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The Economics of Marine Plastic Pollution: What are the Benefits of International Cooperation

Plastic bottles and net on beach

Completed project

Project start: June 2019  |  Project end: September 2022
Funder: Economic and Social Research Council
Principal Investigator: Dr James Clark
Other participants from PML: Dr Nicola Beaumont

The Economics of Marine Plastic Pollution: What are the Benefits of International Cooperation? project is calculating the economic costs of the environmental damages associated with marine plastic and the benefits of cross-country coordinated action to address the problem.


The three year study, which involves academics from the University of Stirling, University of Glasgow, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and Clark University in America, is focusing on collecting data from eight countries bordering the North Atlantic Ocean.

Researchers are mapping the spatial distribution and movement of marine plastic; calculate the costs of reducing both the stock and flows of plastic in and into the marine environment; develop a framework to determine the economic benefits of different levels of international cooperation in reducing plastic waste; and identify incentives that might encourage a joined-up approach.

PML's work within the project will mainly focus on how plastic waste travels across the North Atlantic and what environmental impacts these plastics cause, particularly in relation to marine biodiversity. Computer simulations are being used to evaluate the flux of plastic between countries on either side of the Atlantic, whilst environmental economists quantifying the marine biodiversity impacts.


The problem of marine plastic debris has received a large amount of attention in recent years. However, there is a significant amount of uncertainty regarding how it should be addressed. In this exciting and highly interdisciplinary project, involving economists, social and marine scientists, the benefits of international cooperation to reduce marine plastic pollution will be examined. The results will help inform the development of improved international agreements to effectively combat the problem.