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The economic impact of plastic pollution, and the benefits of reducing mismanaged waste in Fiji

This economic brief shows the estimated impact of marine plastic pollution on fisheries and tourism in Fiji. Marine plastic pollution can generate significant economic costs in the form of gross domestic product (GDP) reductions, estimated at up to US$7 billion (globally) for 2018 alone (WWF, 2021).

This report presents the findings of a study that aimed at estimating the impacts of plastics leaked into the marine environment from Fiji, and the costs and benefits of implementing a solution, a regional recycling system to reduce mismanaged plastic waste and its leakage into the marine environment.

Fiji’s fisheries sector and others fishing in the Southeast Pacific contribute to marine plastics through abandoned, discarded, or lost fishing gear or ALDFG, which in turn impacts the fishing industry. ALDFG can perform “ghost fishing,” which means that it can continue to trap fish and crustaceans, as well as ensnaring and capturing other species, given that this gear is no longer being controlled. 

Among the recommendations for Fiji to improve its waste management system, research cited in this report states that “it is important to promote plastic reduction…it is equally important to recycle plastic waste that has already been produced”.  Source separation is needed, while there is also a need to invest in infrastructure such as waste transfer stations and material recovery facilities to support the recycling sector and source separation. This goes in line with the new Fiji waste strategy, which promotes waste prevention and minimisation through reduction, reuse, and recycling.

The solution that is analysed here is the establishment of a system in Fiji that would collect recyclable plastics, and separate and recycle them, while also having the capacity to receive materials from other places, such as Samoa (Raes et al., 2023). This report focuses on the costs and benefits of implementing a broader national recycling system in Fiji.