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Stakeholder perceptions of marine plastic waste management in the United Kingdom

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JournalEcological Economics
DateAccepted/In press - 25 Apr 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 21 May 2019
DatePublished (current) - Sep 2019
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)77-87
Early online date21/05/19
Original languageEnglish


Plastic pollution is a significant threat to the marine environment. Although scientific interest in the environmental impacts of plastic pollution has grown rapidly over the last decade, there has been a relative lag in public, industry and government interest. The recent BBC Blue Planet II documentary has, however, provoked a national increase in awareness to the problems of plastic pollution in the United Kingdom (UK), and has inspired the government to introduce taxation policy changes aiming to reduce consumption. It is therefore necessary to better understand the diverse range of opinions that surround the ocean plastic waste problem, economic policy solutions and consumption responsibilities. We employ a Q-methodological study to address key stakeholder viewpoints from ENGO, government agency, retailer, marine science and citizen representatives in the UK. We find four distinct emergent discourses surrounding this topic, labelled: a) Socio-cultural visibility and responsibility, b) Dragons of inaction – disempowerment and defeatism, c) Value-action gap, d) Refuting retailer responsibility. We also identify a clear consensus that current and proposed government policy is not radical enough – the focus needs to move beyond single-product taxes and levies on disposal items (e.g bags, coffee cups), to a deeper reflection about public awareness raising and education, defining waste responsibilities more clearly, and working to change the habits and unsustainable practices of consumers in the face of public apathy and a resistant retail environment.

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