Global plastic contamination: a journey towards scientifically informed policies and solutions 

Plastic contamination is a global concern. With increasing usage and disposal of plastics, waste management is often inefficient in processing the volumes of plastic discarded. A large proportion of plastic waste accumulates in the natural environment where clean-up is difficult, if not impossible. This results in the plastic contamination persisting in the environment for many years, having the potential to cause long-term ecological harm, ultimately affecting humans.

To mitigate plastic pollution and find solutions to reduce harmful effects, a better understanding of the sources and pathways of plastics in the environment is needed. This should inform social and industrial practices, as well as advise on regulatory changes to address plastic management. This will also promote developing a roadmap towards the development and safe usage of alternative materials, to reduce environmental and health implications. The approach aims at bringing together academics from a variety of research fields and citizen science initiatives along with stakeholders from civil society and industry, as well as regulators and policymakers. The task requires collaboration across disciplines, from environmental sciences, including biology and chemistry, geosciences, atmospheric sciences and oceanography, to materials science, social sciences and economics.

This session will address the linkages and cross-disciplinary collaborations required for effective progress in this field. We specifically invite presentations featuring successes and challenges in collaboration between academia, industry and regulators. Presentations on tracking plastics and on elucidating connecting mechanisms from human activities through to environmental abundance and impact are encouraged. Studies on biota-plastic interactions, plastic fluxes linked to human activities and environmental changes (from synoptic events to climate change) and studies linking plastic characteristics to toxicological impacts (chemistry, materials science and ecotoxicology) are welcomed.

This is a linked session co-organised and co-designed with a session at the annual meeting of SETAC Europe (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry), by connected convenor teams, to ensure full integration and input across disciplines. Outputs from the linked sessions will be disseminated widely across SETAC and EGU members through online resources, with a view to effective knowledge sharing and building collaborations.

Public information:
The last 15 minutes of the second timeblock (14:45-15:00) we will hold a discussion session with the topic: "Progressing key uncertainties in microplastic interaction with the food web."
Co-organized by BG1/HS12/SSS12
Convener: Stefanie RyndersECSECS | Co-conveners: Yevgeny Aksenov, Karin KvaleECSECS, Ilka Peeken, Anna Rubio, Tim van Emmerik, Beverly Waller
vPICO presentations
| Mon, 26 Apr, 11:00–12:30 (CEST), 13:30–15:00 (CEST)
Public information:
The last 15 minutes of the second timeblock (14:45-15:00) we will hold a discussion session with the topic: "Progressing key uncertainties in microplastic interaction with the food web."

Session assets

Session materials

vPICO presentations: Mon, 26 Apr

Chairpersons: Ilka Peeken, Yevgeny Aksenov
Stefanie Ypma, Mikael Kaandorp, Jen Jones, Andy Donnelly, and Erik van Sebille

The Galapagos Archipelago and the Galapagos Marine Reserve host one of the world’s most unique ecosystems. Although being a UNESCO world heritage site and being isolated from any dense population, over 8 tonnes of plastic are collected on the islands each year. To decrease the impact of plastic waste in the region, scientific evidence is needed on the sources and fate of the marine debris. Here, we will assess the skill of machine learning techniques to predict beaching events on these islands. In order to do so, we combine various hydrodynamic fields from ocean-, wave-, wind- and tide-models using the OceanParcels particle tracking framework to track virtual particles through the marine reserve. In addition, a beaching parameterization has been developed and implemented to quantify where and when virtual particles wash ashore. The results show that the particle pathways and beaching probabilities strongly depend on the dry and wet seasons characteristic for the Galapagos Islands. 

Therefore, it is expected that the beaching events can to some extent be predicted from the forecasts of currents, tides and waves - without performing a Lagrangian simulation. To test this hypothesis, PCA analysis and random forests are applied to a set of over 100 variables and their skill to explain the beaching variability given by the particle model is determined. In addition, the results are compared to a timeseries of observed beached litter on one of the Island of San Cristobal to apply the models in a realistic case study. This work, in combination with a growing observational data set, will form the basis of a predictive model that will support the Galapagos National Park in their efforts to free the Galapagos Archipelago from marine debris.

How to cite: Ypma, S., Kaandorp, M., Jones, J., Donnelly, A., and van Sebille, E.: Using machine learning techniques to predict beaching of marine debris on the Galapagos Islands, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-274,, 2021.

