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Management of Marine Plastic Debris

Management of Marine Plastic Debris

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Management of Marine Plastic Debris

5/5 (1 évaluation)
1,081 pages
17 heures
Jul 4, 2017


Management of Marine Plastic Debris gives a thorough and detailed presentation of the global problem of marine plastics debris, covering every aspect of its management from tracking, collecting, treating and commercial exploitation for handing this anthropogenic waste. The book is a unique, essential source of information on current and future technologies aimed at reducing the impact of plastics waste in the oceans. This is a practical book designed to enable engineers to tackle this problem—both in stopping plastics from getting into the ocean in the first place, as well as providing viable options for the reuse and recycling of plastics debris once it has been recovered.

The book is essential reading not only for materials scientists and engineers, but also other scientists involved in this area seeking to know more about the impact of marine plastics debris on the environment, the mechanisms by which plastics degrade in water and potential solutions. While much research has been undertaken into the different approaches to the increasing problem of plastics marine debris, this is the first book to present, evaluate and compare all of the available techniques and practices, and then make suggestions for future developments. The book also includes a detailed discussion of the regulatory environment, including international conventions and standards and national policies.

  • Reviews all available processes and techniques for recovering, cleaning and recycling marine plastic debris
  • Presents and evaluates viable options for engineers to tackle this growing problem, including the use of alternative polymers
  • Investigates a wide range of possible applications of marine plastics debris and opportunities for businesses to make a positive environmental impact
  • Includes a detailed discussion of the regulatory environment, including international conventions and standards and national policies
Jul 4, 2017

À propos de l'auteur

European Patent Office, Rijswijk, Netherlands

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Management of Marine Plastic Debris - Michael Niaounakis

Management of Marine Plastic Debris

Prevention, Recycling, and Waste Management

Michael Niaounakis

Table of Contents

Cover image

Title page

Series Page




1. The Problem of Marine Plastic Debris

1.1. Definitions

1.2. Global Distribution

1.3. Origin of Marine Plastic Debris

1.4. Types of Plastic Debris

1.5. Condition of Plastic Debris

1.6. Identity of Plastic Debris

2. Environmental, Social, and Economic Impacts

2.1. Environmental Impacts

2.2. Social–Economic Impacts

3. Degradation of Plastics in the Marine Environment

3.1. Environmental Degradation Modes

3.2. Hydrolytic Degradation

3.3. Thermooxidative Degradation

3.4. Photodegradation

3.5. Biodegradation

3.6. Mechanical Degradation

3.7. Combined Degradation Processes

4. Assessment

4.1. Tracking and Monitoring

4.2. Identification

4.3. Collection and Removal

5. Treatments and Uses

5.1. Treatment Techniques

5.2. Disposal

5.3. Reuse

5.4. Mechanical and/or Physical Treatments

5.5. Chemical Treatment

5.6. Treatment of Marine Waste on Board of a Ship

5.7. Business Opportunities

6. Prevention and Mitigation

6.1. Strategies

6.2. Debris Capture Technologies

6.3. Debris Reduction Technologies

6.4. Use of Alternative Materials

6.5. Awareness-Raising

6.6. Economic Incentives and Disincentives

7. Regulatory Framework

7.1. Hard Law Agreements

7.2. Soft Law Agreements

7.3. European Union’s Legislation and Policies

7.4. National Policies

7.5. Specific Marine Plastic Debris

7.6. Recommendations


Series Page



Series Editor: Sina Ebnesajjad, PhD (sina@FluoroConsultants.com)

President, FluoroConsultants Group, LLC

Chadds Ford, PA, USA


The PDL Handbook Series is aimed at a wide range of engineers and other professionals working in the plastics industry, and related sectors using plastics and adhesives.

PDL is a series of data books, reference works and practical guides covering plastics engineering, applications, processing, and manufacturing, and applied aspects of polymer science, elastomers and adhesives.

Recent titles in the series

Biopolymers: Processing and Products, Michael Niaounakis (ISBN: 9780323266987)

Biopolymers: Reuse, Recycling, and Disposal, Michael Niaounakis (ISBN: 9781455731459)

Carbon Nanotube Reinforced Composites, Marcio Loos (ISBN: 9781455731954)

Extrusion, 2e, John Wagner & Eldridge Mount (ISBN: 9781437734812)

Fluoroplastics, Volume 1, 2e, Sina Ebnesajjad (ISBN: 9781455731992)

Handbook of Biopolymers and Biodegradable Plastics, Sina Ebnesajjad (ISBN: 9781455728343)

Handbook of Molded Part Shrinkage and Warpage, Jerry Fischer (ISBN: 9781455725977)

Handbook of Polymer Applications in Medicine and Medical Devices, Kayvon Modjarrad & Sina Ebnesajjad (ISBN: 9780323228053)

Handbook of Thermoplastic Elastomers, Jiri G Drobny (ISBN: 9780323221368)

Handbook of Thermoset Plastics, 2e, Hanna Dodiuk & Sidney Goodman (ISBN: 9781455731077)

High Performance Polymers, 2e, Johannes Karl Fink (ISBN: 9780323312226)

Introduction to Fluoropolymers, Sina Ebnesajjad (ISBN: 9781455774425)

Ionizing Radiation and Polymers, Jiri G Drobny (ISBN: 9781455778812)

Manufacturing Flexible Packaging, Thomas Dunn (ISBN: 9780323264365)

Plastic Films in Food Packaging, Sina Ebnesajjad (ISBN: 9781455731121)

Plastics in Medical Devices, 2e, Vinny Sastri (ISBN: 9781455732012)

Polylactic Acid, Rahmat et. al. (ISBN: 9781437744590)

Polyvinyl Fluoride, Sina Ebnesajjad (ISBN: 9781455778850)

Reactive Polymers, 2e, Johannes Karl Fink (ISBN: 9781455731497)

The Effect of Creep and Other Time Related Factors on Plastics and Elastomers, 3e, Laurence McKeen (ISBN: 9780323353137)

The Effect of Long Term Thermal Exposure on Plastics and Elastomers, Laurence McKeen (ISBN: 9780323221085)

The Effect of Sterilization on Plastics and Elastomers, 3e, Laurence McKeen (ISBN: 9781455725984)

The Effect of Temperature and Other Factors on Plastics and Elastomers, 3e, Laurence McKeen (ISBN: 9780323310161)

The Effect of UV Light and Weather on Plastics and Elastomers, 3e, Laurence McKeen (ISBN: 9781455728510)

Thermoforming of Single and Multilayer Laminates, Ali Ashter (ISBN: 9781455731725)

Thermoplastics and Thermoplastic Composites, 2e, Michel Biron (ISBN: 9781455778980)

Thermosets and Composites, 2e, Michel Biron (ISBN: 9781455731244)

To submit a new book proposal for the series, or place an order, please contact David Jackson, Acquisitions Editor david.jackson@elsevier.com


William Andrew is an imprint of Elsevier

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Knowledge and best practice in this field are constantly changing. As new research and experience broaden our understanding, changes in research methods, professional practices, or medical treatment may become necessary.

Practitioners and researchers must always rely on their own experience and knowledge in evaluating and using any information, methods, compounds, or experiments described herein. In using such information or methods they should be mindful of their own safety and the safety of others, including parties for whom they have a professional responsibility.

To the fullest extent of the law, neither the Publisher nor the authors, contributors, or editors, assume any liability for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in the material herein.


The views and opinions expressed in this book are those of the author and do not represent the views of the European Patent Office (EPO).

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-0-323-44354-8

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25 Yonder sea, great and wide, {N}

therein are creeping things innumerable, living creatures, both small and great.

26 There go the ships; there is leviathan, whom Thou hast formed to sport therein.

Psalms Chapter 104


There are no bad materials as such, but only bad articles (products)

D.W. van Krevelen

Properties of Polymers

The present book addresses the global problem of marine plastic debris (MPD), a waste created by human activities in oceans, seas, lakes, waterways, and the coast lines. Most of the plastic debris, which are disposed deliberately or accidentally in water bodies, are non-biodegradable polymers, meaning that they remain in the water environment for a very long period. Floating, sunk, and stranded plastic debris in the oceans and the beaches have become a major environmental issue with serious social and economic effects, which can be compared with other issues of modern time, including climate change, ocean acidification, and loss of biodiversity. Many efforts have been undertaken, and several technologies have been developed for the collection and removal of MPD without much success. A large number of international and regional treaties, conventions, agreements, national laws, etc. have been designed to control and minimize the disposal of plastics in water, but despite all these regulations the size of plastics debris in the oceans keeps growing, covering vast areas. In the meantime, new materials such as nanoplastics are entering the oceans, with still-unknown effects on marine life and human health, aggravating the problem and making the need to find a solution to marine plastic pollution more urgent.

The problem of MPD has been extensively described with vivid colors in the media and the internet, accompanied by shocking photographs and alarming descriptions to alert the public opinion and the scientific community and has been documented in a plethora of articles, reports, technical papers, and books. Despite the broad publicity to the issue and all the accumulated information, little progress has been made in finding a technical solution for cleaning the oceans and the seas and implementing a proper prevention mitigation policy/strategy. Most of the proposed technical solutions from researchers and entrepreneurs alike refer either to scenarios, small-scale pilot projects, or technologies handling only a part of MPD (e.g., derelict fishing nets or expanded polystyrene buoys). There are good reasons for this situation related to the transboundary nature of the MPD and the difficulty of controlling large swathes of the planet’s oceans and seas covered and/or embedded with vast amounts of plastic debris, the cost of collecting and treating, the lack of public awareness on the consequences, and the lack of alternative materials, which are technically equivalent and economically profitable to replace the widely used fossil fuel–derived plastics. Moreover, a substantial amount of MPD is in the form of microplastics, and as such, their collection from the sea is practically unfeasible and economically no viable.

The present book comes to fill a critical gap in the literature in the technical field of water pollution by solid waste and aims to contribute to the quest of finding a feasible and viable solution to the problem of MPD, which pollutes the marine environment and disturbs the ecological balance.

Current efforts to address the problem of MPD include (1) cleanup operations for the collection and removal of MPD from the sea surface and seafloor, shorelines, and beaches; (2) treatment practices for the disposal and/or recycling of MPD; (3) prevention measures and techniques for the protection and confinement of MPD; (4) mitigation for the reduction of the impact of MPD in the marine environment by developing alternative materials; and (5) legislation involving international, regional, and national conventions and treaties for the implementation of the adopted measures and policies. The present book is drawn around these strategy lines.

This book provides an updated and detailed overview of the environmental, social, and economic problems created by the disposal of plastic debris in oceans, seas, and waterways, giving an analysis of the type, composition, and chemical identity of the constituting polymers, reviewing all available technologies for the treatment of MPD, and providing the regulatory framework to work within. It consists of seven chapters.

Chapter 1: The Problem of Marine Plastic Debris presents the problem of marine plastic pollution, the geographic distribution of MPD, the origins (land- or marine-based plastics), the physical types (macro-, micro-, or nanoplastics), the conditions (floating, submerged, or beach plastics), and the identities (chemical nature) of the main types of plastics found in the marine environment.

Chapter 2: Environmental, Social, and Economic Impacts presents the environmental, social, economic, and health effects of MPD, causing direct or indirect damage to marine ecosystems and human activities, such as fishing and aquaculture, shipping, recreational activities, and tourism. The environmental impacts of MPD on sea life refer to increased levels of mortality or sublethal effects on biodiversity caused by (1) entanglement of marine animals in various types of plastic debris such as derelict fishing nets (also referred to as ghost nets) and plastic fragments; (2) ingestion of small pieces of MPD by marine (micro) organisms and the transport of persistent organic pollutants to the stomachs and the gastrointestinal track of marine animals; (3) dispersal via rafting of many invasive species to distant places; (4) creation of new habitats of marine species; and (5) effect on existing habitats. The social impacts of MPD include deterioration in the quality of human life, reduced recreational opportunities, loss of aesthetic value, and loss of nonuse or vicarious value. The economic impacts relate to the reduction of opportunities to exploit the marine environment, for pleasure or profit.

Chapter 3: Degradation of Plastics in the Marine Environment examines the various degradation modes of plastics in the marine environment.

Chapter 4: Assessment examines all the available technologies, methods, apparatuses, marine vessel designs, and commercial appliances for the collection and removal of floating, submerged, and beached MPD. It also reviews all the applied techniques for the identification of MPD.

Chapter 5: Treatments and Uses examines all the available techniques for (pre)treating and recycling MPD by critically reviewing all the non-patent and patent literature as well as the business opportunities arising from the exploitation of this waste.

Chapter 6: Prevention and Mitigation investigates the various measures taken to control and reduce MPD, including technologies to capture debris before it reaches the open sea, use of alternative polymers and products (e.g., biodegradable polymers and cigarette filters with improved degradability), social awareness actions and campaigns, and use of economic incentives and disincentives. Emphasis has been given to the measures to tackle the problem of derelict fishing gear.

Chapter 7: Regulatory Framework reviews the main international, regional, and selected national agreements and regulations, which are related directly or indirectly to MPD. There are also presented legislative measures for specific MPD, including fishing gear, buoys, microplastics, plastic bags, food plastic packaging and tableware, cigarettes, and boats made from fiber-reinforced plastic composites.

This book has been built around Chapters 4 and 5, which review all available processes and techniques for recovering, cleaning, and recycling MPD from the oceans and seas. At the same time it presents all the methods for monitoring and identifying floating, submerged, or beached plastic debris. The supporting chapters aim to give a spherical view of the marine plastic pollution issue.

The author adopts a multidisciplinary approach in his effort to cover all aspects of the marine plastic pollution, while providing updated information on all new developments and techniques and reviewing the literature and the media on trends, policies, new projects, and ideas.

Oil spills, which constitute the other major environment issue of water pollution, do not form part of the book.

Michael Niaounakis

February 2017, Rijswijk


The Problem of Marine Plastic Debris


This chapter presents the problem of marine plastic pollution, the geographic distribution of marine plastic debris, the origins (land- or marine-based plastics), the physical types (macro-, micro-, or nanoplastics), the conditions (floating, submerged, or beach plastics), and the identities (chemical nature) of the main types of plastics found in the marine environment.


Beach; Floating; Land-based; Macroplastics; Marine-based; Marine plastic debris; Microplastics; Nanoplastics; Stranded; Submerged


1.1 Definitions

1.2 Global Distribution

1.2.1 Pacific Ocean

1.2.2 Atlantic Ocean

1.2.3 Indian Ocean

1.2.4 Arctic Ocean

1.2.5 Southern Ocean

1.2.6 Mediterranean Sea

1.2.7 Coastal Areas and Harbors

1.2.8 Lakes, Rivers, Waterways

1.3 Origin of Marine Plastic Debris

1.3.1 Land-Based Sources

1.3.2 Sea-Based Sources Fisheries Ferries and Cruisers Merchant Ships Military Vessels Recreational Boating Aquaculture Facilities Offshore Mining and Extraction Platforms

1.4 Types of Plastic Debris

1.4.1 Macroplastic Debris Bottles, Containers Films and Bags Rubber Latex Items Plastic Strapping Foams Sanitary Absorbent Items Composites Cigarette Butts Fibers, Ropes, Fabrics Rubber Tires Shotgun Wads

1.4.2 Microplastics Cosmetics and Personal Hygiene Products Microfibers Marine Paints Sandblasting Particles

1.4.3 Nanoplastics

1.5 Condition of Plastic Debris

1.5.1 Floating Plastic Debris

1.5.2 Submerged Plastic Debris

1.5.3 Beach Plastic Debris

1.6 Identity of Plastic Debris

1.6.1 Polyolefins Polyethylene Polypropylene Oxodegradable Polyolefins

1.6.2 Polystyrene

1.6.3 Acrylic Fibers

1.6.4 Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene

1.6.5 Styrene-Acrylonitrile

1.6.6 Poly(vinyl chloride)

1.6.7 Polyamides

1.6.8 Aromatic Polyesters

1.6.9 Polycarbonate

1.6.10 Polyurethane

1.6.11 Cellulose and Cellulose Derivatives Cellulose Acetate Regenerated Cellulose



1.1. Definitions

There are several slightly different definitions of marine debris in the literature, including scientific papers, UNEP Regional Seas reports, and government reports.

For the purposes of the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act [33 U.S.C. 1951–58 (2006)], marine debris is defined as any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes [1].

The UNEP-RSP/IOC-UNESCO (or UNEP/IOC) report (2009) [2] defines marine litter as any waste, discarded or lost material, resulting from human activities, which has brought it into the marine environment, including material found on beaches or material that is floating or has sunk into sea. Some organic waste (e.g., feces or food waste) and naturally sourced materials such as vegetation (e.g., sea grass wrack, algae, or river sourced trees and branches) have been explicitly excluded. Organic materials have only been included where they have been through some form of processing (e.g., cloth and processed timber).

According to Coe and Rodgers [3] marine debris is any manufactured or processed solid waste material (typically inert) that enters the ocean environment from any source.

Galgani et al. [4] defines marine debris as any form of manufactured or processed material discarded, disposed of, or abandoned in the marine environment. It consists of items made or used by humans, which enter the sea, deliberately or unintentionally, including transport of these materials to the ocean by rivers, drainage, sewage systems, or by wind; for example, marine litter consists of plastics, wood, metals, glass, rubber, clothing, paper, etc. This definition does not include semisolid remains of, for example, mineral and vegetable oils, paraffin, and chemicals, which sometime litter sea and shores.

For the purposes of this book the following definition, which is an amalgamation of the above definitions, is used:

Marine debris (also known as marine litter) is any persistent solid material (regardless of size) that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, discarded, disposed of, or abandoned into the marine environment or the lakes, wherein the marine debris is generated from land-based activities and transported by any means, including rivers/streams, drainage, sewage systems or wind, or by sea-based activities, including all types of marine vessels, aquaculture facilities, and offshore platforms.

While this definition encompasses a very wide range of materials, by reviewing the relevant literature, it becomes readily apparent that plastics constitute the most abundant type of marine debris on a global scale.

Marine plastic debris (MPD) is a subcategory of marine debris, including marine litter composed of at least one of a collection of synthetic materials derived from fossil fuel–based compounds that are broadly referred to as plastic (e.g., polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polyester, etc.). MPD includes consumer items such as bags, food packaging, cups, bottles, straps, fabrics, cigarette butts, cosmetics, rubber tires, etc.; industrial components; and items related to fisheries or aquaculture such as fishing gear and buoys.

Because of properties such as buoyancy and durability, plastics are found in oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers and accumulate in sediments all over the world. The composition of conventional fossil fuel–based plastics as durable polymers indicates that they will degrade to increasingly smaller sizes but never disappear (see Chapter 3).

Already in 1987, MPD had been identified as a potential threat to the marine environment worldwide. Prior to 1985, the majority of information about MPD was anecdotal [5].

