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New study aims to prompt international action on ocean plastic

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The University of Stirling has been awarded a share of £850,000 to lead a research project aiming to inspire international action on marine plastic pollution. 

The Economics of Marine Plastic Pollution: What are the Benefits of International Cooperation? will calculate the economic costs of the environmental damages associated with marine plastic and the benefits of a cross-country coordinated clean up.

Professor of Environmental Economics at the University’s Stirling Management School, Frans de Vries, said: “We know plastic pollution is a global phenomenon and has a significant, detrimental impact on the marine and coastal environment. The transboundary nature of marine plastic pollution reduces the incentive for any single country to take action. Through this project, we aim to identify and prove the value of international cooperation in tackling the issue.”

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

Frans de Vries
Despite increasing worldwide recognition of the problem of marine plastic, a lack of coordinated and effective control persists. Our research will contribute to discussions around the introduction of an international agreement, and we're hopeful our findings will inspire international efforts towards solving this massive environmental problem
Frans de Vries Professor of Environmental Economics

Researchers will seek to map 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.

Prof De Vries added: “Despite increasing worldwide recognition of the problem of marine plastic, a lack of coordinated and effective control persists. Our research will contribute to discussions around the introduction of an international agreement on plastics in the marine environment, and we are hopeful our findings will inspire international efforts towards solving this massive environmental problem.”  

The research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Helen Rogers, Senior Portfolio Manager at ESRC said: “ESRC is delighted to be funding to this project, with contributions from NERC and as part of UK Research and Innovation, we are well placed to foster research that can help solve the pressing issue of the plastic waste problem.

“Humanity’s shared environment is at risk and Prof de Vries’ work will contribute to its preservation.”

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