We have been working with Common Seas, an organisation with a mission to tackle the flow of plastics into the oceans, to develop Plastic Drawdown, a comprehensive approach for governments to understand plastic waste flows and optimise policies to tackle ocean pollution.

We used the Plastic Drawdown approach to assess the impact of the UK Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy on the amount of plastic entering UK rivers and seas. As part of this, we also looked at what the effect of different policies might be in Indonesia, a country to which the UK now sends a considerable quantity of plastic waste with the intention of it being recycled.

Plastic Drawdown models the impact of potential policies within the UK strategy by highlighting those likely to be most successful in reducing the total quantity of plastic entering the environment.  We found that the most effective intervention would be the introduction of a deposit return system for single-use beverage containers, with an estimated potential effect of removing 6,600 tonnes of plastic waste from the rivers and seas by 2030.

The report highlights important sources of plastic pollution that are not addressed by the strategy. Tyre dust emitted by wear from vehicle tyres; microplastics from clothing; and plastic pellets used in plastics manufacture were found to make the greatest contributions to the UK’s plastic leakage into rivers and seas.

Our research highlights the need for specific mitigation policies for different countries to ensure that the unique pollution problems facing different regions are thoroughly addressed. This is highlighted through the comparison with the Plastics Drawdown modelling for Indonesia, which clearly shows that developing a functional waste management system will have the greatest effect. This is necessary to address the widespread practice of dumping waste into the environment.

The report also points out that exports of UK plastic waste to Indonesia – intended for recycling – may potentially contribute an amount of plastic pollution which is similar to the reductions that may be made through putting in place measures highlighted in the UK strategy. There is clearly a need to ensure that UK plastics are recycled in well-managed facilities, and not simply delivered to countries ill-equipped to deal with them.

Find out more about the research in The Guardian, or download the report in full .

The model has also been implemented in Indonesia, and is transferable to countries internationally to aid them in understanding their contribution to marine plastic pollution.

Photo by Ray Peresozo, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.