A review of current challenges and legal advances in the global management of plastic waste

Jeffrey Seay, Mary Ellen Ternes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Plastic waste is an ever-growing global challenge, perhaps second only to climate change in its scope and impact. Unmanaged plastic waste can be found on every continent and every ocean, from mountaintops to the seafloor. In addition to the plastic we can see, over time, plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics, and in that form, plastic has worked its way into the food chain—from plankton to humans. Plastics have been touted as recyclable, but in practice, recycling is difficult and has not proven to be an effective solution. Additionally, current laws and regulations are not sufficient in slowing the use—and misuse—of plastic. However, there is reason for optimism. New technologies like chemical recycling and new manufacturing approaches aim to make the process of recycling plastic easier and new and proposed regulations around the world are beginning to take a radically different approaches to addressing and recognizing the potential harm to the environment and human health done by plastics. In this review, we will address the current state of plastic waste management from a technical and policy perspective and look forward to potential changes and innovations on the horizon. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-738
Number of pages8
JournalClean Technologies and Environmental Policy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Microplastic
  • Plastic
  • Policy
  • Recycling
  • Waste management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Business, Management and Accounting (all)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'A review of current challenges and legal advances in the global management of plastic waste'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this