About the Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution Prevention Toolkit

Since 1950, approximately 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced, resulting in the generation of some 6.9 billion tonnes of primary plastic waste. More than three-quarters of this plastic waste was discarded and ended up in landfills, dumps, uncontrolled or mismanaged waste streams, or the natural environment, including the oceans. Currently, it is estimated that 19-23 million tonnes of plastic leaks into aquatic ecosystems annually – from lakes to rivers to seas – from land-based sources. Exacerbated by contributions from sea-based sources, this combined plastic leakage is having major impacts on ecosystems, economies and society – including on human health. Addressing plastic pollution is therefore an urgent action.

This legal toolkit on marine litter and plastics pollution prevention aims to assist legislators and policymakers in the development and strengthening of their regulatory frameworks with the following key tools or features:

1: Legislation explorer

A comprehensive and up-to-date collection of national legislation (including subsidiary legislation) that has been enacted to prevent plastic pollution. Searchable by:

  • Country;
  • Broad regulatory approach eg 'Bans and Restrictions', 'Economic Instruments', 'Standards, Certification and Labelling', and;
  • Keyword terms relating to plastics legislation eg ‘waste management’, ‘recycling’, ‘lightweight carrier bags’, ‘biodegradable plastics’, 'ship-based marine pollution'. 

2: Glossary of terms commonly used in plastic pollution prevention and control legislation

A dedicated list of plastics legislation-related keyword terms with definitions - primarily developed for tagging and categorising the laws contained in the legislation explorer for enhanced searchability. Displayed beneath each term in the glossary section are links to all of the Plastic Toolkit content which has been tagged with that term.


3: Interactive step-by-step guide for developing legislation on single use plastics

Highlights the key considerations that a legislator or policymaker must have regard to in developing a regulatory intervention to prevent plastics pollution. Integrated within the guide are a number of other key resources from the plastics toolkit including laws, case-studies, and extracts from relevant UNEP reports and e-learning courses. 

4: Case studies 

In response to the many research and policy 'knowledge gaps' surrounding marine litter and plastic pollution, UNEP has partnered with various universities and research centres to develop unique, in-depth country level case-studies on the impacts and legal/regulatory responses to plastic pollution and marine litter. There are also a number of regional level case-studies reflecting some of the important action taking place at this level. 

5: Additional resources

Including free online courses relevant to Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution (available on the InforMEA e-learning platform) and listings of recent reports and guidance from UNEP and partners.