Delphine Lobelle, Merel Kooi, Albert A. Koelmans, Charlotte Laufkotter, Cleo E. Jongedijk, Christian Kehl, and Erik van Sebille

Microplastic debris ending up at the sea surface has become a known major environmental issue. However, how microplastic particles move and when they sink in the ocean remains largely unknown. Here, we model microplastic subject to biofouling (algal growth on a substrate) to estimate sinking timescales and the time to reach the depth where particles stops sinking. We combine NEMO-MEDUSA 2.0 output, that represents hydrodynamic and biological properties of seawater, with a particle-tracking framework. Different sizes and densities of particles (for different types of plastic) are simulated, showing that the global distribution of sinking timescales is largely size-dependent as opposed to density-dependent. The smallest particles we simulate (0.1 μm) start sinking almost immediately around the globe and their trajectories produce the longest time to reach their first sinking depth (almost 40 days as a global median). In oligotrophic subtropical gyres with low algal concentrations, particles between 1 mm and 10 μm do not sink within the 90-day simulation time. This suggests that in addition to the comparatively well-known physical processes, biological processes might also contribute to the accumulation of floating plastic (of 1 mm to 10 μm) in subtropical gyres. Particles of 1 μm in the gyres start sinking largely due to vertical advection, whereas 0.1 μm particles sink both due to biofouling and advection. The qualitative impacts of seasonality on sinking timescales are small, however, localised sooner sinking due to spring algal blooms is seen. This study maps processes that affect the sinking of virtual microplastic globally, which could ultimately impact the ocean plastic budget.

How to cite: Lobelle, D., Kooi, M., Koelmans, A. A., Laufkotter, C., Jongedijk, C. E., Kehl, C., and van Sebille, E.: Global modeled sinking characteristics of biofouled microplastic, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-280,, 2021.

Annie Ockelford, Joanna Bullard, Cheryl McKenna Neuman, and Patrick O'Brien

Recent studies of soils in the Alps and Middle East indicate airborne transport of microplastics following wind erosion may be significant.  Where microplastics have been entrained by wind they show substantial enrichment ratios compared to mineral particle erosion.  Further, microplastic shape affects enrichment ratios with those for fibres greater than for microbeads which may reflect the lower density and asymmetric shape of microplastics compared to soil particles. This suggests that terrestrial to atmospheric transfer of microplastics could be a significant environmental transport pathway. However, currently we have very little understanding of how the properties, in particular the surface characteristics, of the sediment which they are being eroded from affects their entrainment potential.

This paper reports wind tunnel studies run to explore the impacts of soil surface characteristics on microplastic flux by wind erosion.  Experiments were performed in a boundary layer simulation wind tunnel with an open-loop suction design.  The tunnel has a working section of 12.5m x 0.7m x 0.76m and is housed in an environmental chamber which, for this study, was held constant at 20 oC and 20% RH. In experiments two types of low density microplastic (microbeads and fibres) were mixed into a poorly-sorted soil containing 13% organics.  The polyethylene microbeads had a size range of 212-250 microns and density of 1.2 g cm3 and the polyester fibres were 5000 microns long and 500-1000 microns in width with a density of 1.38 g cm3.  Microplastics were mixed into the sediment in concentrations ranging from 40-1040 mg kg-1. For each experiment, test surfaces were prepared by filling a 1.0m x 0.35m x  0.025m metal tray with the given mixture of test material which was lowered into the wind tunnel such that it was flush with the tunnel floor and levelled. The wind tunnel was then switched on and run with increasing wind speeds using 0.25 m s-1 increments until continuous saltation occurred.  Soil surface roughness was scanned prior to and after each experiment using a high resolution laser scanner (0.5mm resolution over the entire test section).  Transported soil and microplastic particles were captured in bulk using a 2 cm wide by 40 cm tall Guelph-Trent wedge trap that was positioned 2 m downwind of the test bed. 

Discussion concentrates on linking the changes in soil surface topography to the magnitude of microplastic flux where data shows that there is a correlation between the development of the soil surfaces and overall microplastic flux.  Specifically, soil surface roughness is seen as a significant control on microplastic flux where it has a greater overall effect on microplastic fibre flux as compared to the microplastic beads.  The outcome of this research is pertinent to developing understanding surrounding the likely controls and hence propensity of microplastics to be entrained from soil by wind erosion. 

How to cite: Ockelford, A., Bullard, J., McKenna Neuman, C., and O'Brien, P.: Wind erosion controls on microplastics from soils: linking soil surface properties with microplastic flux, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-697,, 2021.

