While developed nations may boast high plastic collection and recycling rates, the reality is often far more complex. Commonly, scrap plastic formally registered as ‘recycled’ by developed nations is exported to emerging economies for further sorting, processing and recycling. This trade nexus often results in high domestic plastic waste mismanagement rates in recipient countries. Paradoxically, waste importing countries typically lack the necessary enforcement and facilities to properly process this scrap plastic, resulting in ocean, air, and land pollution. Considering these challenges, strengthening global regulations that adequately control transboundary movement of scrap plastic is paramount. Further studies that identify opportunities for streamlining, monitoring and enforcement at a global level are also required.