Environmental activist group Surfrider Foundation launches Global Plastic Laws Database in partnership with Plastic Pollution Coalition; database to support, track, monitor UN Plastics Treaty implementation, cover plastic waste trade, management

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SAN CLEMENTE, California , November 2, 2023 (press release) –

Ahead of UN Plastics Treaty negotiations set to take place in Nairobi, Kenya, next month, the Surfrider Foundation is proud to launch the Global Plastic Laws Database in partnership with Plastic Pollution Coalition. Following agreement and adoption of the UN Plastics Treaty, the Database will be useful to support its implementation and then necessary to track and monitor its implementation.

The Global Plastic Laws Database is an extensive tool to research, track, and visualize plastic legislation that has been passed around the world. The Database tracks legislation across the full life cycle of plastics and organizes these policies according to life cycle categories and key topics. Adopting policies to reduce plastic pollution on a global scale is widely recognized as a vital step to address this crisis and its associated detrimental impacts on our communities, health, and environment.  

Plastic Pollution Coalition serves as the Project Manager for the Global Plastic Laws Database, working in collaboration with partner organizations who contribute data from around the world. The unique dataset is input by individuals with native language knowledge and local, on-the-ground networks from across a diverse range of geographies. This process ensures the legislative data and resources are accurate, timely, and relevant to a wide range of political and legislative systems. Collectively, the data partners represent combined data from approximately 115 (out of a total of approximately 195) countries in the world.

Recognizing the impacts of plastics throughout its full life cycle, this database is organized into nine topics: Design and Reuse, Extended Producer Responsibility, Maritime Sources, Microplastics, Production and Manufacturing, Reduction, Transparency and Traceability, Waste Management, and Waste Trade. More details on each of these categories appears below.

The Surfrider Foundation is the lead for inputting data for the U.S. Drawing on the efforts of Surfrider’s grassroots chapter and student club network, we have compiled a dataset that includes approximately 1,000 U.S. plastic reduction laws. Surfrider’s dataset currently focuses on policies aimed at reducing single-use bags, polystyrene, straws, balloons and cigarettes. 

The Global Plastic Laws Database is updated regularly, providing a way to monitor and identify emerging trends, solutions, and policy innovations at local, national, and international levels.

Key Audiences

This is a valuable resource center for policymakers, organizations, and advocates who are focused on designing effective policies to address the full life cycle of plastics. Businesses and banks may also use the database to find and understand current plastic regulations across their areas of focus; as well as educators, students, and researchers studying plastic policy; humanitarian organizations planning disaster response; and journalists covering plastic pollution and policy.

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Supporting a Strong Global Plastics Treaty 

The Global Plastic Laws Database helps organize and assess a broad range of policies that have been implemented and may be adapted for national and international policies, such as the United Nations Plastics Treaty. Recognizing the urgency of plastic pollution, the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) is working to develop an international treaty to unite governments to tackle plastic pollution. If successful, the treaty represents an incredible opportunity to make a difference at the scale needed to begin to effectively end plastic pollution and comprehensively address its numerous and widespread impacts. 

The Global Plastic Laws Database is an invaluable resource for use during the UN Plastics Treaty negotiation process by making plastic legislation across all jurisdictions visible and accessible to be adapted and input into the Treaty. Following agreement and adoption of the UN Plastics Treaty, the Database will be necessary to track and monitor its implementation. 

Project Partners 

Plastic Pollution Coalition is the project manager and provides strategic leadership and development for the Global Plastic Laws Database, working closely with three Core Data Partners to track and update legislative data from around the world. 

Surfrider Foundation U.S. tracks and updates all single-use plastic legislative activity in the United States with a grassroots network of over 170 volunteer-led chapters and student clubs. This extensive network helps to ensure the Database will have the most comprehensive U.S. data on single-use plastic legislation across all 50 states.

Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) Europe monitors legislation relevant to plastic along its lifecycle and works with policymakers in countries across Europe and at the European Union (EU) level to design and deliver policy solutions for a future that is free from plastic pollution. The BFFP movement in Europe brings together more than 110 core members, including the Rethink Plastic alliance, which gathers 10 leading NGO working together to secure ambitious EU plastic policies.

Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) tracks and updates a significant proportion of the global legislative activity. ELAW helps communities speak out for clean air, clean water, and a healthy planet. We are a global alliance of attorneys, scientists, and other advocates collaborating across borders in more than 80 countries to build a sustainable, just future.

Database Life Cycle Categories and Key Topics

  1. Design + Reuse: Laws addressing design or redesign of plastic alternatives for circularity and sustainability, including creating better systems, materials, and products. This could include providing incentives for reusables and refillables, deposit return schemes, etc.

  2. Extended Producer Responsibility: Laws addressing the total environmental cost of a product throughout its lifecycle and intended to shift the responsibility of waste management from local governments to the producer. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws will differ based on the specific region and different implementation of EPR.

  3. Maritime Sources: Laws addressing maritime port reception facility regulations, fishing gear requirements, and more.

  4. Microplastics: Laws addressing the redesigning of products to reduce microplastics emissions. This could include microplastics intentionally added (i.e. in cosmetics and other products), pellet loss, artificial turf, microfibers, etc.

  5. Production + Manufacturing: Laws aimed at the raw materials of plastics, including measures to reduce the production of virgin plastics. This could include taxes on virgin resins, caps on production facilities, etc.

  6. Reduction: Laws aimed at reducing single-use plastic items. This could include legislation that targets a particular type of plastic (e.g., macroplastics) and measures that include public information campaigns aimed at reducing consumption.

  7. Transparency + Traceability: Laws addressing the visibility and accessibility of data regarding plastics as they move throughout the value chain, such as requirements for producers to disclose the amount of plastic used, reporting obligations, etc.

  8. Waste Management: Laws addressing the full spectrum of waste management, including end-of-life, disposal, chemical or advanced “recycling,” incineration, etc.

  9. Waste Trade: Laws addressing the transfer of waste from one region to another.

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