Hana Fajković, Neven Cukrov, Željko Kwokal, Kristina Pikelj, Laura Huljek, Iva Kostanjšek, and Vlado Cuculić

The aim of the study was to determine the correlation of metals on floating marine litter and weathered microplastic samples from the pristine area. Sampled were collected from the accumulated material on the natural beach in Mala Stupica Cove (Žirje Island, Croatia) in June 2020. In addition to weathered microplastic, the concentrations of dissolved metals in the seawater, at the same location were determined. According to these measurements, the sampling site can be considered pristine, with Cd and Pb concentrations as background values and Zn and Cu as elements that have no toxic effect, based on the classification proposed by Bakke et al., (2010). The metals of interest due to their high toxicity were Zn, Cd, Pb, and Cu.

After sampling, the collected material was sieved through a metal sieve with a 4 mesh size, resulting in 4 subsamples (>4 mm; 4-2 mm; 2-1 mm; 1-0.250 mm). The type of plastic particles from subsample >4 mm was determined by FTIR spectroscopy performed on Bruker Tensor 27 in the region from 400-4000 cm-1. On such defined particles and in the seawater sample, trace metal concentrations were determined by the electrochemical method differential pulse anodic stripping voltammetry (DPASV) with standard addition method by Metrohm Autolab modular potentiostat/galvanostat Autolab PGSTAT204. A static mercury drop electrode (SMDE) was used as the working electrode.

Plastic particles were isolated from additional two fractions (2-1 mm and 1-0.250 mm) as bulk samples, but without polystyrene, and the metal concentration was also determined using the same method. Due to the particle size, the type of plastic was not determined. Additional analyzes of metal concentrations on a defined and isolated polystyrene particles (PS) from a subsample (4-2 mm) and (2-1 mm) were also performed.

By analogy with sediment particles, one would expect smaller microplastic particles to have higher metal concentrations due to their larger specific surface area, but this was not observed in this study. The metal concentration varied with the type of plastic, and from the observed results, plastics could be ranked according to their affinity for the analyzed metals, as follows: polystyrene (PS)>Polypropylene (PP)>Low-density polyethylene (LDPE). According to an average concentration of all analyzed samples defined as LDPE, Zn could be single out as an element with around 7-time higher affinity for LDPE than other elements (Cd, Pb, and Cu). For samples defined as PP, the highest affinity is observed for Pb, even 30 times higher than in LDPE, followed by Zn and Cu, while Cd has similar values as in LDPE.  For PS samples affinity of all elements is higher in comparison with the LDPE and PP, as follows: Pb>Cu> Zn>Cd, with a concentration of Pb 2.5 times higher than in PP and even 88 times higher than in LDPE.

 A general conclusion could be drawn, but the observed wide ranges indicate the need for additional research to determine the relationship between the degree and type of weathering with the associated metals.

This work has been fully supported by Croatian Science Foundation under the project lP-2019-04-5832.

How to cite: Fajković, H., Cukrov, N., Kwokal, Ž., Pikelj, K., Huljek, L., Kostanjšek, I., and Cuculić, V.: Correlation of microplastic type and metal association: Croatian coast case study (Žirje Island), EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1022,, 2021.

Irina Chubarenko

Microplastic particles (MPs) are found in marine ice in larger quantities than in seawater, indicating that the ice is an important link in the chain of spreading of this contaminant. Some studies indicate larger MPs abundance near the ice surface, while others did not find any consistent pattern in the vertical distribution of MPs within sea ice cores. We discuss physical mechanisms of incorporation of MPs in the ice and present the results of laboratory tests, underpinning our conclusions.

First, plastic hydrophobicity is shown to cause the effect of pushing the floating MPs further up of the newly-forming ice. This leads to a concentration of MPs at the ice surface in the laboratory, while in the field the particles at the surface may by covered by snow and become a part of the upper ice layer. Under open-air test conditions, the bubbles of foamed polystyrene (density 0.04 g/cm3), initially floating at the water surface, were gone by weak wind when the firm ice was formed.

Second, the difference between freshwater and marine ice is considered. Since fresh water has its temperature of the density maximum (Tmd=3.98 C) well above the freezing point (Tfr=0 C), the freshwater ice is formed when the water column is stably stratified for a relatively long period of cooling from the Tmd down to the Tfr. Under such steady conditions, even just slightly positively/negatively buoyant MPs have enough time to rise to the surface / to settle to the bottom. In contrast, the ice in the ocean freezes when thermal convection is at work, further enhanced by the brine release. Thus, strong convection beneath the forming marine ice keeps slightly positively/negatively buoyant MPs in suspension and maintains the contact between the MPs and the forming ice. Laboratory tests show both the difference between the solid-and-transparent freshwater ice and the layered, filled with brine marine ice, and the difference in the level of their contamination.

