Assessing the relevance of the EU directive on single-use plastics

There is growing support among UN Member States for the development of a new global agreement to tackle marine plastic pollution.

So far, however, the multilateral discussions on the issue have focused more on the rationale for a new treaty than on the design of it. At this point, it is therefore not entirely clear what a new treaty would aim to achieve, and how it could be shaped in order to achieve it. A key challenge in this regard will be to develop a shared understanding of the treaty’s objectives and scope, as well as to identify the global rules, regulations and standards needed to put the international community on the path towards reaching that goal. It will also be important to figure out how the new legal framework can incentivize the required change in behaviour among UN Member States.

The purpose of this report is to contribute to the ongoing discussions by considering whether any useful lessons in this regard can be drawn from the way the European Union has approached the issue, and in particular by assessing the relevance of the 2019 directive on single-use plastics, one of the few existing international legal frameworks specifically aiming to reduce plastic pollution in the marine environment.

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