A less recognized byproduct of plastic pollution is how marine plastic waste affects human populations and the unequal burden on different communities. A report, “Towards an Equitable Approach to Marine Plastics Pollution,” outlines the current situation and attempts to address the problem.

“We all benefit from plastics, but some people are paying more of the external costs in terms of the environmental damage, well-being issues and just horrendous scenes that they must live with in places they call home,” said project leader Yoshitaka Ota, a University of Washington professor of practice in marine and environmental affairs and director of The Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center.

Increasingly, the greenhouse gases causing climate change are seen as an issue in which some countries produce most of the pollution while other countries or groups are more at risk from the long-term consequences. Plastic pollution, this report argues, is a similar issue for coastal communities.

The report’s authors conclude that coastal communities most affected by marine plastic pollution should be better represented in drafting potential solutions.