UK Policy Development: Tackling Marine Litter

Working with departments from all four UK governments over a series of projects, Resource Futures was able to build data and insight where previously there was limited and fragmented knowledge. Using the insight gathered on the movement of materials and waste, policy options were co-developed and then compared using economic assessment.

The work now enables data-driven decision making and provides a considerable evidence base to support stakeholder engagement and public consultation.


The aim of the project was to estimate the quantity of fishing and aquaculture gear in use and arising as waste, and to develop policies that will tackle marine litter and improve waste management of these products at end-of-life.


Resource Futures worked with the governments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to profile the fishing and aquaculture gear of local industries. Policy options were co-developed with government departments, critically analysed, and compared using economic impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis.

The study was conducted in three stages:

  1. Gear inventory – Market analysis on fishing and aquaculture gear, supply chains, inventory of products and materials, and culture.
  2. Policy options analysis – such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to tackle marine litter from fishing and aquaculture gear and improve waste management at end-of-life.
  3. Economic assessment – covering EPR-style schemes on the fishing and aquaculture gear market.

“Plastic pollution is a global problem. Tackling potential sources of marine litter is a key priority for the UK, and during our leadership of the G7 we reaffirmed our commitment to accelerate action through the G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter and continue our support of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

“Improving our understanding of the use and disposal of fishing and aquaculture gear is vital so that we can minimise waste, promote resource efficiency and move towards a circular economy.

“We have worked closely together with Resource Futures and our fishing and aquaculture industries to progress this research and would like to thank Resource Futures for providing a quality service.”

Defra, Marine Scotland, Welsh Government and DAERA

A study focussed on England was conducted first, working with Howard Walker of Bridge Economics and fishing gear specialist Mike Montgomerie, and then expanded to cover all four UK nations. The work also incorporated findings from a large body of research conducted by Resource Futures on behalf of Marine Scotland on the fishing and aquaculture industries in Scotland.


The work was able to estimate, for the first time, the quantity of fishing and aquaculture gear in use, in storage, and arising as waste. A breakdown was provided by industry, material, and fishing or farming method, as well as the geospatial distribution.

This rich dataset enabled very targeted policy development, tailored to the specific needs of each nation and industry. The waste data was then used to model the impacts of policy intervention and conduct cost-benefit analysis.