Lastly, it is demonstrated that MPs tend to be incorporated in the ice together with air bubbles and in-between the ice plates (in brine channels). This is most probably due t plastics’ hydrophobicity.

Investigations are supported by the Russian Science Foundation, grant No 19-17-00041.

How to cite: Chubarenko, I.: Physical processes behind interactions of microplastic particles with ice, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1149,, 2021.

Vlado Cuculić, Hana Fajković, Željko Kwokal, and Renata Matekalo

Marine plastic litter can be a significant vector for ecotoxic trace metals into coastal areas. Eventually, it can be burried in sediment and in accumulated material on the beach with organic and inorganic material on its surface. In order to analyze the trace metal quantities (Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn) on different size particles in an anthropogenically affected environment, microplastics were sampled from the accumulated material on the Mala Martinska natural beach (Šibenik Bay, Croatia) in September 2019. The city of Šibenik and the Šibenik Bay are located in the lower part of the Krka River estuary (middle Adriatic). It is the main Croatian port for the phosphate ore import. Also, it was found earlier that Šibenik Bay was polluted by the ex-ferromanganese industry located in it, and the industrial slag spreading around the factory was the significant supply of trace metals in the Bay. The concentrations of dissolved and total metals in the surface seawater at the same location and at the reference point (coastal surface seawater at Jadrija, ~4 km SE from the sampling site) were determined in February and June 2020.

The collected material was sieved through a metal sieve with a 4 mesh size, resulting in 4 bulk (mixed microplastics) aliquots (> 4mm; 4-2 mm; 2-1 mm; 1-0.250 mm). From each of of the 4 bulk aliquots, subsamples of mixed plastics and polystyrene (PS) particles were isolated, resulting in 8 subsamples in total. The type of plastic particles (> 4mm; 4-2 mm and PS) was determined by FTIR spectroscopy performed on Bruker Tensor 27 in the region from 4000-400 cm-1. Trace metal concentrations on such defined particles and in seawater samples were determined using differential pulse anodic stripping voltammetry (DPASV) by Metrohm Autolab modular potentiostat/galvanostat Autolab PGSTAT204, connected with a three-electrode system Metrohm 663 VA STAND (Utrecht, The Netherlands). Working electrode used was static mercury drop electrode (SMDE).

In general, the amounts of trace metals associated with the plastic particles (Cd 0.02-0.35 µg/g; Pb 1.1-34.1 µg/g; Cu 1.7-32.9 µg/g and Zn 6-147 µg/g) were in the range of unpolluted and moderately affected sediments in the Adriatic Sea. The mass fractions of all tested trace metals increase with decreasing plastic particle size, probably due to the larger specific surface areas on the smaller particles. That was not the case for the plastic particles larger than 4 mm, both in mixed and PS samples, where the amounts of metal were higher compared to particles of 4-2 mm and 2-1 mm. Furthermore, all metals except cadmium showed a higher affinity for PS in comparison with mixed plastic samples of the same particle sizes (up to order of magnitude higher metal amounts), due to the PS highly developed specific surface area. In order to better understand the mechanism of association of trace metals with microplastics under different environmental conditions, further investigations are needed.

This work has been fully supported by Croatian Science Foundation under the project lP-2019-04-5832.

How to cite: Cuculić, V., Fajković, H., Kwokal, Ž., and Matekalo, R.: Trace metals load on beached microplastics in the anthropogenically influenced estuarine environment - Croatian middle Adriatic, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1171,, 2021.

Rebeca de la Fuente, Gábor Drótos, Emilio Hernández, Cristóbal López, and Erik van Sebille

We study the vertical dispersion and distribution of negatively buoyant rigid microplastics within a realistic circulation model of the Mediterranean sea. We first propose an equation describing their idealized dynamics. In that framework, we evaluate the importance of some relevant physical effects: inertia, Coriolis force, small-scale turbulence and variable seawater density, and bound the relative error of simplifying the dynamics to a constant sinking velocity added to a large-scale velocity field. We then calculate the amount and vertical distribution of microplastic particles on the water column of the open ocean if their release from the sea surface is continuous at rates compatible with observations in the Mediterranean. The vertical distribution is found to be almost uniform with depth for the majority of our parameter range. Transient distributions from flash releases reveal a non-Gaussian character of the dispersion and various diffusion laws, both normal and anomalous. The origin of these behaviors is explored in terms of horizontal and vertical flow organization.

