Are plastics and microplastics in the Ocean on the increase?

February 01, 2021

That is the question that Prof. Alan Deidun, resident academic within the Department of Geosciences of the Faculty of Science, along with a cohort of high-profile co-authors, posed within a study recently published in the Microplastics and Nanoplastics journal. Specifically, the study overviews a plethora of marine litter monitoring survey data available for different regions of the world ocean, as well as modelling data, in order to answer this compelling question.

The study, whose lead author is renowned litter researcher Dr Francois Galgani from IFREMER, concludes that, despite the well-known increase in the volume of plastics making their way to the marine domain from land, most studies indicate constant amounts of litter in coastal marine systems in recent years until 2019. For instance, collections of marine litter by Continuous Plankton Recorders showed relatively unchanged amounts trapped annually in the North East Atlantic since the year 2000, following a steady increase since the 1950s. For some components of marine litter, such as industrial pellets, policy-making seems to be effective given that measures taken to reduce their use in industrial practices seem to have translated into smaller volumes of this component being detected within the marine domain.

Although a prima facie a surprising find, this 'steady state' scenario could be indicative of:The published study emanated from Chapter 12 of the UN's Second World Ocean Assessment, which is imminently set to be released by the UN in the coming months. Prof. Deidun features as a co-author within two different chapters in such an Assessment, including the ones on marine alien species and on benthic invertebrates. The same study concludes by soliciting, within the current UN Decade for Ocean Sciences, a greater research effort to be invested in identifying the sources of the marine litter as well as in the degradation pathways for different components of the same litter, as otherwise our capacity to identify temporal trends in marine litter will not progress further.

Statistics related to marine plastic litter make for sobering reading. For instance, according to the Ocean Conservancy, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic enter seas worldwide each year, on top of the 150 million plastic tons already roaming the same seas. A staggering 380 million tons of plastic are produced annually, of which an estimated 50% is Single-Use Plastic (SUP), including the 500 billion plastic bags sold worldwide each year and which, on average, have a lifetime of just 15 minutes.
The full publication can be accessed online.

University of Malta

Related Microplastics Articles from Brightsurf:

Sheep show the contamination by microplastics in the agricultural soils of Murcia
A team from the Diverfarming project has found microplastics in 92% of the faeces of sheep fed in intensive agricultural zones of Murcia that they analysed

Microplastics in the death zone
Researchers from the University of Plymouth's International Marine Litter Research Unit have identified the highest recorded microplastics ever found on Earth - at an altitude of more than 8,000 metres, close to the summit of Mount Everest.

There are microplastics near the top of Mount Everest too
Researchers analyzing snow and stream samples from the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition have found evidence of microplastic pollution on Mount Everest.

Microplastics in groundwater (and our drinking water) present unknown risk
Microplastics (plastics <5mm) and their negative health impacts have been studied in oceans, rivers, and even soils, and scientists are beginning to grapple with the myriad human health impacts their presence might have.

High levels of microplastics released from infant feeding bottles during formula prep
New research shows that high levels of microplastics (MPs) are released from infant-feeding bottles (IFBs) during formula preparation.

There is at least 10 times more plastic in the Atlantic than previously thought
Scientists measured 12-21 million tonnes of three of the most common types of plastic in the top 200 metres of the Atlantic.

'Critical' questions over disease risks from ocean plastics
Key knowledge gaps exist in our understanding of how ocean microplastics transport bacteria and viruses -- and whether this affects the health of humans and animals, researchers say.

Seafood study finds plastic in all samples
A study of five different seafoods has found traces of plastic in every sample tested.

Maldives records highest level of micro plastics on the planet
The amount of micro plastic pollution in waters around the Maldives, a global tourist hotspot known for its beautiful coastline, is amongst the highest in the world and has the potential to severely impact marine life in shallow reefs and threaten the livelihoods of island communities.

Plastics found in sea-bed sharks
Microplastics have been found in the guts of sharks that live near the seabed off the UK coast.

Read More: Microplastics News and Microplastics Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to