Know more about the latest studies on the impacts of microplastic pollution globally on the economic system and mainly tourism, and what could be done to prevent those problems. 

Plastic debris pollution has emerged as a significant global environmental challenge in recent decades. Its widespread distribution, long-lasting nature, and intricate ecological impacts have raised alarming concerns for environmental health and ecosystem functioning. The progressive degradation of large plastic debris into smaller fragments known as microplastics (MPs) due to weathering exacerbates the problem. These particles, measuring less than 5 mm, have been extensively documented for being found on a wide range of organisms, with far-reaching consequences for wildlife and potentially even for humans. In addition to its environmental consequences, plastic and microplastic pollution also pose economic threats, particularly in coastal regions, affecting tourism, fishing industries, and seafood consumption.


Plastic pollution significantly affects economic systems, especially in coastal areas. The consequences extend to the tourism industry, fishing operations, and seafood consumption. Researchers have assessed the economic implications of plastic pollution, shedding light on its negative effects on coastal economies.

Addressing the environmental and economic impacts of plastic pollution requires understanding its sources, accumulation reservoirs, and concentrations. A crucial challenge lies in determining the real impact and implementing appropriate measures on a global as well as regional and local scale. Coastal areas, particularly popular beaches, face the dual vulnerability of being accumulation sites for plastic debris and the main entry points for this pollutant into marine systems. Inadequate waste management, littering, and illegal dumping contribute to the problem, as highlighted by studies conducted by Veiga et al. (2016).[1]

Plastic pollution on beaches originates from both inland sources and human activities. Water currents, wind, and drainage systems transport plastic waste to the coasts. Key sources include accidental release of plastic pellets[2], improper disposal of plastic waste, loss of fishing equipment, tire wear[3], stormwater, wastewater treatment plants[4], and fibers released from textile washing. Furthermore, low-density floating plastic varieties accumulate in the oceans and are transported across great distances, leading to contamination of coastal areas. The types of plastics involved are diverse, ranging from thermoplastics (e.g., polyethylene and polyamide) to thermosets and semi-synthetic materials. This leads to many consequences on the economy, including tourism.

Figure 1: Changes in the annual number of recreation days if the amount of marine debris is
reduced to almost none, and if the amount of marine debris doubles.


Plastic pollution extends its economic consequences to various industries. Coastal regions heavily reliant on fishing operations face significant challenges due to plastic debris. Fishing gear entanglement and damage to fishing equipment not only incur financial losses for fishermen but also disrupt the overall productivity and sustainability of the industry. Additionally, the contamination of seafood with microplastics raises concerns about food safety, potentially affecting consumer confidence and seafood consumption patterns. This disruption in marine ecosystems can have cascading effects on the overall biodiversity and ecological balance. As ecosystems deteriorate, it poses a direct threat to industries reliant on marine resources, such as fisheries and ecotourism, further exacerbating economic losses.

The consequences of microplastics on tourism can be significant, as demonstrated by a study funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program. The tourism and recreation sector, which heavily relies on healthy coastal and ocean resources and the aesthetic quality of the environment, is the largest employer in the ocean and Great Lakes economy. Unfortunately, marine debris, including microplastics, is a pervasive issue in many coastal areas of the United States, where tourism and recreation contribute $124 billion to the gross domestic product (GDP).

The amount of marine debris on beaches affects the behaviors of beachgoers and, consequently, the economies of coastal communities dependent on tourism. The findings revealed that doubling the amount of marine debris on beaches within these coastal areas would lead to a decrease in the number of days visitors spend on those beaches. This decline in beach visitor days would result in fewer tourism dollars being spent and, subsequently, leads to a decrease in local jobs.[5]

A study submitted to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Division[6] examined the relationship between marine debris and recreational beach use by surveying participants at beaches in the selected coastal areas. They were asked about their beach recreation activities, their opinions on marine debris, and how their beach visits would change with varying amounts of debris on the beaches. The data collected helped understand how an increase or decrease in marine debris would affect the number of beach visits in each area.

The study revealed that the effects of marine debris varied across the different coastal areas. For instance, beachgoers in coastal Ohio were found to be most responsive to the elimination of marine debris, with an estimated 2.8 million additional visits expected if debris were eliminated from Lake Erie beaches. On the other hand, beachgoers in Orange County, California, were most responsive to a doubling of marine debris, with an estimated 4.6 million fewer visits under such a scenario.



The economic impacts resulting from changes in marine debris amounts, including microplastics have significant consequences for regional economies. In coastal Ohio, reducing marine debris to almost zero was estimated to generate an additional $217 million in tourism dollars spent in communities and create over 3,700 jobs. Conversely, in Orange County, California, doubling the amount of marine debris on beaches resulted in an estimated loss of $414 million in tourism dollars spent in communities and a decrease of nearly 4,300 jobs.

The economic impact of recreation, which encompasses both direct spending on recreational activities and the effects of that spending in stimulating the local economy, plays a crucial role in the overall economic health of coastal communities dependent on beach tourism.

Beyond the economic and ecological consequences, plastic pollution on beaches can also affect the physical and psychological wellbeing of individuals. The presence of plastic litter can hinder recreational activities and discourage people from engaging in beach-related leisure pursuits. Moreover, the sight of polluted beaches can evoke feelings of distress, sadness, and concern, negatively impacting the mental and emotional state of beachgoers. The degradation of natural environments due to plastic waste undermines the overall quality of life and the health of coastal communities.

It is important to  emphasize on the importance of the  prevention and cleanup efforts in addressing marine plastic and microplastic debris. By preventing marine debris, including microplastics, from entering the ocean, Great Lakes, and waterways, the negative economic impacts on coastal communities can be mitigated. That’s what EdenTech is working on, with its solution ASCANDRA, based on microfluidics. ASCANDRA aims at shielding the oceans and waterways from microplastics, offering a sustainable future with revolutionary technologies.



[1] Mira Veiga, Joana & Fleet, David & Kinsey, Susan & Nilsson, Per & Vlachogianni, Thomais & Werner, Stefanie & Galgani, François & Thompson, Richard & Dagevos, Jeroen & Gago, J. & Sobral, Paula & Cronin, Richard. Identifying Sources of Marine Litter (2016).

[2] Therese M. Karlsson, Lars Arneborg, Göran Broström, Bethanie Carney Almroth, Lena Gipperth, Martin Hassellöv,

The unaccountability case of plastic pellet pollution, Marine Pollution Bulletin,Volume 129, Issue 1, (2018)

[3] https://www.oecd.org/water/oecdworkshoponmicroplasticsfromtyrewearknowledgemitigationmeasuresandpolicyoptions.htm

[4] Jing Sun, Xiaohu Dai, Qilin Wang, Mark C.M. van Loosdrecht, Bing-Jie Ni, Microplastics in wastewater treatment plants: Detection, occurrence and removal, Water Research, Volume 152, (2019)

[5] https://stacks.stanford.edu/file/druid:ks485yz2876/MarineDebrisEconomicStudy.pdf



Picture of Nour Chebbi

Nour Chebbi

Head Of Marketing
M.Sc. Microfluidics

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