Story | 04 Aug, 2020

Guidelines target plastic pollution hotspots

From promoting innovative eco-design to banning the use of single-use plastic straws, efforts to curb plastic pollution are as ubiquitous as plastic itself. However, the problem is not going away. It is time to adopt a new strategy.

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The National Guidance for Plastic Pollution Hotspotting and Shaping Action is a guide for countries, regions and cities to develop strategic plans for tackling plastic pollution. Developed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Life Cycle Initiative, the guide provides methods for identifying plastic leakage “hotspots”, finding their impacts along the plastic value chain, and prioritizing actions.

A “hotspot” is defined as either a component of the system that directly or indirectly contributes to plastic leakage and impact or that can be acted upon to mitigate this leakage or the resulting impacts.

Ligia Noronha, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division explains, “When your boat is sinking, you have to find the source of the leak and fix it. It’s the same with plastic pollution. We need to address the challenge at its source. We hope governments and other relevant stakeholders find this Guidance report useful in shaping their strategies to address the plastic challenge and improve circularity in the plastic value chain.”

Specifically, the guide provides a replicable harmonised, methodological framework, allowing stakeholders at national, sub-national, and local levels to identify plastic leakages and associated impacts and implement appropriate actions.  It also allows for the development of national and sub-national baselines, so that plastic pollution can be monitored and the success of interventions can be evaluated. Alongside the guidance, modules, and tools to help users collect data, create models, perform calculations, and develop interventions will be published on the project webpage at a later stage.

Stewart Maginnis, Global Director of IUCN Nature-based Solutions Group highlights that “The methodology enables the tracking of plastic consumption in various sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, and food, logistics and transport, as well as in households, in order to develop corresponding solutions to reduce adverse impacts. It offers an effective interface between science-based assessments and policymaking. Countries and cities can use the Guidance to close the knowledge gap to find the root sources of plastic pollution and identify solutions.”

The guide contributes to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)–particularly, SDG 12 for sustainable consumption and production patterns, and SDG 14 for sustainable use and conservation of ocean, sea and marine services and resources.  It also supports the implementation of the resolutions adopted at the fourth session of United Nations Environment Assembly in March 2019, including the resolution on achieving sustainable consumption and production (UNEP/EA.4/Res.1), the resolution on marine plastic litter and microplastics (UNEP/EA.4/Res.6) and the resolution on addressing single-use plastic products pollution (UNEP/EA.4/Res.9).

IUCN’s Marine Plastics and Coastal Communities (MARPLASTICCs) initiative rolled out a series of national workshops in Thailand, Viet Nam, South Africa, Kenya, and Mozambique from December 2019 to March 2020. The workshops kicked-off the pilot testing of this Guidance, and results will be available by the end of 2020, contributing to the improvement of the Guidance and relevant tools. 

Building upon the Guidance report, UNEP and IUCN are committed to further enhance harmonisation of the methodology at a global level jointly with partners and stakeholders, while simultaneously supporting the collection and sharing of data to tackle plastic pollution.


For more information, contact

Feng Wang, Programme Officer, Life Cycle Initiative, Economy Division, UNEP (

Lynn Sorrentino, Temporary Marine Programme Officer, IUCN (


Other Resources

National Guidance for Plastic Pollution Hotspotting and Shaping Action

IUCN pilot tests a national hotspot methodology in Africa and Asia, to help governments abate marine plastic pollution