Story | 24 Oct, 2023

Variety of economic impacts of plastics pollution summarised for islands in the Caribbean

In 2019 with support from Norad, IUCN launched the Plastic Waste Free Islands (PWFI) project, aiming to reduce plastic waste generation and leakage into the ocean in island nations in the Pacific and Caribbean regions. Economic assessments were conducted as part of the project in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and St Lucia, in the Caribbean. These studies are now summarised in English, French, and Spanish.

The three studies examined the impacts of marine plastics on economic sectors. In each of the three countries, the studies focused on the fisheries and tourism sectors and the costs and benefits of implementing a national recycling system from a national and from a regional cooperation perspective. The research estimates the direct costs for the economy of each island and notes the importance of mitigating plastics waste and pollution for improved economic outcomes.

Plastics impact fisheries through dumped catch, fouling incidents, net repairs and time lost cleaning nets; while ghost fishing can generate additional revenue losses. Tourism can be impacted when tourists are no longer willing to visit, due to plastic litter on beaches. In order to avoid this impact, beach clean-up costs need to be incurred. These, and other factors, are costs associated with marine plastic pollution.

Governments of these islands recognise the impacts on their social and economic well-being and have started to work on measures to curb plastic pollution. Most measures focus on bans of single-use plastics and polystyrene, which comprise around 80% of Caribbean marine litter. Considering the significant amount of PET and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic leakage on Caribbean islands, container deposit and transport schemes could prove effective to incentivise region-wide reverse logistics and to create recycling markets for countries without such availability. 

The summaries of each study are available for reading and download here:

Antigua and Barbuda


St. Lucia

The full studies can be read in English on this page. A graphical summary of the impacts for the Caribbean can be read here.

The work of Plastic Waste Free Islands was funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation - Norad. 

Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) logo Norad logo Photo: Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad)