 5/14; including key concepts, procedures, and mechanisms of legally binding multilateral agreements that may be relevant to furthering implementation and compliance under the future instrument on plastic pollution and an overview of information ‘to promote cooperation and coordination with relevant regional and international conventions, instruments and organizations’.11

Geographic Scope of the Instrument

During the UNEA 5.2 negotiations, some delegations proposed that the INC itself may determine the scope of the instrument and motioned that there should be no reference to the geographic or material scope in the specific resolution adopted at UNEA 5.2. During the deliberations, delegations and groups exchanged ideas on whether the INC ought to develop an instrument on marine plastic pollution, or on plastic pollution more broadly but including the marine environment, or whether the instrument ought to focus on plastic or plastic pollution simpliciter, without any particular consideration of the peculiarities of the marine environment.12 The compromise language agreed upon was that the INC would develop an

international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, which could include both binding and voluntary approaches, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic, taking into account, among other things, the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, as well as national circumstances and capabilities.13

This is to be welcomed from the perspective of legal certainty and promoting the comprehensive scope of such an instrument. Excluding one part of the environment in a regulatory instrument does not reflect the factual situation of atmospheric14 or riverine plastic pollution,15 which may carry inland pollution to the marine environment or vice versa.16 On the other hand, focusing solely on marine plastic pollution, as was proposed by Japan at UNEA 5.2,17 would unduly hinder an effective prevention regime because this would exemplify an ‘end-of-pipe thinking’.18 It would undermine the global efforts towards resource efficiency and upstream interventions.19

Plastics as the Target Material of a New Instrument

Another challenging discussion for the INC will be to agree on the types of plastics that are included in the scope of the instrument. Given the wide variety of plastics available, including 4,000 known chemicals used in plastic packaging alone as well as over 5,300 commercially available polymer formulations, any decision on the material scope of such an instrument is of key importance.20 Technical questions, such as deciding on potential upper or lower limits of the plastic size and what kind of plastics may be considered to fall under the material scope of the instrument, may have potentially far-reaching consequences as to the scope and effectiveness of the instrument. Resolving such issues will clearly pose a significant challenge for the INC.

To add a further layer of substantive complexity there is an asymmetric approach and ambition towards regulating response and research endeavours to understand the impacts of microplastics among States.21 Some States have already passed legislation to prevent the release of microplastics.22 However in some regions or States, there is very little knowledge or data available on microplastic distribution and impacts in all parts of the specific marine environment.23 This may be exacerbated by advances in research on plastic in the nanometric size range,24 which indicates the need for thoughtful deliberation on any definitions and size of plastics contained in the instrument. The proposed instrument must be forward-thinking and contain mechanisms that allow for adjustments in legal commitments in the future to accommodate changes in knowledge and scientific and technological advances in all parts of the world.

Inclusion of the Plastic Lifecycle and Circular Economy Approaches

Considering the wide-ranging mandate bestowed upon the INC, the material scope of the resultant instrument can be anticipated to be broad. When considering the possible material scope of any instrument, a key factor was the inclusion of the term ‘full life-cycle of plastics’.25 This indicates that States do not seek to ‘follow merely an end-of-pipe approach to plastic pollution. The aim is to encompass the entire production and consumption cycle of plastics. However, as was noted above, the INC has yet to determine the specific scope of the instrument. States still have all options to choose from in how they could integrate the entire plastic lifecycle. The specific remit of the instrument will be decided during the first meeting of the INC. In the endeavour to address the plastic lifecycle at a global level, the involvement of industry in the negotiations is of key importance as this will enable the inclusion of industry actors in the framing of commitments from the start. The involvement of the plastic and chemical industries must be a fundamental pillar of the new instrument. Notwithstanding this, the engagement of the industry must be carefully balanced against the interests of other stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations. A potential conflict of interest may be the inclusion of reduction targets or product restrictions in the scope of the new instrument.26

Specific aspects relating to the involvement of the plastic and chemical industries are provisions on transparency and access to information relating to chemicals used in plastics. This corresponds to legal issues relating to intellectual property rights of plastic composition, which have significant implications in plastic designed for reuse or recycling27 as well as ensuring compliance. Hence, the manner in which the INC decides to prescribes actions by all stakeholders, including the private sector, and to promote cooperation at the global, regional, national and local levels, will be a crucial aspect of the final instrument.

