First in Science: The Economic Impacts of Plastic Pollution
It’s not just the environment hurting from plastic pollution
Up to $2.5 trillion is lost each year due to marine plastic pollution
Research continues to uncover the growing threats from plastic pollution. A new study is the first study to measure the economic impact marine plastic pollution has on ecosystem services.
The Study: Researchers analyzed the impacts of plastic pollution on three critical ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect benefits ecosystems provide us.
- Provision of fisheries, aquaculture, and materials for agricultural use: Fish are ingesting more plastic pollution. More research is needed on the human health impacts, however, the perceived threat of plastic infested seafood could harm fisheries.
- Heritage: Certain “charismatic” animals, such as turtles and whales, hold cultural or emotional importance. Seeing these animals suffer from plastic pollution can have detrimental impacts on human wellbeing.
- Experiential recreation: People are less inclined to spend time in areas with litter. As a result, littered beaches experience increased clean-up expenses and decreased tourism revenues. Decreased recreation also causes a range of physical and mental costs.
Results: Researchers estimate a loss of 1-5% in marine ecosystem services as a result of plastic pollution. This reduction equals a loss of about $500 billion to $2.5 trillion per year. That’s about $33,000 per metric ton of plastic pollution. To help reduce the impacts of plastic pollution, the researchers suggest implementing a “social cost of plastic” to help accurately reflect their impacts on society and the economy.