International policies to reduce plastic marine pollution from single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads): A review

Mar Pollut Bull. 2017 May 15;118(1-2):17-26. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.02.048. Epub 2017 Feb 21.


Marine plastic pollution has been a growing concern for decades. Single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads) are a significant source of this pollution. Although research outlining environmental, social, and economic impacts of marine plastic pollution is growing, few studies have examined policy and legislative tools to reduce plastic pollution, particularly single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads). This paper reviews current international market-based strategies and policies to reduce plastic bags and microbeads. While policies to reduce microbeads began in 2014, interventions for plastic bags began much earlier in 1991. However, few studies have documented or measured the effectiveness of these reduction strategies. Recommendations to further reduce single-use plastic marine pollution include: (i) research to evaluate effectiveness of bans and levies to ensure policies are having positive impacts on marine environments; and (ii) education and outreach to reduce consumption of plastic bags and microbeads at source.

Keywords: Microbeads; Plastic bags; Plastic marine pollution; Policies; Single-use plastics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Pollution / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Environmental Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Microspheres
  • Plastics*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical*


  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical