Stubenrauch, J.; Ekardt, F. Plastic Pollution in Soils: Governance Approaches to Foster Soil Health and Closed Nutrient Cycles. Environments 2020, 7, 38.
Plastic pollution in soils pose a major threat to soil health and soil fertility that are directly linked to food security and human health. In contrast to marine plastic pollution, this ubiquitous problem is thus far scientifically poorly understood and policy approaches that tackle plastic pollution in soils comprehensively do not exist. In this article, we apply a qualitative governance analysis to assess the effectiveness of existing policy instruments to avoid harmful plastic pollution in (agricultural) soils against the background of international environmental agreements. In particular, environmental and fertiliser legislation relevant to soil protection in the European Union and in Germany are assessed. Regulatory weaknesses and gaps of the respective legislation are identified, and proposals for enhanced command-and-control provisions developed. However, the legal analysis furthermore shows that plastic pollution ecologically is also a problem of quantity, which is difficult to solve exclusively through command-and-control legislation. Instead, comprehensive quantity-control instruments to phase out fossil fuels (worldwide and in all sectors) as required by climate protection law can be effective approaches to tackle plastic pollution in environmental media like agricultural soils as well.