The amount of plastics released to the environment has increased substantially since the development of modern plastics in the early 1900s and their mass production in the 1940s. The problem of marine plastic pollution has reached a critical state going beyond a self-purification capacity of marine itself. As a result, concerns have been raised by the public about the impact of plastics on nature and, specifically, on aquatic wildlife.

The littering of marine environment by plastics is attributed to a number of factors, including large urban coastal human populations, increase of plastic production, improvement of life standards, consumer behavior, inadequate waste treatment, inability of sewage treatment plants to capture microplastics, lack of awareness about the harmful effects of marine debris on the marine environment, and ineffective legislation tools.

1.2. Global Distribution

The geographic distribution of MPD and its effects on ocean ecosystems have only recently begun to be investigated systematically [6].

Floatable plastic debris items, once they enter the ocean, are carried away via oceanic currents and atmospheric winds. Oceanic features, such as gyres, eddies, and frontal meanders, trap marine debris in accumulation zones, often referred to as garbage patch, plastic soup, trash island, or ocean landfill.

There are five major ocean-wide gyres: The North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, and Indian Ocean gyres. Each is flanked by a strong and narrow western boundary current, and a weak and broad eastern boundary current [7,8]. The gyres are caused by surface wind, currents, and the Coriolis effect (related to the earth’s rotation), which create giant, slow-moving vortices of water. Because of the durability and persistence of MPD, once it enters a gyre system, it can remain for long periods of time, meaning that the concentration of MPD within these systems can be considerably greater than that in other areas of the ocean.

There have been documented five garbage patches in the oceanic gyres. It has been suggested that there may be a sixth garbage patch forming in the Arctic Circle in the Barents Sea [9].

The estimates over the size, amount, and composition of the garbage patches vary. Eriksen et al. [10], on the basis of oceanographic models and data from expeditions, calculated the amount (total particle count and weight) of MPD floating in the world’s oceans and the Mediterranean Sea (see Table 1.1).

1.2.1. Pacific Ocean

The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch also known as Eastern Garbage Patch [11] or Pacific Trash Vortex, is an area of marine debris found floating within the North Pacific gyre. The size of the patch has been estimated to be from 700,000  km² (270,000  mi²) to more than 15,000,000  km² (0.4%–8% of the size of the Pacific Ocean). The patch is located in a constantly moving and changing swirl of water roughly midway between Hawaii and California and is associated with an atmospheric area known as the North Pacific Subtropical High [12]. It is here where colliding currents trap MPD in a circulating pattern.

The name Great Pacific Garbage Patch has led many to believe that this area is a large and continuous patch of easily visible marine debris, often misinterpreted to be an island of plastic. According to some fanciful descriptions the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is about the size of Texas [13]; in some media reports the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of France [14,15] up to twice the size of the continental United States [16]. According to a journalist of FT, apparently of Irish origin, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is about seven times the size of Ireland [18]. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has even become a favorite destination of fans’ ecodisaster tourism, who like to visit dark places [19].

Although higher concentrations of plastic litter items can be found in this area, along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is actually a big nebulous clutter of large and small plastic pieces extending 100  feet deep [20].

Moore measured that the abundance and weight of MPD in the North Pacific gyre ranged from 31,982 to 969,777  pieces/km², and 64 to 30,169  g/km², respectively. The average abundance and average weight were 334,271  pieces/km² and 5114  g/km², respectively [21].

On the basis of the calculated average values above, the abundance of MPD on the surface of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, in an area 1000  km in diameter (about 785,000  km²) is estimated to be about 262  million  pieces/km² and the weight about 4000  t.

Table 1.1

Estimated Amount (Total Particle Count and Weight) of Marine Plastic Debris (MPD) Floating in the World’s Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea [10]

The Western Pacific Garbage Patch is located on the western side of the Pacific Ocean and is an area southeast of the Kuroshio extension (ocean current) near Japan [22]. This garbage patch is a small recirculation gyre, an area of clockwise-rotating water, much like an ocean eddy [23]. The role of the Kuroshio in transporting debris was hypothesized [24] and later verified through observation [25].

Eriksen and his team [26] provided evidence for the existence of a garbage patch of plastic pollution in the South Pacific subtropical gyre, assisted by computer modeling of ocean currents. The abundance of microplastics observed in the South Pacific subtropical gyre is comparatively high (24,898  pieces/km²), yet remain below those reported from the North Pacific subtropical gyre, most likely because of lower input from shipping and shore activities in the South Pacific compared to the North Pacific.

1.2.2. Atlantic Ocean

There are potentially two Garbage Patches in the Atlantic Ocean, one located in the North and the other in the South Atlantic Ocean. The North Atlantic Garbage Patch is located within the North Atlantic gyre and was documented in 1972 [27].

Law et al. [28] presented an analysis of 22  years of ship-survey data collected in the WN Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea from 1986 to 2008. The largest concentration reported was 580,000  pieces/km² at 24.6°N, 74.0°W in May 1997. The maximum concentration reported in older Atlantic studies from the 1970s ranged from 12,000 [29] to 167,000  pieces/km² [30]. The highest concentration of MPD was observed in subtropical latitudes and associated with the observed large-scale convergence in surface currents created by wind-driven Ekman currents and geostrophic circulation. The average concentration in the middle part of the North Atlantic gyre of is 20,328  pieces/km² with an average weight density of 0.05  g/km². These amounts are orders of magnitude smaller than the corresponding amounts measured in the North Pacific gyre. Despite a rapid increase in plastic production and disposal during this time period, no trend in plastic concentration was observed in the region of highest accumulation. One speculation is that the rate of plastic entering the oceanic gyres is now being matched by the rate at which plastic is sinking from the surface as result of biofouling, which is thought to take place at a quicker rate in the North Atlantic gyre.

Comparatively low plastic concentrations were measured in tows closest to land, such as along the Florida coast and Florida Keys, in the Gulf of Maine, and near Caribbean islands. The average plastic concentration measured within the Caribbean Sea was only 1414  ±  112  pieces/km², whereas that in the Gulf of Maine was 1534  ±  200  pieces/km², both being more than an order of magnitude lower than the average concentration near 30°N (20,328  ±  2324  pieces  km², 29° to 31°N) [28].