How to cite: de la Fuente, R., Drótos, G., Hernández, E., López, C., and van Sebille, E.: Sinking microplastics in the water column: simulations in the Mediterranean Sea, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1203,, 2021.

Heike Knicker and Marta Velasco-Molina

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive use of disposable sanitary face masks. Based on data provided by Prata et al. (2020), we estimated that if only 0.1% of those masks are improperly discarded and enter the soil, approximately 361t of polypropylene (PP) will be monthly added to the soil, threatening the ecological balance of terrestrial systems, the health of wild animals and even humans. For a first evaluation of the environmental consequences of the mask littering during COVID-19, we compared the microbial degradability of 10 x 10 mm cuts of the single masks layers and the complete mask blended with topsoil from a Cambisol of the Sierra de Aznalcóllar, Southern Spain with natural soil organic matter (SOM) by measuring the CO2 release during a three-month decomposition experiment performed with a soil moisture of 75% of its maximal water holding capacity and at 25°C. In order to focus on biodegradation and to avoid abiotic impact of physical and chemical processes, the masks were not pretreated or exposed to UV-irradiation or natural daylight prior to decomposition. In addition, the incubation occurred in the dark. We identified an easily decomposable fraction with a mean residence time (MRTfast) of 2 to 3 days, releasing approximately 3 to 5% of the total mask carbon as CO2. Solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy confirmed that all three layers of the mask were composed of PP without contributions of more than 2-3% of other additives. Microbial degradation resulted in a cut-off of terminal PP units as a main degradation mechanism. Assuming again that about 0.1% of the masks used during the COVID-19 crises may enter soil systems, we estimated that this fast pool may cause an additional CO2 emission of 41 to 68 t year-1. This corresponds to the globally averaged annual CO2-footprint of 10 to 17 persons (4 t year-1 person-1).  The slow turning fraction was mineralized with a rate constant of 0.05 to 0.14 year-1 corresponding to a MRTslow between 7 and 18 years. This is two to four times longer than that determined for the SOM pure reference soil but still lies in the range reported for humified SOM derived from other topsoils of the Sierra de Aznalcóllar. Our results allow us to confirm our hypothesis that in soil, microbes exist that can decompose PP, although their nature still has to be revealed in future attempts. Studies investigating the impact of pre-exposure to daylight and moisture on their degradability in soils are in process.

Prata, J.C., Silva, A.L.P., Walker, T.R., Duarte, A.C., Rocha-Santos, T., 2020. COVID-19 Pandemic Repercussions on the Use and Management of Plastics. Environ. Sci. Technol. 54, 7760–7765.


How to cite: Knicker, H. and Velasco-Molina, M.: Biodegradability of single-use polypropylene-based face masks, littered during the COVID-19 pandemic – a first approach , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1293,, 2021.

Igor Isachenko and Irina Chubarenko

Initiation of motion, resuspension, transport, and accumulation of microplastic particles (MPs) at the sea bottom are prescribed by their physical properties – density, size, and shape, as it is known for natural sediment grains. However, from sedimentological approaches, not much can be said about the behavior of non-spherical particles at the bottom covered by another type of material. Thus, experimental disclosure of general features of the MPs transport and accumulation pattern should aid a lot further theoretical description of such a complex process.

Laboratory experiments on the MPs transport by the open-channel flow and their accumulation in regions with various bottom roughness were carried out in 10 m long and 0.33 m wide hydrodynamic flume. The bottom had 4 sections (ca. 2 m long each) with the roughness increasing downstream: smooth-bottom section, followed by the sections covered by natural calibrated coarse sand (particle diameter 1-1.5 mm), marine granules (3-4 mm), and small pebbles (1-2 cm). The upper sediment surface was carefully horizontally leveled. The set of MPs included 1d (flexible and rigid), 2d (square/round/elongated; flexible/rigid), and 3d (round/cubic) particles made of polystyrene, polyester, polyamide (nylon), and polyethylene terephthalat (material density ranging from 1.05 to 1.41 g/cm3). Principal sizes of MPs ranged from 0.5 mm (smaller than the smallest sediment grain) to 5 cm (larger than the largest sediment grain). At the beginning of the experiment, MPs were placed on the smooth bottom. Thereafter, the flow rate was increased step-by-step by small increments. At each step, after at least 5 min since the last particle movement, the coordinates of the particles in their (new) stationary positions were registered.

