University Of Tasmania

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Socioeconomics effects on global hotspots of common debris items on land and the seafloor

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 02:30 authored by Hardesty, BD, Lauren Roman, Leonard, GH, Mallos, N, Pragnell-Raasch, H, Campbell, I, Wilcox, C
Pollution of coastal environments by anthropogenic debris is a global problem that is increasingly in the public eye. We evaluated the influence of socioeconomic and geographic factors on common debris items at a global scale. We compared debris density and socioeconomic drivers of the ten most common items reported on land and the seafloor, analyzing data from 22,508 land-based and 7,290 seafloor clean-ups and surveys across 116 and 118 countries, respectively. We found debris hotspots for different items span numerous countries across all continents. This demonstrates that the debris problem is global and heterogeneous, pointing to the transboundary nature of the issue and necessitating sub-national approaches to implementing effective solutions. Food and beverage packaging items, predominantly made from single-use plastics, accounted for much of the debris. Hotspots of individual debris items were differentially driven by socioeconomic factors. In general, total debris counts increased with the value of infrastructure, and decreased with national wealth. Highly polluted sites occurred in high-infrastructure, low-wealth locations such as Athens, Greece; Tunis, Tunisia and Lima, Peru. Based on these findings, we identify specific opportunities for policy makers and citizens alike to focus efforts aimed at reducing debris entering the environment.


Publication title

Global Environmental Change. Part A



Article number









Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Sci Ltd

Place of publication

The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox5 1Gb

Rights statement

© 2021 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Marine systems and management not elsewhere classified; Consumption patterns, population issues and the environment; Environmental policy, legislation and standards not elsewhere classified