A study by Morris (1980) based on a small sample of net-tows suggested that already in 1970, plastic pellets were abundant (1300 to 3600 plastic pellets per km²) in the southeast Atlantic Ocean west of 12  degrees [31]. Ryan provided evidence that floating debris (97% MPD) is accumulating in the southeast Atlantic Ocean as far south as 34–35°S [32]. Predictions by surface circulation models [9,33,34] suggest that the greatest concentration of marine debris is around 25–35°S and 0–20°W, with an area of low litter density in the Benguela region off the west coast of South Africa.

Depending on model assumptions, it was predicted that South America contributes 60%–80% of land-based litter to the South Atlantic Garbage Patch, with most of the remainder coming from Africa [33]. Surveys of stranded litter at Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island in the central South Atlantic confirm that most marine debris derives from South America [35].

Eriksen and his team [36] have documented two garbage patches between Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town.

1.2.3. Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean Garbage Patch was discovered in March–April 2010 by Eriksen and his crew, who sailed west from Perth, Australia, toward Africa to document it. The patch was described as a massive area of at least 2  million mi² (about 5  million  km²) in size but with no clear boundaries, which is very fluid and changes with season. It also has gaps near Indonesia with very little debris [37].

It has been proposed that much of the marine debris generated by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami has been salvaged by people living along the Indonesian coastline [34]. The contents of the garbage patch circulate constantly, riding the current known as the Indian Ocean gyre from the Australian side to the African side, down the African coast and back to Australia. The full rotation takes about 6  years, unless the debris gets stuck in the center of the patch, where it could remain indefinitely [37].

Ryan [38] used a size and distance-based technique to assess the distribution, abundance, and composition of floating marine debris in the northeast Indian Ocean from the straits of Malacca to the Bay of Bengal. Densities of floating litter (>1  cm) were greater and more variable in the Straits of Malacca (578  ±  219  items/km²) than in oceanic waters of the Bay of Bengal (8.8  ±  1.4  items/km²). The study has revealed 18,000 counts of marine debris (98% plastic), in over 3275  km of transects.

Eriksen and his team [36] have documented also a garbage near Mauritius, east of Madagascar.

1.2.4. Arctic Ocean

It has been reported that Arctic Sea ice from remote locations contains concentrations of microplastics that are several orders of magnitude greater than those that have been previously reported in highly contaminated surface waters, such as those of the Pacific gyre. This finding indicates that microplastics have accumulated far from population centers and that polar sea ice represents a major historic global sink of man-made particulate [39]. The potential for substantial quantities of legacy microplastics to be released back to the open ocean as the ice melts, and its effect on the environment has not been evaluated.

Organic pollutants including polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and perfluorooctanoic acid have been detected in remote regions of the Arctic Ocean. These pollutants may have been transported by buoyant MPD and ocean currents. Organic pollutants can be absorbed onto plastic particles from seawater, attached to their surfaces, or included in the plastic matrix as additives [40]. Another threat posed by floating MPD is the risk of alien invasion in the Arctic through long-distance transport and ingestion.

Bergmann et al. [41] reported sightings of MPD floating at the sea surface of the Barents Sea and Fram Strait (Arctic) recorded from a helicopter and a research vessel. MPD densities were slightly higher in the Fram Strait (0.006  items/km) compared with those in the Barents Sea (0.004  items/km). When compared with the few available data with the same unit (items/km transect), the densities found in the Barents sea/Fram strait are slightly higher than those from Antarctic (0.0013  items/km) and sub-Antarctic Southern Ocean (0.0015  items/km) but substantially lower than those from temperate waters such as the temperate Southern Ocean (0.0217  items/km), South Atlantic (0.1030  items/km), South Pacific (0.0768  items/km), Bay of Bengal (0.2484  items/km), or even the Straits of Malacca (15.9389  items/km). The sea ice shrinkage previously might have acted as a barrier to MPD inputs and has already led to increased shipping traffic in the area [42], and the continuous supply of marine litter to the north by the currents of North Atlantic is likely to worsen the problem of plastic pollution in years to come unless serious mitigating actions are taken to reduce the amounts of plastics entering the oceans [41].

1.2.5. Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean or the Austral Ocean, comprises the southern portions of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans and their tributary seas surrounding Antarctica.

In the summer of 2007/08, Greenpeace and British Antarctic Survey ships (MV Esperanza and RRS James Clark Ross, respectively) conducted the first coordinated joint marine debris survey of the planet’s most remote seas around East and West Antarctica to reveal floating MPD. With observations also made from the ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance in the same season and seabed samples collected from the RRS James Clark Ross, this was the widest survey for plastics ever undertaken around Antarctica [43].

In 2016, a field survey was conducted in the Southern Ocean to collect microplastics with sizes <5  mm. We performed five net-tows and collected 44 pieces of plastic. Total particle counts of the entire water column, which is free of vertical mixing, were computed using the volume concentration (particle count per unit seawater volume) of microplastics, wind speed, and significant wave height during the observation period. Total particle counts at two stations near Antarctica were estimated to be in the order of 100,000  pieces/km². The concentrations of pelagic microplastics in the Southern Ocean (average concentration 3.1  ×  10−²  pieces/m³) were found to be 1–2 orders of magnitude smaller than those reported in the North Pacific, Arctic polar waters, Mediterranean Sea, and the Seto Inland Sea¹ of Japan (see Table 1.2). Furthermore, the concentrations observed were 2–3 orders of magnitude smaller than areas of other oceans with high concentrations of pelagic microplastics, including the East Asian seas and the accumulation (frontal) area of the North Atlantic [44].

Table 1.2

Concentrations (Particle Count per Unit Seawater Volume) of Pelagic Microplastics in Various Oceans/Seas

a Accumulation zone.

Compiled by Isobe A. Percentage of microbeads in pelagic microplastics within Japanese coastal waters. Marine Pollution Bulletin 2016;110(1):432–37.

Microplastic fragments have also been found in the sediments around the remote Southern Ocean island of South Georgia [51]. In contrast, neither large plastic fragments were found in the benthic tow apparatus (Agassiz trawl) samples (mesh size 1  ×  1  cm²) from 500 to 3500  m in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas nor any microplastics in any of the Epibenthic sledge samples (300  μm mesh) from 500  m in the Amundsen seabed [43].

1.2.6. Mediterranean Sea

Model stimulations by Lebreton et al. [33] identified the Mediterranean Sea as a region of high load of plastic pollution at a global scale. The sources are mainly land based (about 80%) and associated in particular with plastic and wastewater management [52].

