Chapter 11 of Frontiers in International Environmental Law: Oceans and Climate Challenges
The plastic revolution that started in the 1950s has become the plastic crisis for the marine environment in the 21st Century. The problem of marine litter and microplastics represents a frontier in international law where the existing system of international law faces a complex challenge in either enabling a global and collective transition or strengthening of existing instruments, through the adoption of a new global instrument, or both.
This chapter will examine in detail existing legal instruments related to the protection of the marine environment and their respective roles in addressing the problem of marine litter and microplastics. The chapter will begin with a brief examination of the history of plastic and its principal sources. It will then examine the scope of and gaps in key global instruments for the marine environment, as well as regional approaches, in relation to addressing the problem of marine litter and plastics. The chapter will conclude with a review of the possible options under discussion by States under the auspices of the United Nations Environmental Programme for addressing the problem of marine litter and microplastics.