On the 28th of May, a shock went around the world as the European Union announced a ban on many single-use plastics. Contrasted by the muted language of the announcement, the global reactions were tremendous, as industry players, NGOs, and other countries scrambled to interpret the news.

Reactions from within the EU system itself were positive, showing solidarity with the move. The general tone was unified responsibility and maturity, exemplified by Vice-President Jyrki Katainen: “Plastic can be fantastic, but we need to use it more responsibly”.

NGOs could be expected to be ecstatic over the news, but reactions were surprisingly subdued. Many usually vocal groups made no statements, and the reactions that did come had a subtext of ‘the ban not going far enough’. As expressed by one NGO campaigner: “Lack of specific reduction targets for Member States is alarming”.

Industry reactions ranged from outright negative to conciliatory. One Industry player dismissed the news by saying “Banning is a symbolic solution”, while another admitted “We acknowledge we have a share of the responsibility”, and a third urged the EU to “advocate on the international level”.

Among academics, there were few public reactions, which did not say much. The ban was not described as a big impact on the problem, and, as one researcher put it, “When it comes to pollutions of the oceans, there are much bigger problems”.

Reactions internationally were unpredictable, from reserved praise by global organizations, to governments stating they would be implementing similar policies.

An important insight from this map is how fractured the different players were. Only the EU itself came across with anything like a unified voice. The industry, NGOs, and the academic community all displayed hesitant, diverging views, which a coordinated stakeholder management campaign could have taken advantage of.

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The EU announcement was only the latest in a series of similar policies implemented by governments as concerns grew over plastics polluting oceans. Each player had the opportunity to prepare a response, and work with their stakeholders to ensure clear communication. The map clearly shows the failure in stakeholder management.