University students walk past a poster banning plastic bags in Haikou, Hainan, China on Nov. 30, 2020. Sheldon Cooper / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

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A group of environmental organizations has produced the Global Plastic Laws Database, which is launching ahead of the next round of the United Nations Plastic Treaty negotiations in November.

The Global Plastic Laws Database will track plastic-related legislation around the world and allow researchers to study laws relating to all cycles of plastic production and consumption. It is designed specifically to help policymakers and organizations that want to create more effective laws on plastics.

The information in the database is separated into nine specific areas: design and reuse; extended producer responsibility; maritime sources; microplastics; production and manufacturing; reduction; transparency and traceability; waste management; and waste trade.

Currently, the Global Plastic Laws database contains up-to-date information on 1,194 plastic laws in about 115 countries globally. Database users can search for laws by the nine key topics as well as enacted date, a list of select keywords (such as “bags,” “cigarette butts” or “PFAS”), country or continent via an interactive map, or product type.

The database project is a collaboration between Plastic Pollution Coalition, which is managing the project, along with Break Free From Plastic Europe, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide and Surfrider U.S.

While this project can help global organizations, researchers, educators, and companies research plastic legislation, it was launched to coincide with the ongoing UN negotiations to develop a global plastics treaty. The next set of negotiations are set to occur this November in Nairobi, Kenya. Ultimately, the UN plans to establish the legally binding treaty among 175 countries by the end of 2024.

“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,” the Plastic Pollution Coalition shared in a statement. “Following agreement and adoption of the UN Plastics Treaty, the Database will be necessary to track and monitor its implementation.”

The UN has noted many reasons why adopting legislation on plastics is so urgent. Pew Charitable Trusts reported that about 11 million metric tons of plastics enter the oceans each year, and this amount could triple by 2040. According to a report from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, over 800 marine and coastal species are negatively impacted by plastics. 

By enacting plastic policies and moving to a circular economy, however, we could reduce the amount of plastics flowing into the oceans by 80% or more by 2040, reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, and boost economies and create more jobs, the UN reported.

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