The life cycle approach is complemented by resource efficiency and circular economy approaches.28 States are invited to promote sustainable production and consumption of plastic, including through product design and environmentally sound waste management.29 As was evident by some interventions from delegates at UNEA 5.2, the establishment and application of circular economy approaches goes beyond the implementation of the three ‘Rs’ of waste management (reuse, reduce and recycle).30 Implementing a circular economy approach presupposes a systematic shift in the way the world currently consumes and produces plastics.31

Prior to the convening of the first INC, there are already divergent viewpoints on the scope and exact application of the circular economy in a global instrument. Turning to the concept of a circular economy, Kirchherr et al. analysed 114 definitions used by scholars and organisations to define the concept.32 As such it seems likely that it will be challenging to identify and secure agreement on a definition of the concept of circular economy. The delegates will be faced with a myriad of concepts and definitions from which to choose, and they will need to carefully assess how best to accommodate important technical distinctions within a framework that also needs to provide legal certainty. Within the definition of circular economy, the negotiating parties will have to approach cautiously the different dimensions of circularity, that is, upstream circularity (before use) and downstream circularity (after use), as well as the different constituent elements of a circular economy, such as recovering by-products of waste, maximising product use or prioritising renewable energy.33 This must be underpinned by a systems thinking approach, which addresses and seeks to understand complexity and identify system leverage points.34 Any such approach must be underpinned by the application and implementation of the principle of sustainable development, which in and of itself is likely to require further elaboration within the treaty framework due to the emerging nature of the concept as a leading principle of international environmental law.

Arguably, discussions to date in different international (marine environmental protection) fora have been too focused on achieving environmental protection without necessarily encompassing the economic and/or social pillars of sustainability.35 Examples of wider social and economic aspects of sustainability include addressing environmental harm by garbage discarded from vessels or dumped in the ocean, by way of examples.36 Therefore, the inclusion of social aspects of plastic management in a regulatory context can be seen as an important step in approaching the issue from an integrated perspective. Hence, a particularly important initiative is the reference in the UNEA Plastic Resolution to the ‘informal waste management sector’,37 which in some countries, particularly those of the global South, provides the backbone of national and municipal waste management systems.38 Drafting and developing specific regulatory responses to incorporate this informal sector presents a unique challenge due to the widely divergent organisational structure of the informal sector across the globe. This is exacerbated by the challenges to understand the specific nature and role of the informal sector in a country’s or region’s waste management system due to a significant lack of information and knowledge on these non-formalised industrial activities.39

Scientific Assessment and Information

The initiation of negotiations by the UNEA Plastic Resolution is the result of decades of research and assessments of the impacts of plastics on the (marine) environment,40 as well as regulatory and policy work undertaken by international, regional and national actors.41 Although a lot of progress has been achieved, there are many knowledge gaps still prevailing with regard to the impacts of plastics on the (marine) environment.42 In line with other resolutions adopted during UNEA 5.2, such as Resolution 5/8 on the establishment of a Science-Policy Panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution,43 participants also highlighted the science-policy interface which must underpin any subsequent efforts to regulate plastics. This is reflected in paragraph 3(i) of the UNEA Plastic Resolution, which suggests that the new instrument should provide for scientific and socioeconomic assessments. In this respect, the delegates also suggested the possibility of a mechanism to provide policy-relevant scientific and socioeconomic information and assessment related to plastic pollution.44 The best available science, traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems should be considered in the deliberations.45 Therefore, the INC will explore options for mechanisms to provide scientific and socioeconomic assessments and information related to plastic pollution.46 Any proposed research approaches should also take into consideration the associated costs and involvement of States to develop targeted measures, including small island developing States.

Collaboration and Relationship of the Instrument with Other International Conventions and Initiatives

The INC and future work on a potential instrument cannot work in isolation from the global architecture of international environmental law and law of the sea.47 Given that there are a range of initiatives addressing plastic pollution at the international, regional and also national levels, it is essential that the INC develops an instrument that complements these activities and mandates. A key element is the inter-relationship between pre-existing multilateral environmental agreements and the new instrument. A specific example from the negotiations on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) is the question of how to delimit the mandate of the newly established instrument with respect to other instruments and institutions.48 The ‘not undermine’-clause has been central in the negotiations and subject to extensive research and debate during the BBNJ intergovernmental conferences, and these may provide important lessons learnt for the upcoming plastic instrument negotiations.49 It remains to be determined whether mechanisms already in existence in other treaties50 can be relied upon, co-opted or perhaps otherwise used as a best practice or source of inspiration for the new plastics instrument. For example, the focus on plastic pollution, instead of marine litter or plastic waste, means that the entire supply chain and components of plastic itself need to be considered. This evokes chemicals management considerations, thus placing the instrument in close relation with the global conventions dealing with the use, trade or transport of hazardous substances, among others.51 The World Trade Organization has also commenced work on plastic (and its trade-related elements).52 Any new agreement must be closely aligned with these different instruments and initiatives. The relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,53 as well as regional arrangements, such as those in force within the European Union,54 for example, must also be adequately taken into account. In any case, synergies must be identified and duplication avoided.55

