The Cost of Plastic Pollution

The world's oceans, seas, and rivers now contain a total of 139 million tons of plastic pollution, which includes the most littered item - single-use cigarette filters. 

Even though plastic waste has a massive environmental impact, what are the economic costs associated with it?

This data visualization created by visualcapitalist maps the cost of plastic pollution using estimates developed by Deloitte for The Ocean Cleanup.

Cost of Plastic Pollution

Deloitte's 2019 study, the Price Tag of Plastic Pollution, employs a unique assessment model to determine the economic consequences of marine debris, which generally comes from rivers and ends up in the ocean.

Recent estimates indicate that up to 1,656 rivers are responsible for 80% of plastic pollution in the ocean. The top ten rivers are all in Asia. 

Direct government costs and lost revenue in tourism, fisheries, and aquaculture are included in the estimates for 87 countries.

For instance, the UK government bore direct costs of $7.1 to $31.7 million, but the report estimated the total costs to be $29.6 to $266.2 million.

The cost of plastic pollution to all coastal countries ranges from $6.0 to $19.2 billion per year. 

The cleaning of coastlines, waterways, marinas, and ports account for the largest portion of government expenditures, costing between $5.6 and $15.0 billion. 

However, clean-up costs aren't the only impact. There is an estimated $237.8 million to $2.4 billion impact on tourism from polluted beaches and stranded debris.

In addition to the damage to marine ecosystems, fisheries and aquaculture, as well as the communities that rely on them, are also affected. It adds up to between $114.4 million and $1.9 billion annually.


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