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What shall we do with a sea of plastics? A systematic literature review on how to pave the road towards a global comprehensive plastic governance agreement


In February 2022, the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) is expected to mandate negotiations for a legally binding plastic agreement. In preparations for such discussions, it is important to understand the academic research behind what a global treaty on plastic will require to succeed. Therefore, a systematic literature review was conducted on 64 peer-reviewed articles published before July 4th, 2021, that focused on global plastic governance and avenues to mitigate our pollution crisis. Once reviewed, the articles were organized into a series of four main categories: 1) plastic pollution overview articles, 2) top-down solutions, 3) bottom-up solutions, and finally a 4) global treaty as a solution. The analysis of these articles enabled an overarching review and discussion of what the literature suggested is required for the creation of a global plastics agreement. First, the researchers argued that previous global plastics governance literature is characterized by an optimist governance perspective, i.e., a view of governance as a problem-solving mechanism. Second, global plastics governance as a research field could make headway by engaging in further empirical investigation of current negotiations and solutions at the national level, especially in developing nations. In the end we found that a global agreement is feasible if it allows for multi-stakeholder solutions involving industry, governance, stakeholders, and citizens.


Academic article


  • Research Council of Norway (RCN) / 318730




  • SINTEF Ocean / Climate and Environment



Published in

Frontiers in Marine Science




Frontiers Media S.A.



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