Implementation and Capacity-building

The UNEA Plastic Resolution provides that States may negotiate measures along the entire range of options, including legally binding mechanisms and voluntary actions. Currently, the development of national action plans on the reduction, elimination and prevention of plastic pollution will likely be an important pillar in the potential instrument as proposed in paragraphs 3(d) and 3(e) of the UNEA Plastic Resolution.56 During UNEA 5.2, there was clear support for these nationally-driven approaches to contribute to the objectives of the instrument as States could develop management measures which are suitable to their specific circumstances and needs in plastic pollution prevention. Ideally, this should be framed by strong guidance on the content of the action plans as well as corresponding targets and reporting obligations.57

Some delegations, especially those from developing countries and countries with economies in transition, placed particular emphasis on the capacity and financial means required to effectively implement and comply with the measures that could likely be stipulated.58 The means of implementation were considered as key items for several delegations, and the INC is tasked with specifying arrangements for capacity-building, technical assistance, and technology and financial assistance.59 Some participants also raised the option of a dedicated multilateral fund to support these measures.60 Noting the different degrees of readiness to implement life-cycle thinking, several countries emphasised the importance of flexibility of implementation and adaptation to national circumstances.61

The Way Forward

The mandate provided by the UNEA Plastic Resolution, as well as the concluded first session of the OEWG, indicate that certain parameters of the instrument are recognised and agreed upon. During the first meeting of the OEWG in Dakar, the delegates agreed on a proposed timetable for the INC meetings which envisages a first INC during the week of 28 November 2022, a second meeting at the end of April 2023, INC 3 at the end of November 2023, INC 4 in May 2024 and INC 5 in December 2024.62 Uruguay will host INC 1.

Alongside with the INC, States requested UNEP to convene a forum to discuss and build upon further initiatives and which is open to all stakeholders to exchange information and activities related to plastic pollution.63 This was implemented during the first meeting of the OEWG through a two-track system in which a multistakeholder forum was convened throughout the negotiations and which was open for any stakeholder prior to registration.64 Both UNEA 5.2 and the first meeting of OEWG took a hybrid form. This allowed for wide participation by a range of stakeholders. Notwithstanding the broad basis and the uncharacteristically overwhelming support for a legally binding instrument, it should not be viewed as a panacea. While negotiations are underway, the international community must not ease up on current efforts aimed at solving (or at least alleviating) the problems posed by the release of plastic pollution in the (marine) environment. The continuous implementation of regional action plans on marine litter or other initiatives and instruments, such as MARPOL Annex V, are important examples of ongoing steps to improve the governance of plastic pollution.65


The author would like to acknowledge the generous funding by The Nippon Foundation of the World Maritime University (WMU) - Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute as well as for The Nippon Foundation & WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute’s ‘Closing the Circle Programme: Marine Debris, Sargassum and Marine Spatial Planning’ in the Eastern Caribbean. United Nations (UN) Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Resolution UNEP/EA.5/L.23/Rev.1 End plastic pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument, 2 March 2022 [UNEA Plastic Resolution].


N Oral, ‘From the plastics revolution to the marine plastics crisis’ in R Barnes and R Long (eds), Frontiers International Environmental Law: Oceans and Climate Challenges – Essays in Honour of David Freestone (Brill, Leiden, 2021) 281–315; J Pinto da Costa, C Mouneyrac, M Costa, A C Duarte and T Rocha-Santos, ‘The role of legislation, regulatory initiatives and guidelines on the control of plastic pollution’ (2020) 8 Frontiers in Environmental Science 104.


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), para 1; United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), Proceedings of the United Nations Environment Assembly at its Resumed Fifth Session, UN Doc UNEP/EA.5/28, 8 March 2022, in conjunction with the UNEA, Rules of Procedure of UNEA of the UNEP (UNEP/EA.3/3).


UNEP, ‘Final Outcome Summary’ (1 June 2022) available at All websites accessed on 13 September 2022 unless otherwise noted.


A Stöfen-O’Brien, ‘New beginnings: Towards a global treaty on marine plastic pollution – Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific region’ (2021) 6 Asia-Pacific Journal of Ocean Law and Policy 332–340.


