Cleaning Up without Messing Up: Maximizing the Benefits of Plastic Clean-Up Technologies through New Regulatory Approaches
As the global plastics crisis grows, numerous technologies have been invented and implemented to recover plastic pollution from the environment. Although laudable, unregulated clean-up technologies may be inefficient and have unintended negative consequences on ecosystems, for example, through bycatch or removal of organic matter important for ecosystem functions. Despite these concerns, plastic clean-up technologies can play an important role in reducing litter in the environment.
Members of Duke University's Plastic Pollution Working Group examine the unequal distribution of benefits and burdens of plastics. They find the benefits of plastics to communities and stakeholders are principally economic, whereas their burdens fall largely on human health. The report stresses the need for policy design to include health burdens to all impacted stakeholders across all plastic life stages and urges the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to consider harmful effects across the entire plastic lifecycle and to apply the precautionary principle when drafting the upcoming international global plastic treaty.