Understanding and engaging the public is key for ensuring the success of government and industry initiatives aimed at addressing the problem of plastic waste. However, there has been little focus on documenting the general public’s attitudes towards plastics. This study examines public beliefs and attitudes towards plastics in Australia and provides insight on a global level. The research was conducted using an online survey of a nationally representative sample (2518 respondents). Overall, the survey results indicate that the public view plastics as a serious environmental issue. Plastic in the ocean had the highest mean rating for seriousness out of nine environmental issues, followed by two other issues relating to plastic waste production and disposal. Whilst there was an association of plastics with food packaging and convenience, there was more of a negative association with the use of plastic overall. Eighty percent of respondents indicated a desire to reduce plastic use and the majority of respondents believe that paper and glass are more environmentally friendly packaging materials than plastics. However, the results showed that many respondents do not translate their aspiration to reduce plastic use into action. Overall, while a majority of the Australian public are concerned about plastics as an environmental issue, they place the bulk of the responsibility for reducing the use of disposable plastic on industry and government.
Pollution and Marine Debris
Marine litter is a global, persistent, and increasing threat to the oceans, and numerous initiatives aim to address this challenge. Fishing For Litter (FFL) is a voluntary clean-up scheme, where litter is collected as part of routine fishing operations. We surveyed fishers (n = 97) and stakeholders (n = 22) in the UK to investigate perceptions of FFL, its strengths and weaknesses, and potential co-benefits of the scheme. Fishers reported being aware of and concerned about the negative impacts of litter. Overall, FFL was evaluated very positively (7.85/10). In addition, FFL fishers reported less environmentally harmful waste managementbehaviors both out at sea and in other contexts than did non-FFL fishers. Fishers and stakeholders listed strengths and weaknesses of the scheme and made suggestions for future changes. As well as directly helping to remove litter, this paper demonstrates that clean-up schemes can make a contribution to addressing the underlying causes of marine pollution.
For seventy years, mass plastic production and waste mismanagement have resulted in huge pollution of the environment, including the marine environment. The first mention of seafood contaminated by microplastics was recorded in the seventies, and to date numerous studies have been carried out on shellfish, fish and crustaceans. Based on an ad hoc corpus, the current review aims to report on the numerous practices and methodologies described so far. By examining multiple aspects including problems related to the definition of the term microplastic, contamination at the laboratory scale, sampling and isolation, and quantification and identification, the aim was to point out current limitations and the needs to improve and harmonise practices for future studies on microplastics in seafood. A final part is devoted to the minimum information for publication of microplastics studies (MIMS). Based on the aspects discussed, MIMS act as a starting point for harmonisation of analyses.
Much marine litter comes from land-based sources, with a significant amount coming from activities on bathing beaches. Thus, the overall focus of this exploratory research is to identify elements important for the design of beach infrastructure (i.e., trash cans (TCs)) to reduce littering behaviors. We base our investigation on principles of a relatively new approach, called Design for Sustainable Behavior. In doing so, we consider design for two user groups: bathing beachgoers and beach managers. We examined these users' perceptions of beach TCs through the use of an on-line survey of beachgoers, in-depth interviews with Israeli beach managers, a survey of international Blue Flag beach managers and a design ‘ideation’ workshop. Most importantly, we found that there is interest on the part of beach managers and other stakeholders in applying design principles to improve TCs. The findings of this study have implications for further interdisciplinary – and multidisciplinary – research on this topic.
Microplastics are widespread contaminants, virtually present in all environmental compartments. However, knowledge on sources, fate and environmental concentration over time and space still is limited due to the laborious and varied analytical procedures currently used. In this work we critically review the methods currently used for sampling and detection of microplastics, identifying flaws in study design and suggesting promising alternatives. This work provides insights on bulk sample collection, separation, digestion, identification and quantification, and mitigation of cross-contamination. The sampling of microplastics will improve in representativeness and reproducibility through the determination of bulk sample volume, filter's pore size, density separation and digestion solutions, but also through use of novel methods, such as the enhancement of visual identification by staining dyes, and the generalized use of chemical characterization.
Types of plastic waste in different aquatic environments were assessed to obtain a global framework of plastic waste transport and accumulation, relevant for plastic pollution mitigation strategies in aquatic environments. Packaging and consumer products were the most encountered product categories in rivers, while fishery items dominated in the oceanic environment. Plastics from electronics, building and construction, and transport were barely observed. For polymers, polyethylene and polypropylene contributed most to pollution in all environments. The highest diversity in polymer composition was found in oceanic and freshwater sediments. It is therefore argued that a large fraction of plastic waste accumulates here. This confirms that plastic waste transport and accumulation patterns were most affected by the density, surface area, and size of plastics. Only thick-walled, larger plastic debris from low-density polymers are transported through currents from rivers to ocean, while the larger fraction of plastic litter is likely retained in sediments or beaches.