Collection and measurement of floating debris conducted by Marino et al. [53] in two expeditions off the northern Spanish coast in the Barcelona area in July 1988 and March 1989 showed that the mean concentration of plastic was 867  items/km², EPS 522  items/km², and wood 23.3  items/km². The composition of the floating debris consisted of (number of items) 74.5% plastics, 15.2% EPS, and 3.05% wood. In terms of weight, the percentages are 55.5, 1.1, and 36.2  wt%, respectively. Saydam et al. [54] measured floating debris in the NE Mediterranean using neuston net. Many of the neuston tows did not contain any debris, and the largest value reported is 7.2  kg/km² (7.2  mg/m²).

The other studies on floating debris were only semiquantitative, based on counting debris from a ship and then manipulating the results to concentration of debris. Morris (1980) reported in this way 2000  items/km² some 50  miles SW of Malta. The composition of floating debris consisted of 60%–70% plastics, bottles, and fragments. The rest of the debris included timber, rubber, nylon ropes, glass bottles, and paper [31].

According to Aliani et al. [55], Morris’s observations were based on a single 60-min survey made from a fixed platform 40  miles SW of Malta. Hence, care is needed when extrapolating this value to the whole Mediterranean basin. In addition, Morris’s observations were done in 1979, and since then, debris input might have indeed decreased in response to increased environmental awareness and national and international regulations [55].

McCoy using a method similar to Morris from a ship in the Ionian Sea found on the average only one floating item per day, or according to his computations, 0.12  items/m². No quantitative information on the composition of the debris was provided, but again plastics (mostly containers) and wood were the most abundant debris [56].

Aliani et al. [55] note that during surveys from ferries and commercial vessels, the speed of the ship and the height of the observer above sea level are generally higher, as well as the skills and the motivation of crew members in charge of observations are likely to be lower, implying lower detection rates especially for smaller objects.

A survey of large debris, which was floating in the Ligurian Sea, NW Mediterranean Sea was conducted using visual inspection of sea surface [55]. Data have been collected during three oceanographic cruises, during the summer of 1997 and 2000. In the results of 1997, a density of 15–25  items/km² was observed, whereas in the results of 2000, a lower range of 1.5–3  items/km² was recorded. It was suggested that the difference could be due to meteorological conditions, marine currents, and debris input variability [57].

Results from a large-scale survey of floating debris in the central and western part of the Mediterranean Sea were reported by Suaria and Aliani [57]. Floating debris was found throughout the entire study area with densities in the range of 0–194.6  items/km² and mean abundances of man-made marine debris of 24.9  items/km² and natural marine debris of 6.9  items/km² across all surveyed locations. On the whole, 78% of all sighted objects were of anthropogenic origin, 95.6% of which were plastics. Maximum man-made marine debris densities (>>52  items/km²) were found in the Adriatic Sea and in the Algerian basin, whereas the lowest densities (<<6.3  items/km²) were observed in the Central Tyrrhenian and the Sicilian Sea. All the other areas had mean densities ranging from 10.9 to 30.7  items/km². On the basic calculations, more than 62  million macrodebris items are currently floating on the surface of the whole Mediterranean basin [57].

Neustonic microplastic abundance was determined in the NW Mediterranean Sea during a cruise in the summer of 2010. A total of 90% of the sampling stations (36 out of 40) contained microplastic particles (size 0.3–5  mm) of various compositions, e.g., filaments, polystyrene, or thin plastic films. An average concentration of 0.116  particles/m² was observed [58]. A following study [59] provided an initial insight into microplastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea by reporting the concentrations and spatial distribution of microplastics in the area of Pelagos Sanctuary². A total of 56% of the surface neustonic/planktonic samples contained microplastic particles. The mean abundance of microplastics estimated in this study is of the same order of magnitude as that found for the North Pacific gyre [58], suggesting the high level of this emerging threat in the only pelagic Sanctuary Marine Protected Area of the Mediterranean Sea.

A calibrated version of Lebreton’s model using a global data set was applied by Eriksen et al. [10] to estimate the surface plastic load in the Mediterranean Sea at 23,150  t to estimate the surface plastic load in the Mediterranean Sea at 23,150  t.

Cózar et al. [60] measured the concentrations of floating MPD throughout the Mediterranean Sea to assess whether this basin can be regarded as a great accumulation region of MPD. The average surface concentration of plastic in Mediterranean waters, which was 243,853  items/km², with an average weight density of 423  g/km², is comparable to the average concentrations measured in the inner accumulation zones of the subtropical ocean gyres. From the averaged plastic concentration measured into the basin, the surface load of plastic in the Mediterranean is estimated to be roughly between 1000 and 3000  t, in agreement with the relative loads predicted for this Sea by the Lebreton’s model at the global scale [33]. The estimate of plastic load in the Mediterranean Sea derived from Lebreton’s calibrated model [10] was one order of magnitude higher than Cózar’s estimate, considering both total and microplastic (<5  mm) loads.

Plastic debris in the Mediterranean surface waters was dominated by millimeter-sized fragments but showed a higher proportion of large plastic objects than that present in oceanic gyres, reflecting the closer connection with pollution sources [60].

1.2.7. Coastal Areas and Harbors

Sandy shores are generally considered important sinks for marine debris, which, after stranding, becomes trapped in/under sand or might be blown farther inland [61]. Accumulation rates at some beaches are dependent on tide and onshore winds [62,63]. Seasonal fluctuations in coastal debris are caused by storm waves that wash the litter ashore, leaving the beach clean during winter and by bathers who pollute it during summer [64]. Rocky shores and cobbled beaches function as grinding mill shuttering MPD into smaller pieces, which can then be pulled back into the sea [65]. Beach plastics exhibit mechanically eroded and chemically weathered surface textures as result of the physical processes and of exposure to UV radiation, which cannot be said for plastics in other natural settings [211] (see Chapter 3, Section 3.7).

A study identified the main size classes in stranded plastic debris along the Portuguese coastline. Beaches sediment samples were found to contain plastic items, the size of which ranged from 50  μm to 20  cm and microplastics (<5  mm) were the majority (72%). Most plastic fits in the smaller size classes because of expected high residence time in the sea enhancing degradation processes, which increase surface exposure and potentially persistent organic pollutants adsorption [66].

