Supporting global action to combat marine plastic pollution

New Zealand has joined other countries in stating support for coordinated global action to combat marine plastic pollution through a new global agreement. 

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The issue

The flow of plastic litter and plastic pollution into the marine environment is a growing global problem with significant environmental, health, social, and economic impacts. 

By 2050 plastic production is expected to grow to 1,600 million tonnes per year from 407 million tonnes in 2015, outweighing all humans on earth 5.6 times over.  

Towards a global agreement

At the next United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) from 28 February to 2 March 2022, countries across the world will consider whether to start negotiating a new global agreement on marine plastic litter and plastic pollution. 

If countries agree to start negotiating a new global agreement, the New Zealand Government will consult with stakeholders on the detail of the agreement. 

The summary report of the UNEA’s Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics [UNEA website] identifies a range of potential options to address the marine plastic litter problem.

What could be in an agreement 

Core elements of a new global agreement are likely to include a: 

  • shared global goal/common long-term vision to the plastic pollution problem 
  • common approach to national action plans covering the life cycle of plastics 
  • mechanism to harmonise reporting and monitoring of actions and effects of measures 
  • financial mechanism to deliver technical support and capacity building 
  • science and knowledge mechanism to provide access to quality-assured information for stakeholders at all levels. 

The overall scope, level of ambition, and nature of commitments of a global agreement all remain subject to negotiations. 

New Zealand’s participation

Taking action on plastic waste is an important step in New Zealand’s journey to a low-waste economy, with an effective resource recovery and recycling system. 

In the negotiations, New Zealand will be guided by principles of a circular economy, waste hierarchy and a life-cycle approach consistent with our National Plastics Action Plan [PDF 4.4 MB] (already underway) and draft national waste strategy.  

We welcome any initial thoughts or feedback that will inform our analysis in the lead-up to negotiations. 

New Zealand has also endorsed the: 

We are also members of a range of other international groups to reduce plastic pollution such as the:

  • Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency
  • Ellen McArthur Foundation Global Commitment on plastics
  • Global Ghost gear Initiative.   


Resource Efficiency and Waste Division


See our webpage Towards a global agreement to combat marine plastic pollution for updates on the work towards a global agreement.

Image on this page: Clare Toia-Bailey/