NAIROBI, Dec. 6, 2017 –  Efforts to address global plastic pollution took a significant step forward today as world governments agreed to establish a specialist group tasked with examining options to combat marine plastic pollution.

In a resolution adopted at the 3rd meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 3), Member States supported a series of actions to eliminate the discharge of plastic litter and microplastics into the oceans, including through preventing plastic waste, increasing reuse and recycling and avoiding the unnecessary use of plastic, highlighting the role of extended producer responsibility.

In a significant development, the resolution establishes a process for ongoing coordinated international action, with the newly established Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group tasked with examining options for combating marine plastic litter and microplastics from all sources, including through global legally binding mechanisms.

Up to 12 million tonnes of plastic leak into the oceans each year, harming more than 800 marine species. Unless action is taken, plastic could outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050. The growth in plastic production is also impacting terrestrial and freshwater environments and contributing to climate change, accounting for an estimated 20 percent of global oil consumption by 2050.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and partner NGOs welcomed the adoption of the resolution, urging countries to accelerate international efforts to address this critical threat to human health and the environment.

EIA Oceans Campaigner Sarah Baulch said: “Our marine wildlife is choking on an ever-growing tidal wave of plastics manufactured to be used once and almost instantly discarded, leaving a polluted legacy for our environment and future generations. We need global leadership and urgent action by all stakeholders to halt the damage that plastic pollution is doing to our oceans.”

David Azoulay, Senior Attorney at CIEL said: “Today, countries took an important step that could be the tipping point in the battle against plastic pollution. The open-ended expert group now has the responsibility to deliver an action plan that addresses the urgency of the plastics crisis. To be effective, that plan must address plastic pollution throughout its entire life cycle, from extraction at the shale gas wellhead, to manufacture that impacts fenceline communities, to disposal in our oceans, and to the bodies of consumers and wildlife.”


  1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) investigates and campaigns against environmental crime and abuses. Our undercover investigations expose transnational wildlife crime, with a focus on elephants and tigers, and forest crimes such as illegal logging and deforestation for cash crops such as palm oil; we work to safeguard global marine ecosystems by tackling plastic pollution, exposing illegal fishing and seeking an end to all whaling; and we address the threat of global warming by campaigning to curtail powerful refrigerant greenhouse gases and exposing related criminal trade.
  2. The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) uses the power of the law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL is a non‐profit organization dedicated to advocacy in the global public interest, including through legal counsel, policy research, analysis, education, training and capacity building. CIEL’s Fueling Plastics ongoing investigative series examines the deep linkages between the fossil fuels and plastics industries and the products they produce, and exposes how the shale gas boom is fueling a massive buildout of plastics infrastructure in the United States and beyond.
  3. EIA and CIEL are working in partnership with a number of NGOs within the #BreakFreeFromPlastic Movement, including a number present at UNEA 3: Plastic Pollution Coalition, Zero Waste Europe, BaliFokus Foundation (Indonesia), Environment and Social Development Organisation (Bangladesh). #BreakFreeFromPlastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016 over 1000 non-governmental Organisations from across the world have joined the movement to demand reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis.
  4. The UN Environment Assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, and gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4-6 December 2017 under the overarching theme of pollution. The UN Environment Assembly has the universal membership of all 193 UN Member States and the full involvement of UN organizations, specialized agencies, inter-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector. In bringing together these varied communities, the Assembly provides a groundbreaking platform for leadership on global environmental policy.