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University of Basel

Cancer. (01/2023)

What should we do to fight plastic pollution, Anna Petrig?

Text: Anna Petrig

Plastic waste is a global problem. An environmental scientist and an expert in international law on the actions that can be taken by private individuals and by policymakers.

Prof. Dr. Anna Petrig
Prof. Dr. Anna Petrig, expert in international law. (Illustration: Studio Nippoldt)

Plastic production has soared from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 390 million tons in 2021. Every single minute, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic ends up in the oceans – not only polluting coastal areas but increasingly turning the deep seabed into a dumping ground. 

With increasing awareness of the threat of plastic pollution and its devastating impacts on both nature and people, pressure is mounting on states and international organizations to take legal action. In light of the global scale of the plastic problem, which affects all countries in the world and transcends national borders, there is an obvious need for global rules that allow for a coordinated approach.

While in recent years, global efforts to bolster the legal framework against plastic pollution have multiplied and intensified – notably within various United Nations (UN) fora – a treaty specifically dedicated to plastic pollution does not yet exist. Whereas various environmental treaties address plastic pollution, including the Basel Convention on waste management, they do not cover the whole lifecycle of plastics. It is against this backdrop that more than 2.2 million people from all over the world have signed the largest petition of the WWF ever, requesting the UN to tackle the plastic crisis through a global, legally binding and specifically dedicated agreement on plastic pollution.

Anna Petrig is Professor of International Law and Public Law at the University of Basel. She is an expert in the law of the sea and a member of the “Plastics Treaty Legal Advisory Service”, which provides legal advice to Least Developed Countries (LDC) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the ongoing Plastic Treaty negotiations.

More article in this issue of UNI NOVA (May 2023).

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