Economic Evaluation of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”

  Density distribution of the plastic waste in the North Pacific Ocean (the size of the circles indicates the relative density of a measurement point relative to others) (Source: Day et al., 1990)

In this project, we study the so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch“ (GPGP), an incredibly large and rapidly growing collection of plastic wastes in the North Pacific Ocean from an environmental economics perspective. In particular, we investigate the causes and consequences/impacts in a systematic manner and critically discuss possible environmental policies to solve or at least mitigate this huge ocean pollution problem.

First, we describe in detail the phenomenon (location, size, development etc.) and the large and primarily ecological problem of the GPGP. Then, we discuss, on the one hand, the manifold causes and impact mechanisms for the creation of the GPGP. On the other hand, we investigate the question how and with what kind of environmental policy instrument mix the problem could be counteracted from an economic perspective. Also, we make an attempt to analyze in a comparative (and to the extent possible also formal) analysis the most important instruments in environmental economics with respect to their suitability to tackle the GPGP problem at both the source and at the sink (economically efficient, ecologically targeted, and in the international context politically feasible). Finally, we present some insights gained and conclusions that can be drawn from our study.