Skip to main content
How has COVID-19 affected global efforts to reduce plastic pollution?

Story at a glance

  • A new analysis from Duke University has found that the number of policies created to curb plastic pollution has dropped dramatically during the pandemic.
  • More research is needed, and the drop could be due to a lag between when policies are enacted, and international environmental law databases are updated.
  • Researchers worry about the outcome of the decrease in policy creation will have on overall pollution.

Efforts to reduce plastic pollution have slowed across the globe since the COVID-19 pandemic started over two years ago, according to a Duke University study.  

The new study was crafted by a team at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions after two years of researchers and students updating a searchable global plastics policy database. 

Duke’s database now contains information on over 570 public policies targeting plastic pollution in over 30 languages dating back to the year 2000. While the number of new policies to curb plastic pollution has risen over the last 20 years, the study found the trend seemed to stall in 2020 and 2021, according to a brief on the study.  

There were nearly 40 plastic pollutions policies that were introduced or amended across the country in 2019, according to the brief, and that number dropped to under 30 and under 10 in 2020 and 2021 respectively.  

Bans on plastic bags are just one example of some anti-plastic laws stalled during the pandemic. New York passed legislation banning single-use plastic bags just before the pandemic, which took effect on March 1, 2020, six days before former Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Read the full story