Although we did not aim to achieve a similarity between a laboratory experiment and natural conditions, the results of the present study can be useful for a qualitative interpretation of field observations and further theoretical efforts. The results show, that the initiation of motion of particular MPs is dependent both on MPs size and the sediment characteristics. The cumulative curve, integrating coordinates of all the kinds of MPs in their stationary locations at all the flow steps, indicates the potential for the existence of MP accumulation zones in the regions right after the change in the bottom roughness, at the side of coarser sediment.

Investigations are supported by the Russian Science Foundation, grant No 19-17-00041.

How to cite: Isachenko, I. and Chubarenko, I.: Different microplastics versus different bottom sediments: transport and accumulation pattern in the open-channel flow experiments, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-1791,, 2021.

Thomas Stanton, Paul Kay, Rachel Gomes, Matthew Johnson, and Jason Weeks

Concern for the fate and impacts of plastic waste has motivated cross-sector engagement with the environment and society’s impact on it. Though efforts to minimise plastic pollution should not be discouraged, it is important that such efforts do not exacerbate the environmental impacts associated with plastic alternatives; acknowledge that plastic per se is not the root of the plastic pollution problem; and recognise that environmentally conscious consumption is a privilege not currently afforded to all. Cross-sector communication and cooperation can maximise the impact of plastic pollution research and are vital tools in ensuring research can inform positive change. Here we report on the use of stakeholder engagement spanning UK industry, government, not-for-profit organisations and academia to share knowledge, motivations and priorities, in order to broaden research impact beyond academia.

Informed by our own work, microplastic researchers at the University of Nottingham hosted a cross-sector workshop to recognise evidence requirements, focus key questions, highlight misunderstandings and ultimately identify knowledge gaps across multiple sectors. This engagement identified key areas for improvement from the scientific community in order to better inform and engage decision makers. These included: a need for greater clarity from the scientific community as to the extent of the plastic pollution problem; communication of the implications of methodological inconsistencies in the science that informs industry; and the importance of placing the impacts of plastic pollution within the context of broader environmental quality for non-scientific stakeholders.

This workshop and engagement led to outputs that included: the writing of a policy brief; the writing of an opinion article on the topic of plastic pollution with authors from not-for profits, the wastewater industry and government organisations; and the public dissemination of these activities through press releases, articles for The Conversation, and their reproductions in UK news media. These outputs are designed to guide and inform individuals, industry, decision makers, and future research.

Concern for the problems posed by plastic pollution presents a generational opportunity for science to inform industries, governments and consumers, and enthuse their environmental action beyond plastic pollution. Our work highlights the value of considering, and where feasible engaging with, these stakeholders with environmental research from conception to dissemination.

How to cite: Stanton, T., Kay, P., Gomes, R., Johnson, M., and Weeks, J.: From rivers to retailers: using cross-sector stakeholder engagement to broaden dissemination and guide future research, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2301,, 2021.

Romulus-Marian Paiu, Arda M. Tonay, Costin Timofte, Angelica Paiu, Mihaela Mirea Candea, Anca-Maria Gheorghe, Violeta Slabakova, Ayaka Amaha Ozturk, and Dumitru Murariu

                The quality of the Black Sea ecosystem is partly but importantly dependent on the survival and sustainability of the top predator populations. It is difficult to foresee all consequences for the regional biodiversity if cetaceans disappear as it had happened with the Mediterranean monk seals in the past. During 7 days, between 30 September and 7 October, 2019, a joint oceanographical survey was made with a multipurpose R/V Mare Nigrum in offshore as well as deep sea locations, within the Romanian (RO), Bulgarian (BG) and western Turkish (TK) national waters of the Black Sea in the frame of ANEMONE project. The total track line was around 700 nautical miles and the sampled area covered 9754,58 km2. Observations were made of cetaceans and floating litter, following line transect sampling method, with a single platform (2 observers, on the left and right of the vessel bridge) over 380.44 km of transects. A total of 54 cetacean sightings and 81 floating litter items were recorded. All the three species, short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis ssp. ponticus), Black Sea bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus ssp. ponticus), and Black Sea harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena ssp. relicta), were registered with a similar density (individuals/km2), 0.012 for RO sector and 0.013 for BG-TK sector. The number of debris varied between 1 and 24 items, reaching 5.26± 5.93 items on average. Among the transects, 53% contained less than 5 items and only 13% were with more than 10 items. Based on these results, the average density of floating macro-litter in BG waters was found 2.43 ± 2.4 items/km2, 1.73 ± 1.24 items/km2 in the RO waters and 2.43±2.17 items/km2 in TR waters. This study was the first to make a joint and continuous survey effort for both cetaceans and litter simultaneously in the Black Sea.

