Clemens W. Gattringer,
A revisited conceptualization of plastic pollution accumulation in marine environments: Insights from a social ecological economics
Marine Policy, 2017, ISSN 0308-597X,
The proliferation of synthetic polymer fragments in marine ecosystems has become a prominent issue within recent years, and its
disastrous implications on marine species as well as associated social and economic costs have been extensively documented. A narrow
perspective of analysis has characterized current conceptualizations of the phenomenon, which is further resembled in the proposed approaches to tackle the problem. Based on a critical realist philosophy of science, this article aims to investigate the fundamental and interdisciplinary dynamics underpinning the current production, consumption and post-consumption lifecycle of plastics, by abstracting transfactual relationships.
These then provide the basis to develop a conceptual model for understanding the phenomenon in a more comprehensive manner,
and form a framework to assess proposed policy responses for addressing the issue. Thereby the conceptual model draws upon four fields of
knowledge: (i) thermodynamic laws and its relevance for economics, (ii) behavioral psychology and resulting limitations of individuals’
decision-making under conscious consumer theory, (iii) power theories of political science, and (iv) ethical considerations. The article suggests that ontological and epistemological discrepancies across disciplines, as well as the consequential neglect of several mechanisms have so far limited scientific progress to guide meaningful political action.