Aligning citizen science and extended producer responsibility policy for marine plastic reduction

Harris, Lucas (2019) Aligning citizen science and extended producer responsibility policy for marine plastic reduction. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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To address plastic pollution in the marine environment, policy interventions need to be focused upstream, at the point of production. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is a promising upstream strategy to address plastic marine debris, as it shifts the responsibility for waste management of a product or its packaging from local governments to producers. This provides incentives to producers to prevent waste from being generated in the first place (i.e. source reduction), and reduces material going to landfill or leaking into the environment by funding, creating or expanding infrastructure for post-consumer recycling. However, EPR programs are not currently designed to measure this effect of marine plastic pollution prevention. At first glance, citizen science data appears to be a good option to evaluate EPR, since there are a several types of monitoring programs in operation with various pre-existing data sets that track some packaging items. Yet, this information has never been used for this purpose before. This research focuses on British Columbia (BC), the first and only coastal jurisdiction in North America to implement an 100% industry-funded EPR program for packaging and printed paper (PPP) material in 2014. Packaging materials, including food wrappers, plastic and glass drink bottles, bottle caps, plastic grocery bags and plastic lids, all featured in the top ten most frequently found items during marine litter surveys. There are also eight organizations actively conducting citizen science shoreline monitoring activity in BC, making it an ideal candidate for analysing the potential of citizen science data. This research uses both quantitative and qualitative methods. Using various mixed-effect and linear models to analyze pre-existing citizen science data sets, generated with standardized data collection frameworks, demonstrated that there has been no decrease in packaging debris levels on shorelines after the introduction of EPR in 2014. However, qualitative analysis demonstrated that the characteristics of the citizen science data, structure of the EPR policy in BC and nature of plastic marine debris limit the ability to use the data for this particular purpose. Additionally, citizen science organizations are migrating away from standardized data collection frameworks in order to develop systems that are customized to the specific needs in their community, thereby further limiting data sets that may be used for analysis of EPR. Many of these organizations are choosing to adapt their data collection approaches to align with municipal waste management options available to them. This has led to the creation of a diverse patchwork of information across the province. As a result of this study, it is clear that for upstream policy interventions, such as EPR, to determine if it is affecting packaging pollution levels downstream on shorelines, it needs to develop and implement its own benchmarking and monitoring program, tailored to address its specific requirements of data resolution.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 13975
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 87-97).
Keywords: plastic, packaging, extended producer responsibility, citizen science, marine debris
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: October 2019
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Plastic marine debris--British Columbia; Plastics industry and trade--Waste disposal--British Columbia; Environmental responsibility--British Columbia.

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