The presence of the debris may represent a serious threat to biotic communities and dune integrity mostly because of cleaning activities carried out through mechanical equipment. A study analyzed the relationship between the presence of litter and coastal dune habitats along the sea-inland gradient on Central Italy sandy shores (central Tyrrhenian coast). The results showed that the most frequent litter items were plastics and, in particular, polystyrene. Differences of marine litter spatial distribution were found between upper beach and fore dune habitats and fixed dune habitats: embryo dune and mobile dune habitats show the highest frequency of litter, but, surprisingly, marine litter did not impact fixed dune habitats, these possibly acting as a natural barrier protecting the inner part of the coast from marine litter dispersion [67].

In some coastal areas and harbors, the majority of MPD appears to come from recreational boats. A large part of the MPD includes plastic bags, six-pack holders, and monofilaments fishing line [68]. In 1988–89, the US Environmental Protection Agency conducted field surveys in the harbors of nine major metropolitan areas of the United States: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Miami on the east coast, and Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, and San Francisco on the west coast. The surveys were designed to provide information on the types, relative amounts, and distributions of marine debris in several geographic regions of the United States. Plastic debris (including polystyrene) was numerically the largest component of marine debris in surface slicks from every city sampled. Plastic pellets were a significant portion of the plastic debris and were collected in every harbor. Several sewage-related debris (e.g., condoms, diapers, sanitary items, napkins, tampons) and medical-related items (e.g., single-use syringes) were found during the study, but these items were not major components of the debris.

A survey of shoreline litter in the Halifax Harbor, Canada, showed that 62% of the total litter in the harbor originated from recreation and land-based sources [69]. In contrast in beaches away from urban areas (e.g., Alaska) most of the litter is made up of fishing debris [70].

1.2.8. Lakes, Rivers, Waterways

Most studies on plastic pollution of aquatic ecosystems are focused on the world’s oceans, but only little is known about freshwater plastic pollution. In recent years, it has been realized that the same problems observed in the ocean gyres and along coastlines are arising in bodies of freshwater. In particular, microplastics in freshwater ecosystems as an environmental problem that is closer to home received more attention. One example of this is the passing of the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 in the United States [71].

Evidence suggests that freshwater systems may share similarities to marine systems in the types of forces that transport microplastics (e.g., surface currents); the prevalence of microplastics (e.g., numerically abundant and ubiquitous); the approaches used for detection, identification, and quantification (e.g., density separation, filtration, sieving, and infrared spectroscopy); and the potential impacts (e.g., physical damage to organisms that ingest them, chemical transfer of toxicants). Differences between freshwater and marine systems include the closer proximity to point sources in freshwaters, the typically smaller sizes of freshwater systems, and spatial and temporal differences in the mixing/transport of particles by physical forces. These differences between marine and freshwater systems may lead to differences in the type of microplastics present. For example, rivers may show a predictable pattern in microplastic characteristics (size, shape, relative abundance) based on waste sources (e.g., household vs. industrial) adjacent to the river and distance downstream from a point source [72].

The Laurentian Great Lakes of North America (Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior) have been the focus of several studies for the effects of freshwater plastic pollution. Surveys along the shoreline of Lake Huron, Canada, found that 94% of the plastic debris were pellets. Most pellets were found proximal to an industrial sector along the southeastern margin of the lake, and their abundance steadily decreased northward, following the dominant lake current patterns [73]. It was speculated that many of the pellets were lost during production or carried by the movement of the cyclonic surface current caused by wind and changes in water temperature. Lake Erie was the most populated as compared with Lake Huron and Lake Superior [74]. Two explanations for this phenomenon could be that Lake Erie has the most populated shorelines, or it could be receiving the microplastics from the other lakes because of the southward flowing current. Samples taken from Lake Erie also revealed that the quantity of plastics was three times greater than the amount found in any samples taken from the oceans. Most of these samples were comprised of microplastics, which are less than 5  mm. Some of the microplastics may be linked to polyethylene and polypropylene microbeads (<1  mm) from facial cleansers and other personal care products. When consumers release these microplastics down the drain, it is possible that many make their way through wastewater treatment plants and into the freshwater lakes [74].

A study of the Great Lakes showed large amounts of microplastics on the water surface with an elevated abundance of particles in the proximity of cities, an effect that was observed for estuarine tributaries in the Chesapeake Bay, as well [74].

An investigation of a subalpine lake (Lake Garda, Italy) revealed high concentrations of microplastics in shore sediments with a large abundance of buoyant particles such polyethylene and polypropylene [75]. Beaches, fishes, and birds from Lake Geneva were investigated to assess the global plastic pollution. Macroplastics and microplastics have notably been found on the beaches and in the surface layer of Lake Geneva in significant quantities [76].

A significant portion of the land-based plastic is transported to the seas by rivers. However, rivers as major pathways for land-based plastic litter have received less attention so far.

Microplastics in the Danube River, Europe’s second largest river, indicate the exceptional urgency of systematic studies of the microplastic burden of freshwater systems. Pellets, flakes, and spherules accounted for 79.4% of the plastic debris in the water. The plastic input via the Danube into the Black Sea was estimated to 4.2  t per day and 1533  t per year [77]. Plastic is the dominant debris in the Black Sea with a high percentage of items (47%) sourcing in neighboring countries (among them, several of the Danube basin), potentially introduced by river currents [78]. Lechner et al. reported a spillage of industrial microplastic from a production plant situated at an Austrian Danube tributary. According to the company’s own reporting, 0.2  kg/day was discharged to the Danube River under normal operating conditions over the monitoring period of 2010, while an estimated 50–200  kg was lost during a heavy rainfall event. The releases were far below the applicable legal limits, and the company may legally discharge up to 94.5  t/year of plastics, which approximately equals 2.7  million poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) bottles (nonreturnable, 1.5  L) [79].

River shore sediments of the rivers Rhine and Main in the Rhine-Main area of Germany were found to contain microplastics (<5  mm) with weight fractions of up to 4000  particles/kg. More than 50% of the total plastic weight was contributed by polyethylene and polypropylene. Polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene made up >75% of all microplastics identified in the sediment. The largest abundance in terms of particle number was represented by polystyrene particles [80].

Lakes situated in remote areas with very limited human impact do not escape from microplastic pollution, and their aquatic ecosystems can be more vulnerable to pollution. High levels of microplastic were found in a remote mountain lake in Mongolia, and heavy plastic pollution could be attributed to a lack of proper waste management [81]. Microplastics (<5  mm) were detected in the shore sediments of four lakes within the Siling Co basin in northern Tibet with abundances ranging from 8  ±  14 to 563  ±  1219  items/m². Riverine input might have contributed to the high abundance of microplastics observed in this remote area. Morphological features suggest that microplastics are derived from the breakdown of daily used plastic products. Polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, PET, and poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) were identified from the microplastic samples. The main reason for the plastic pollution in these remote lakes could be a lack of waste disposal and recycling facilities. In addition, most lakes in Tibet plateau are closed water systems. Therefore, all plastic waste materials within the watershed can be drained into lakes eventually, which exacerbate the problem [82].

