Publication - Policy Paper

28 September 2023

Standards and Related Initiatives in International Cooperation to End Plastic Pollution: Mapping and State of Play

As concerns increase over the magnitude and impact of plastic pollution across the globe, efforts to identify solutions are gaining momentum. At the international level, the most significant intergovernmental effort is the ongoing work of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution to be forged by the end of 2024. The relevance of standards and standard-setting processes has arisen as a crosscutting issue in the plastics treaty negotiations.

Alongside, several other international processes have ongoing work on standards relevant to the plastics treaty. At the WTO, for instance, the Dialogue on Plastics Pollution (DPP), which brings together over 75 WTO members, was established in 2021 to explore how improved trade cooperation could support and complement international efforts to reduce plastic pollution. Among the issues under discussion in the DPP are priorities for trade-related cooperation around standards to support the transformation of global supply chains and address developing country concerns about technical and implementation capacity.

Against that backdrop, the policy paper is intended to inform discussion on the role that international cooperation on standards can play in supporting global efforts to end plastic pollution. It starts with a brief overview of existing standards and standard-setting processes. The paper then reviews and explores the interplay between three categories of instruments that are described by different actors as standards: government legislation, regulations, and initiatives; voluntary multistakeholder standards; and non-governmental initiatives. It provides tables with illustrative examples of each category.

The paper concludes by outlining issues and priorities for international cooperation on the development and implementation of standards across the full life cycle of plastics, noting how these can be taken up in processes such as INC, the DPP, and the ongoing work of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and other standard-setting processes.

Categories of Instruments Discussed in the Paper

Recommended citation: Deere Birkbeck, C., Sugathan, M., Boinnard, S., Valeriia, G., & Belinda, C. (2023). Standards and related initiatives in international cooperation to end plastic pollution: Mapping and state of play. Forum on Trade, Environment, & the SDGs (TESS) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

This paper is co-published with

TESS and the Global Plastics Treaty Negotiations

This policy paper is part of our initiative promoting international cooperation on trade to support the global plastics treaty negotiations.