Key words:  Black Sea, cetaceans, marine litter, joint cruise, ANEMONE project.

How to cite: Paiu, R.-M., Tonay, A. M., Timofte, C., Paiu, A., Mirea Candea, M., Gheorghe, A.-M., Slabakova, V., Amaha Ozturk, A., and Murariu, D.: Using line transect sampling to detect cetaceans and floating litter during vessel survey in western Black Sea, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2361,, 2021.

Paul Vriend, Hidayat Hidayat, Reza Cordova, Noir. P. Purba, Ansje Lohr, Nining Ningsih, Kirana Agustina, Semeidi Husrin, Devi D. Suryono, Inneke Hantoro, Budi Widianarko, Judith van Leeuwen, Bart Vermeulen, and Tim van Emmerik

Observational and modeling studies have suggested that Indonesia among the top plastic polluting countries globally. Data on the presence of plastic pollution are crucial to designing effective plastic reduction and mitigation strategies. Research quantifying plastic pollution in Indonesia has increased in recent years. However, most plastic research to date has been done with different goals, methods, and data formats. In this study, we present a meta-analysis of 85 studies published on plastic pollution in Indonesia to uncover gaps and biases in current research, and to use these insights to suggest ways to improve future research to fill these gaps. Research gaps and biases identified include a clear preference for marine research, and a bias towards certain environmental compartments within the marine, riverine, and terrestrial ecosystems, which are compartments that are easier to quantify such as riverbanks and beaches. Moreover, we identify polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene variants (HDPE, LDPE, PE) to be among the most frequently found polymers in both macro- and microplastic pollution, though polymer identification is lacking in most studies. Plastic research is mostly done on Java (57%). We recommend a shift in ecosystem focus of research towards the riverine and terrestrial environments, and a shift of focus of environmental compartments analyzed within these ecosystems. Moreover, we recommend an increase in spatial coverage across Indonesia of research, a larger focus on polymer characterization, and lastly, the harmonization of methods used to quantify plastic. With these changes, we envision future research that can aid with the design of effective reduction and mitigation strategies.

How to cite: Vriend, P., Hidayat, H., Cordova, R., Purba, N. P., Lohr, A., Ningsih, N., Agustina, K., Husrin, S., Suryono, D. D., Hantoro, I., Widianarko, B., van Leeuwen, J., Vermeulen, B., and van Emmerik, T.: Plastic pollution research in Indonesia: State of science and future research directions., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2418,, 2021.

Victor Onink, Cleo Jongedijk, Matthew Hoffman, Erik van Sebille, and Charlotte Laufkötter

The distribution of plastic in the ocean is poorly constrained, with the mass of floating plastic at the ocean surface being orders of magnitude smaller than estimated plastic inputs. Coastlines likely contain significant amounts of plastic, but inconsistent methodologies between beached plastic observations prevent determining the mass and distribution of globally beached plastic. We present Lagrangian model sensitivity experiments to estimate the beached fraction of marine plastic and to investigate the global distribution of beached plastic on coastlines.

We perform simulations where particles, representing masses of floating plastic, are inserted at the ocean coasts. The particles are then advected by surface currents (HYCOM/NCODA global reanalysis and surface Stokes drift from the WaveWatch III global reanalysis) for 5 years. Beaching is parametrized stochastically using exponentional probability. Here, we test the sensitivity to e-folding time scales between 1 and 100 days, applied when plastic is within the coastal zone, within 10km of the nearest coastline. Resuspension of beached plastic is parameterised exponentially with an e-folding timescale between 69 and 273 days. No other loss processes are implemented.

Between 39-95% of floating plastic mass is beached after 5 years, with the beached fraction depending on the ratio between the beaching and resuspension timescales. In all simulations, at least 77% of floating plastic mass is found either beached or within the coastal zone, indicating coastal regions are a significant reservoir of mismanaged terrestrial plastic. However, plastic entering the ocean from islands or near energetic boundary currents is more likely to reach the open ocean. The distribution of beached plastic is closely related to the input distribution, with the highest concentrations found in Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean.

