Publication Details

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Plastics in the environment in the context of UV radiation, climate change and the Montreal Protocol. 2023 Assessment Update of the UNEP Environmental Effects Assessment Panel, UNEP: Nairobi, 2023.


This Assessment Update by the Environmental Effects Assessment Panel (EEAP) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) considers the interactive effects of solar UV radiation, global warming, and other weathering factors on plastics. The Assessment illustrates the significance of solar UV radiation in decreasing the durability of plastic materials, degradation of plastic debris, formation of micro- and nanoplastic particles and accompanying leaching of potential toxic compounds. Micro- and nanoplastics have been found in all ecosystems, the atmosphere, and in humans. While the potential biological risks are not yet well-established, the widespread and increasing occurrence of plastic pollution is reason for continuing research and monitoring. Plastic debris persists after its intended life in soils, water bodies and the atmosphere as well as in living organisms. To counteract accumulation of plastics in the environment, the lifetime of novel plastics or plastic alternatives should better match the functional life of products, with eventual breakdown releasing harmless substances to the environment.