1.3. Origin of Marine Plastic Debris

MPD can be classified according to its origin, as either coming from land- or sea-based sources. Land-based sources account for up to 80% of marine debris, which is transported to the sea via sewage/drainage systems, natural waterways, wind, or human neglect [70,83]. The remaining 20% of marine debris is derived from sea-based sources such as ships, recreational boats, offshore installations, and commercial fishing vessels, which dump debris directly into the water [70,84,85]. It is estimated that MPD accounts for up to 80% of the total marine debris [84,86].

The highest concentrations of marine debris are often observed on shores close to the main sources. This pattern has been reported repeatedly from many shorelines around the world. It appears that the quantity of debris on a beach is inversely related to its geographical distance to a population center and directly related to the number of visitors frequenting the beach [64].

Another indicator for the origin of MPD on the shore is biofouling [61]. MPD heavily fouled by marine organisms is indicative of long floating times at the sea surface and therefore likely comes from distant sources [61,87–89]. In contrast, MPD without fouling probably has spent only very little (or no) time at sea and is thus suggestive of very local sources [61].

The debris itself can also serve as indicator for potential sources [61]. For example, if a large fraction of floating MPD carries foreign labels, this is often used as indicator to infer sea-based activities such as, in particular, shipping [90]. The type of debris can also hint at the possible sources, e.g., plastic cups, beverage bottles, sun lotion, and other items likely come from touristic activities on the beach [64,91].

1.3.1. Land-Based Sources

Land-based plastic debris commonly found in the marine environment includes everything from single-use packaging to industrial nurdles (preproduction pellets) [92,93]. Major land-based sources of MPD include the following:

• Landfills

• Rivers and floodwaters

• Industrial outfalls

• Illegal dumping [94]

• Improper transport [52]

• Discharge from storm water drains

• Untreated municipal sewerage

• Littering of beaches, coastal areas (e.g., tourist activities)

• Consumer cosmetics products [95,96]

• Synthetic (polyester or acrylic) fibers from washing clothes [97]

• Synthetic sandblasting media, etc.

It is not known what fraction of MPD originates from land-based sources. It is widely cited that up to 80% of MPD comes from land [52,98,99]; however, this figure is not well substantiated because no global estimates exist for other sources of plastics into the ocean (e.g., losses from fishing activities, ships, or input from natural disasters). Although no direct estimates of plastic input to the ocean exist, the increase in global production of plastic materials (269  million  t in 2015)³, together with the increase in discarded plastic in US municipal solid waste (MSW) [fourfold increase from 1980 to 2008 (24)], suggest that the land-based source of plastic into the ocean increased during the study period [28].

Jambeck et al. [100] presented a framework for the calculation of the annual input of plastics to the oceans from waste generated by populations living within 50  km of a coast by linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status. The framework estimated that 275  million  t of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries (93% of the global population) in 2010, of which 4.8 to 12.7  million  t entered the ocean, equivalent to 1.7%–4.6% of the total plastic waste generated in those countries (Table 1.3). Population size and the quality of waste management systems largely determine which countries contribute the greatest mass of uncaptured waste available to become MPD.

By applying a range of conversion rates from mismanaged plastic waste (40%, 25%, and 15%) to MPD, the authors estimated the quantity of plastic waste entering the ocean from each of the top 20 countries in 2010, used population growth data [101] to project the increase in mass to 2025, and predicted growth in the percentage of plastic waste. Assuming no waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the marine environment from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025 [10].

Table 1.3

Waste Estimates for 2010 for the Top 20 Countries Ranked by Mass of Mismanaged Plastic Waste

MPD, Marine plastic debris.

a Mismanaged waste is the sum of inadequately managed waste plus 2% littering. Total mismanaged plastic waste is calculated for populations within 50  km of the coast in the 192 countries considered.

b If considered collectively, coastal European Union countries (23 total) would rank 18th on the list.

Adapted from Jambeck JR, Geyer R, Wilcox C, Siegler TR, Perryman M, Andrady A, et al. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science 2015;347(6223):768–71.

1.3.2. Sea-Based Sources

Sea-based sources of MPD include the following:

• Fisheries

• Merchant shipping

• Ferries and cruisers

• Military vessels

• Recreational boating

• Aquaculture facilities

• Offshore mining and extraction platforms

Sea-based sources may have decreased in response to international regulations, prohibiting dumping of plastic at sea (see also Chapter 7, Section 7.1). Fisheries

During the 1960s, durable and resilient plastic materials replaced natural fibers in fishing nets and ropes used by the fishing industry [102]. Biodegradable natural materials such as the vegetable fibers sisal, hemp, cotton, and manila were substituted with synthetic, nondegradable polymers such as nylon, polyethylene, polypropylene, and knotted polyester [103]. The preferred materials for fishing nets are polypropylene and polyethylene, which float, and for monofilaments, the preferred material is nylon, which sinks. Modern fishing gear made of these synthetic fibers is cheaper, more durable, lighter, stronger, and more efficient than most traditional gear.

Modern fishing lines are made of nylon, braided PET (e.g., Dacron/DuPont), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), ultrahigh-molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) (Dyneema/DSM or Spectra/Honeywell) and poly(vinylidene fluoride) (PVDF).

Fishing nets for commercial fisheries are conventionally made either from a single filament (monofilament) or several filaments (multifilament) woven together. The woven material is called a twine or web. Lines, weights, and floats are then attached to the twine or web to meet the particular requirements of the net. The different styles of net are termed gillnet, trawl, seine, or weir, depending on the specific construction and use.

After being used for years, synthetic fishing nets are oxidized or cracked because of being immersed in seawater or exposed to sunlight for a long time, and the structural intensity will be weakened. A large quantity of fishing nets is abandoned. In addition, a large amount of dirt, waterweed, shell, and garbage is stuck in waste fishing nets, so waste fishing nets are difficult to be recycled. Besides, even if waste fishing nets are recycled, the insufficient mechanical characteristics such as structural strength of the recycled nets makes them hard to be reused.

The abandonment, accidental loss,

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