Global plastic production is continuously increasing, reaching 322 million tonnes in 2015, and generating revenues of roughly US$750 billion for plastic manufacturers. At the same time, in many countries, adequate waste collection systems are lacking. As a consequence, discarded plastic often makes its way into the environment, where it can cause health problems and a host of other issues. Often, it ends up in the sea. Each year, between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans.
In recent years, the problem of plastic pollution has gained increased public attention. However, international efforts to contain plastic pollution have on the whole proven ineffective. Most approaches have concentrated on the oceans, although the majority of plastic waste originates elsewhere. Additionally, the Basel Convention, a legally binding international treaty that deals with hazardous waste on land, is hardly applicable to plastic waste. Efforts so far have been insufficient: some countries, like Rwanda, and even individual cities, such as Delhi, have banned plastic bags, but this is by no means enough for a sustainable plastics economy.
The problem cannot be solved on the national level alone. The international community has relied on voluntary measures, but this has proven to be ineffective. It is, however, an economic necessity to negotiate a legally binding international convention to regulate the world's dealing with plastics. Damages that cost millions will be avoided and new business models will be kindled. In their study Stopping Global Plastic Pollution: The Case for an International Convention, Nils Simon and Maro Luisa Schulte (both adelphi) explain how an international agreement can be achieved, what opportunities it entails and which barriers need to be overcome. This analysis with contains concrete recommendations has been commissioned by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.