Global estimations state that between 0.5 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year. They are, however, associated with great uncertainties due to methodological difficulties to accurately quantify land-based plastic fluxes into the oceans. New studies at basin scale are thus needed for better model calibrations. Here, a modeling approach based on Jambeck’s statistical method and a field approach are compared in order to (i) quantify plastic fluxes in the Seine River and (ii) characterize and constrain uncertainties of both approaches. Despite the simplicity of the statistical approach and rough extrapolations, both methods yield similar results, i.e., between 1,100 and 5,900 t/yr of plastic litter flowing into the Sea of which about 88–128 t/yr are removed by cleaning operations. According to the marine strategy framework directive (2008/56/EC), actions are required to quantify plastic fluxes entering the oceans. Among different methods, a better use of the data from the waste collection should be considered. The development of a national and homogenous platform listing all the collects would be a first step in that direction.
We performed an environmental risk assessment for microplastics (<5 mm) in the marine environment by estimating the order of magnitude of the past, present and future concentrations based on global plastic production data. In 2100, from 9.6 to 48.8 particles m−3 are predicted to float around in the ocean, which is a 50-fold increase compared to the present-day concentrations. From a meta-analysis with effect data available in literature, we derived a safe concentration of 6650 buoyant particles m−3 below which adverse effects are not likely to occur. Our risk assessment (excluding the potential role of microplastics as chemical vectors) suggests that on average, no direct effects of free-floating microplastics in the marine environment are to be expected up to the year 2100. Yet, even today, the safe concentration can be exceeded in sites that are heavily polluted with buoyant microplastics. In the marine benthic compartment between 32 and 144 particles kg−1 dry sediment are predicted to be present in the beach deposition zone. Despite the scarcity of effect data, we expect adverse ecological effects along the coast as of the second half of the 21st century. From then ambient concentrations will start to outrange the safe concentration of sedimented microplastics (i.e. 540 particles kg−1sediment). Additional ecotoxicological research in which marine species are chronically exposed to realistic environmental microplastic concentration series are urgently needed to verify our findings.
Pollution of the world's oceans by marine debris has direct consequences for wildlife, with fragments of plastic <10 mm the most abundant buoyant litter in the ocean. Seabirds are susceptible to debris ingestion, commonly mistaking floating plastics for food. Studies have shown that half of petrel species regularly ingest anthropogenic waste. Despite the regularity of debris ingestion, no studies to date have quantified the dimensions of debris items ingested across petrel species ranging in size. We excised and measured 1694 rigid anthropogenic debris items from 348 petrel carcasses of 20 species. We found that although the size of items ingested by petrels scale positively with the size of the bird, 90% of all debris items ingested across species fall within a narrow “danger zone” range of 2–10 mm, overlapping with the most abundant oceanic debris size. We conclude that this globally profuse size range of marine plastics is an ingestion hazard to petrels.
Deep sea sediments have emerged as a potential sink for microplastics in the marine environment. The discovery of microplastics in various environmental compartments of the Arctic Central Basin (ACB) suggested that these contaminants were potentially being transported to the deep-sea realm of this oceanic basin. For the first time, the present study conducted a preliminary assessment to determine whether microplastics were present in surficial sediments from the ACB. Gravity and piston corers were used to retrieve sediments from depths of 855–4353 m at 11 sites in the ACB during the Arctic Ocean 2016 (AO16) expedition. Surficial sediments from the various cores were subjected to density flotation with sodium tungstate dihydrate solution (Na 2 WO 4 ·2H 2 O, density 1.4 g cm −3 ). Potential microplastics were isolated and analysed by Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy. Of the surficial samples, 7 of the 11 samples contained synthetic polymers which included polyester (n = 3), polystyrene (n = 2), polyacrylonitrile (n = 1), polypropylene (n = 1), polyvinyl chloride (n = 1) and polyamide (n = 1). Fibres (n = 5) and fragments (n = 4) were recorded in the samples. In order to avoid mis-interpretation, these findings must be taken in the context that (i) sampling equipment did not guarantee retrieval of undisturbed surficial sediments, (ii) low sample volumes were analysed (~10 g per site), (iii) replicate sediment samples per site was not possible, (iv) no air contamination checks were included during sampling and, (v) particles <100 µm were automatically excluded from analysis. While the present study provides preliminary indication that microplastics may be accumulating in the deep-sea realm of the ACB, further work is necessary to assess microplastic abundance, distribution and composition in surficial sediments of the ACB.