Story | 25 Feb, 2021

Newly Published Marine Plastic Pollution and Extended Producer Responsibility Policy Studies Aid Decision Makers

IUCN MARPLASTICCs project Provides Institutional Frameworks Governing Marine Plastic Pollution to understand marine plastic pollution and Extended Producer Responsibility in Asia and Africa

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Photo: White Rhino Films, Kenya

This week, the UNEA5 meetings have focused on finding solutions for sustainable development including policies to support these efforts, especially in relation to marine plastic pollution. In the process of acknowledging the seriousness of this issue, states around the globe have enacted regulations to address it by targeting the different stages of the plastic life-cycle, namely: production, trade, transport, retail, consumer use and end-of-life.

Policy Reviews

As part of the Marine Plastics and Coastal Communities (MARPLASTICCs) project at IUCN, in collaboration with the IUCN Environmental Law Centre, IUCN has published five policy scoping studies that provide policy makers with guidance on the legal, policy and institutional frameworks governing marine plastics for Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Each country’s unique situation is presented in their own comprehensive report.

The reports present an overview of each country’s national background, international obligations, relevant institutions and processes, specific legal policy frameworks, and the gaps and challenges that exist when examining the issues surrounding marine plastic pollution.  The support of locally-based national experts familiar with the legal frameworks in the countries was used. The reports are available in English, Portuguese (Mozambique), and Vietnamese, with the Thai version of the Thailand study coming soon. Each study provides an in-depth analysis of the regulatory tools to identify gaps and facilitate the exchange of best practices. For policy makers attending UNEA5, these reports are a useful resource: an in-depth analysis of regulatory tools to identify gaps and facilitate the exchange of best practices.


In-Depth Assessment on Extended Producer Responsibility

For Kenya, South Africa, and Thailand, there are additional in-depth assessments on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) available. These EPR assessments provide policy makers with a review of the existing frameworks to examine when considering marine plastic pollution. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development defines Extended Producer Responsibility as “an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle”.

Country Highlights





  • For many years Kenya has struggled to find the appropriate legal and policy framework to deal effectively with the plastic waste menace.
  • New efforts by the Government of Kenya to strengthen the regulatory framework for solid waste management now include plastic waste, and is undertaking various policy and legislative reforms to strengthen the governance framework for solid waste management.
  • The in-depth assessment, “Policy Effectiveness Assessment of Selected Tools for Addressing Marine Plastic Pollution. Extended Producer Responsibility in Kenya” covers the instrumental, institutional, and behavioural levels and examines the informal sector.





  •  Mozambique has embarked on a movement to enact environmental and natural resource policies and legislation that incorporate, by adjusting them to local conditions, the international environmental principles and obligations contained in these instruments, and to establish and empower institutions to ensure implementation of the obligations arising from these instruments.
  • The major gap in the current legislation is that marine plastic pollution has not yet been treated as a major threat to the marine environment and no specific policy for the prevention of marine pollution has been developed.

South Africa




  • Plastics, including plastic wastes, are regulated directly and indirectly by a suite of environmental laws, including dedicated plastic bag regulations, and the National Environmental Management: Waste Act; among others.
  • South Africa has a variety of legal instruments available to address the challenge, however, they have yet to be fully utilised or are still in the process of implementation.
  • The in-depth assessment, “Policy Effectiveness Assessment of Selected Tools for Addressing Marine Plastic Pollution. Extended Producer Responsibility in South Africa” covers EPR under the South African Waste Act, and includes information on institutions, organisational structures and the informal sector.





  • Thai laws addressing plastic pollution are fragmented, involving several pieces of legislation and numbers of institutions. At the forefront of tackling plastic pollution, local administrations, with their limited authorities, are real actors that manage plastic wastes.
  • There are several challenges that render the management of plastic waste less effective than it should have been, including limited powers given by the constituent legislation, the lack of financial resources, and the lack of cooperation and coordinated actions amongst relevant government departments and agencies.
  • The in-depth assessment, “Policy Effectiveness Assessment of Selected Tools for Addressing Marine Plastic Pollution. Extended Producer Responsibility in Thailand” covers the instrumental, institutional and behavioural levels as well as the limitations in each area.

Viet Nam





  • Domestic waste generation has expanded faster than the local infrastructure and management capacities. As a result of added pressure from international waste flows, Viet Nam is struggling to deal with both domestic and international plastic waste.
  • Although national legislation and policies and corresponding implementing institutions were put in place to control and prevent pollution of the marine environment, none of the existing laws and policies explicitly address marine plastic pollution in Viet Nam.


About the IUCN Environmental Law Centre and its role within MARPLASTICCs

The Environmental Law Programme works across different scales from global to local, and across the full spectrum of sectors concerning natural resources governance. Within the ELP is the IUCN Environmental Law Centre (ELC), which focuses on analysing the regulatory frameworks governing the different stages of the plastic life-cycle in order to address this dire situation.


In 2017, with generous support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), IUCN launched the Marine Plastics and Coastal Communities initiative (MARPLASTICCs), an initiative in Africa and Asia that works in five countries: Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The project consists of four pillars: capacity building through circular economy projects, production of knowledge products – including the national guidance and reports on plastic pollution hotspotting, economic and regulatory policy analysis in each country, and connecting with the private sector with a business component to help businesses identify plastic leakage in their value chains.  

Supported by Sida  


Sida logo Photo: Sida logo



About Marine Litter in the UN Environmental Assembly and UNEA5

The United Nations Environment Assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, with a universal membership of all 193 Member States. UNEA 5 takes place 22-26 February 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya. The ad hoc open-ended expert group on marine litter and microplastics was established at the third session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in response to UNEP/EA.3/Res.7 Marine Litter and Microplastics. At the fourth session of UNEA the mandate of the expert group was extended, pursuant to operative paragraph 7 of resolution UNEP/EA.4/Res.6 Marine plastic litter and microplastics.