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The current international legal and policy framework does not effectively address the issue of marine plastic pollution.

The Nordic Council of Ministers will release a report to suggest elements and approaches for a new global agreement, covering the whole life cycle of plastics. The report will be released on October 10th, 2020.

The current plastic value chain is linear.

Closing the gap in global policy is an opportunity to make the value chain circular and stop plastic pollution.

The report proposes a number of ways a new agreement can help accomplish this.

To date, 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste has been generated. 79% of it is accumulated in landfills or disposed in the natural environment. 12% is incinerated. Only 9% has been recycled.
Pie chart showing how plastic is handled after use, as described in text

A level playing field

Numerous calls from the international community have been made for a new global agreement on marine plastic litter.

In 2019, 90 countries called for exploring the option for a global agreement through ministerial declarations.

A global agreement would promote international cooperation and create a level playing field for governments and industries.

Addressing the entire life cycle

A global agreement on plastic will help countries tackling plastic pollution, taking into account the entire life cycle.

All sources and pathways of marine plastic can be addressed.

  • production
  • design
  • retail
  • consumption
  • waste management
  • recycling

International sustainability criteria

Standards, testing protocols and certification schemes will support the measures.

Measures to address life cycle phases can be facilitated through the development of international sustainability criteria for plastics.


The suggested elements of a new global agreement to combat plastic pollution aim to benefit governments, industry and civil society.


  • Tools to regulate domestic markets
  • Tools to ensure transparency across the value chain of products and materials
  • Tools to develop partnerships with industry

For developing countries —

  • Assistance for development of National Plastics Management Plans
  • Assistance for development of regulatory and market-based instruments. Reduces the financial and physical burden of waste management  


  • Guidance on sustainability objectives and criteria
  • Confidence in a fair and transparent competitive opportunity
  • Potential cost savings based on performance outcomes 

Civil Society

  • Sustainable environment for current and future generations
  • Preservation of ecosystem services
  • Reduced risk from chemical hazard
  • Reduced risk from mismanaged waste-related disease
  • Increased opportunity for sustainable income generation