UN urged to act to reduce ocean plastic pollution


Plans to reduce plastic pollution have received a boost from a new report showing escalating costs to the global economy.

The United Nations Environmental Assembly is due to meet in February to start discussions for a binding agreement to reduce plastic pollution.

The meeting comes after a report in the latest issue of Marine Pollution Bulletin, which estimates that the cost to the global marine economy in 2021 of marine litter, which includes plastic, is US$21.3bn annually.

These estimates only consider direct damage to maritime industries and do not include damage to the environment.

The report predicts a cost of US$434bn to 2050, if no changes are made.

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That cost balloons to US$731bn if projections of a tripling of plastic production become reality.

These impacts are felt in the fishing and aquaculture industries (13.6%), the shipping, boat and marine transport sectors (27.2%) and marine tourism industry in particular (59.2%).

One of the report’s authors, marine economist Professor Alistair McIlgorm from the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security at the University of Wollongong, said urgent action was necessary.

“All over the world, the quality of marine tourism experiences are being compromised by marine plastic pollution from litter on coasts and beaches,” he said.

“Plastic in the ocean also causes damage to marine environments, not just users.  What we have estimated is the tip of the damage iceberg.”

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“These costs are largely unknown, and likely to meet and exceed these estimates.”

The research was conducted by the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS) at the University of Wollongong (UOW) for APEC’s Oceans and Fisheries Working Group (OFWG), funded by the US Department of State.