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Risk perception and risk realities in forming legally binding agreements: The governance of plastics.

  • Academic Journal
  • Environmental Science & Policy; Aug2022, Vol. 134, p67-74, 8p
  • The effectiveness of a legally binding treaty to manage plastic pollution will depend on how people perceive the risk of the problem in terms of both whether and how much they fear it. Plastic pollution caught the attention of the global public owing to uncertainty surrounding potential human health impacts. Despite an initial concern about human exposure, especially to microplastics, scientific evidence started emerging that the risks of ingesting and even inhaling microplastic was relatively small, suggesting low levels of personal risk. Still, at UNEA5 in Nairobi in 2022, a resolution was passed to start negotiations towards a legally binding agreement for the governance of plastics throughout its life cycle. We compare the trajectory of marine plastics as an environmental governance issue with other global challenges and do a comparative analysis using culture theory to assess how individual risk perception and worldviews inform collective attitudes on governance. We conclude by considering how different risk perceptions may have changed when even more knowledge became available concerning the implications of microplastics breaking down further into nanoplastics and being registered in human blood samples. We argue that this may have contributed to shifting public perception about personal risk and given the requisite push for coordinated global governance of this material. • Plastics is a source of pollution that demands urgent global regulatory action. • At UNEA5, a resolution was passed to start negotiations towards a treaty covering the full life cycle of plastics. • Cultural Theory is used to assess how individual risk perception and worldviews inform collective attitudes of governance. • The Comparative Method informs us on similarities and contrasts with other governance schemes. • Nanoplastics and its effect on human health may be a catalyst for shifting public perception. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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