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), para 3(a).


Peru and Rwanda, ‘Draft resolution on an internationally legally binding instrument on plastic pollution’, submitted 20 October 2021, available at; Japan, ‘Draft resolution on an international legal instrument on marine plastic pollution to be adopted by the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly’, submitted 1 October 2021, available at


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), para 3(b)–(c).


Ibid., para 3(k), 15.


UNEP (n 4), at p. 2.




See only the difference between the submitted draft resolutions by Japan and Peru and Rwanda (n 7). By way of example, the draft resolution submitted by Japan aimed to address ‘marine plastic pollution’ (see title) while the Peru and Rwanda resolution aimed to address ‘plastic pollution’ (see title).


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), para 3.


D Allen , S Allen, S Abbasi et al., ‘Microplastics and nanoplastics in the marine-atmosphere environment’ (2022) 3 Nature Reviews Earth & Environment 393–405, at p. 398.


N Lebreton, ‘River plastic emissions to the world’s oceans’ (2017) 8 Nature Communications 15611.


S Allen, D Allen, K Moss et al., ‘Examination of the ocean as a source for atmospheric mircoplastics’ 15 (5) (2020) PLOS ONE e0232746.


Japan (n 7).


End-of-pipe thinking is focused on pollution control rather than addressing the root causes of a source of pollution.


See the European Union initiative Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE), launched in February 2021, available at


KJ Groh, T Backhaus, B Carney-Almroth et al., ‘Overview of known plastic packaging-associated chemicals and their hazards’ (2019) 651 Science of The Total Environment 3253–3268.


IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/UNIDO/WMO/IAEA/UN/UNEP/UNDP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), Sources, Fate and Effects of Microplastics in the Marine Environment: A Global Assessment (GESAMP No. 90, 2015) 96.


By way of example, since 1 July 2018, Sweden has banned the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetic products. See Prohibition in Certain Cases in Connection with the Handling, Import and Export of Chemical Products Ordinance (1998:944),


UN, ‘Chapter 12: Marine litter and dumping’ in The Second World Ocean Assessment, Volume II (UN, New York, 2021) 160–161.


The nano-size of plastic has not been considered in global assessments on the impacts of plastic on the oceans. Ibid., at p. 154.


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), para 3.


J Geddie,V Volcovici, J Brock and M. Dickerson, ‘U.N. pact may restrict plastic production: Big oil aims to stop it’ (Reuters, 18 February 2022) available at


D Barrowclough and C Deere Birkbeck, ‘Transforming the global plastics economy: The role of economic policies in the global governance of plastic pollution’ (2022) 11 (1) Social Sciences 26, at p. 26.


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), para 3(b).


Ibid., para 3(o).


Ellen MacArthur Foundation, ‘Towards the circular economy’ (2013) 2 (1) Journal of Industrial Ecology 23–44, at p. 23; see also on the difficulty to conceptualize circular economy, J Korhonen, C Nuur, A Feldmann and S E Birkie, ‘Circular economy as an essentially contested concept’ (2018) 17 Journal of Cleaner Production 544–552, at p. 545.


Ellen MacArthur Foundation (n 30), at p. 7.


J Kirchherr, D Reike and M Hekkert, ‘Conceptualizing the circular economy: An analysis of 114 definitions’ (2017) 127 Resources, Conservation & Recycling 221–232, at p. 222.


A Murray, K Skene and K Haynes ‘The circular economy: An interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context’ (2017) 140 (3) Journal of Business Ethics 372–373; Korhonen et al. (n 30), at p. 546; Ellen MacArthur Foundation (n 30), at p. 26.


S Robinson, ‘A systems thinking perspective for the circular economy’ in A Stefanakis and I Nikolaou (eds), Circular Economy and Sustainability (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 2022) 35–52, at p. 37.


By way of example, the regional action plans on marine litter in the Baltic Sea, North-East Atlantic and the Mediterranean have been focused on environmental protection and only have had a limited focus on the engagement with the industry, as is evident in the identified measures. See, A Stöfen-O’Brien, The International and European Legal Regime Regulating Marine Litter in the EU (Nomos, Berlin, 2015) 162–180.The regulatory approach of MARPOL ANNEX V addressing garbage from vessels has been focused on environmental prevention and does not explore the economic dimension of port reception facilities. See by way of example, A Stöfen-O’Brien, ‘Ship waste and marine litter under the international law of the sea and international environmental law’ (2019) 4(17) EurUP (Journal of European Environmental and Planning Law) 471–478.


Stöfen-O’Brien 2015, ibid., at p. 157.


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), Preamble and para 4(e).


DC Wilson, C Velis and C Cheeseman, ‘Role of informal sector recycling in waste management in developing countries’ (2006) 30 (4) Habitat International 797–808, at p. 798.


C Ezeah, JA Fazakerley and CL Roberts, ‘Emerging trends in informal sector recycling in developing and transition countries’ (2013) 33 (11) Waste Management 2509–2519; W Lau, ‘Evaluating scenarios towards zero plastic pollution’ (2020) 369 Science 145–146, at p. 145 et seq.


RC Thompson, CJ Moore, FS vom Saal and SH Swan, ‘Plastics, the environment and human health: Current consensus and future trends’ (2009) Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 2153–2166; GESAMP (n 21), at p. 30 et seq.


UNEP, Combating Marine Plastic Litter and Microplastics: An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Relevant International, Regional and Subregional Governance Strategies and Approaches, UN Doc UNEP/EA.3/INF/5, 15 February 2018, at p. 15.


See UN (n 23), at p. 169.


UNEA, Resolution 5/8 (2 March 2022), Science-policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution, UN Doc UNEP/EA.5/Res.8.


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), para 4(f).


Ibid., para 4(d).


Ibid., paras 3(i), 4(f).


UN (n 23), at p. 194.


See UN, ‘Further revised draft text of an agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction: Note by the President’ (30 May 2022) available at


Z Scanlon, ‘The art of “not undermining”: Possibilities within existing architecture to improve environmental protections in areas beyond national jurisdiction’ (2018) 75 (1) ICES Journal of Marine Science 405–416; TL McDorman, ‘A few words on the “cross-cutting issue” – The relationship between a BBNJ Convention and existing, relevant instruments and frameworks and relevant global, regional and sectoral bodies’ in MH Nordquist and R Long (eds), Marine Biodiversity of Areas beyond National Jurisdiction (Brill, Leiden, 2021) 273–284.


UNEP 2018 (n 41); K Raubenheimer and A McIlgorm, ‘Can the Basel and Stockholm Conventions provide a global framework to reduce the impact of marine plastic litter?’ (2018) 96 Marine Policy 285–290; R Churchill, ‘The LOSC regime for protection of the marine environment: Fit for the twenty-first century?’ in R Rayfuse (ed.), Research Handbook on International Marine Environmental Law (Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2015) 3–30, at p. 7.


These are the BSR Conventions: Basel Convention, Rotterdam Convention and Stockholm Convention, see


By way of example, this relates to the informal dialogue on plastics pollution and environmentally sustainable plastics trade at the World Trade Organization (WTO). See ‘Launch event of ministerial statements on trade, environment and sustainable development’ (WTO, 15 December 2021) available at; see also World Trade Organization Informal Dialogue on Plastics Pollution Meeting, ‘Unofficial Room Document: Statement by Carolyn Deere Birkbeck, Director, Forum on Trade, Environment & the Sustainable Development Goals (TESS)’, WTO Doc INF/TE/IDP/RD/15, 21 July 2021, at p. 3, para 1.


United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Montego Bay, 10 December 1982, in force 16 November 1994) 1833 UNTS 387.


Stöfen-O’Brien 2015 (n 35), at pp. 252–391; K Penca, ‘European plastics strategy: What promise for global marine litter?’ (2018) 97 Marine Policy 197–201, at p. 198.


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), para 3(k); see also UN EMG, An Overview of UN Activities and Initiatives Related to Marine Litter and Microplastics: UN System-Wide Contribution to Support Member States in Addressing Marine Litter and Microplastics (UN, New York, 2021) 29.


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), paras 3(d)–(f).


K Raubenheimer and N Urho, Possible Elements of a New Global Agreement to Prevent Plastic Pollution (Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen, 2020) 72.


See UN Doc UNEP/EA.5/28 (n 3), in conjunction with the UNEA Rules of Procedure (n 3), at p. 6 by way of example.


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), para 3(n).


See ibid., para 4(b).


Ibid., Preamble paras 4, 15; para 4(c).


UNEP 2022 (n 4), at p. 1.


UNEA Plastic Resolution (n 1), para 3(m).


UNEP, ‘Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues as part of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) to prepare for the intergovernmental negotiating committee on plastic pollution’, 1 June 2022, available at


Regional actions plans in the Baltic Sea and Mediterranean, as well as the North-East Atlantic, are examples. See further Stöfen-O’Brien 2015 (n 35), at p. 165 et seq.; see also UN EMG (n 55), at p. 17 et seq.

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