A decision framework for estimating the cost of marine plastic pollution interventions


Marine plastic pollution has emerged as one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. Although there has been a surge in global investment for implementing interventions to mitigate plastic pollution, there has been little attention given to the cost of these interventions. We developed a decision support framework to identify the economic, social, and ecological costs and benefits of plastic pollution interventions for different sectors and stakeholders. We calculated net cost as a function of six cost and benefit categories with the following equation: cost of implementing an intervention (direct, indirect, and nonmonetary costs) minus recovered costs and benefits (monetary and nonmonetary) produced by the interventions. We applied our framework to two quantitative case studies (a solid waste management plan and a trash interceptor) and four comparative case studies, evaluating the costs of beach cleanups and waste-to-energy plants in various contexts, to identify factors that influence the costs of plastic pollution interventions. The socioeconomic context of implementation, the spatial scale of implementation, and the time scale of evaluation all influence costs and the distribution of costs across stakeholders. Our framework provides an approach to estimate and compare the costs of a range of interventions across sociopolitical and economic contexts.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Erin L. Murphy
Miranda Bernard, Arizona State University
Gwenllian Iacona
Stephanie B. Borrelle
Megan Barnes, University of Hawaii
Alexis McGivern, Gallifrey Foundation
Jorge Emmanuel
Leah R. Gerber
Conservation Biology

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