Our results highlight coastlines and coastal waters as important reservoirs of marine plastic debris and indicate a need for greater understanding of plastic transport near and at the coastlines. Furthermore, improved representation of plastic beaching can help study marine plastic fragmentation, as mechanical stress during the transitions between coastlines and coastal waters and the increased UV exposure of beached plastic likely contribute to the fragmentation.

How to cite: Onink, V., Jongedijk, C., Hoffman, M., van Sebille, E., and Laufkötter, C.: Global modelling of plastic beaching indicates coastlines and coastal waters as significant plastic reservoirs, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4092,, 2021.

Mikael Kaandorp, Henk Dijkstra, and Erik van Sebille

Field studies have shown that plastic fragments make up the majority of plastic pollution in the oceans in terms of abundance. How quickly environmental plastics fragment is not well understood, however. Here, we study this process by considering a model which captures continuous fragmentation of particles over time in a cascading fashion. With this cascading fragmentation model, we simulate particle size distributions (PSDs), specifying the abundance or mass of particles for different size classes.


The fragmentation model is coupled to an environmental box model, simulating the distributions of plastic particles in the ocean, coastal waters, and on the beach. Transport in the box model is based on a previous study regarding a previous study regarding sources and sinks of marine plastics in the Mediterranean Sea. We compare the modelled PSDs to available observations, and use the results to illustrate the effect of size-selective processes such as vertical mixing in the water column and resuspension of particles from the beach into coastal waters.


Using the coupled fragmentation and environmental box model, we quantify the role of fragmentation on the marine plastic mass budget. While fragmentation is a major source of (secondary) plastic particles in terms of abundance, it seems to have a minor effect on the total mass of particles larger than 0.1 mm. Future comparison to observed PSD data should allow us to understand size-selective plastic transport in the environment, and potentially inform us on plastic longevity.

How to cite: Kaandorp, M., Dijkstra, H., and van Sebille, E.: Modelling size distributions of marine plastics under the influence of continuous cascading fragmentation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-4342,, 2021.

Matthieu Mercier, Marie Poulain-Zarcos, Alexandra ter Halle, Marion Saint-Martin, and Florian Simatos

The large difference between the estimates of global plastic input in mass in the oceans (Jambeck et al., Science 347, 2015) and current global predictions from numerical models (van Sebille et al., Environ. Res. Lett. 10, 2015) or observations (Cózar et al., P. Natl. Acad. Sci., 111, 2014) is one of the most important issue regarding oceanic plastic litter. Yet, global predictions are based on observations, and uncertainties on the latter are rarely considered to provide error bounds on the former.

We discuss here the sources of uncertainties on plastic concentrations estimates (in number and mass), based on a recent model presented in (Poulain et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. 53, 2019). The two main sources of error are the plastic rise velocity and the model for the turbulent diffusivity, although they do not have the same importance. We validated the model with controlled laboratory experiments. Applying this model to global predictions provides us with more realistic encompassing values for the mass of plastic at sea, with a more important correction concerning small microplastics (with characteristic dimensions smaller than ~1mm).

How to cite: Mercier, M., Poulain-Zarcos, M., ter Halle, A., Saint-Martin, M., and Simatos, F.: Uncertainties on plastic concentration estimates at sea, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-5026,, 2021.

Anfisa Berezina, Evgeniy Yakushev, and Boris Ivanov

Currently, all natural environments, including the Arctic seas, are contaminated by microplastics (MP, plastic fragments less than 5 mm). Biogeochemical processes significantly affect the physical properties of MP, primarily its density due to biofouling.
The aim of this work is to develop a numerical model for assessing the fate of MP in the marine environment under the influence of natural biogeochemical cycles in the Arctic seas on the example of Oslofjord.
The biogeochemical model OxyDep (E. V. Yakushev et al., 2011) was used to reproduce the temporal variability of the phyto- and zooplankton, dissolved and particulate organic matter. The two-dimensional 2D benthic-pelagic transport model (2DBP), which considers the processes in the water column and bottom sediments together, is used as a hydrophysical model.
The separate module which describes the transformation of the MP under biogeochemical processes was developed. The biogeochemical and MP modules were coupled with the transport model using the Framework for Aquatic Biogeochemical Modeling (FABM) (Bruggeman & Bolding, 2014).
The results show, that there would be a decrease in the MP content in the surface layer in summer period due to the ingestion by zooplankton and its transfer to the sediments. Based on the obtained patterns, it is possible to predict zones of accumulation of MP for a specific water area, depending on the local ecosystem.

Funding: The reported study was funded by RFBR, project number 20-35-90056. This work was partly funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment project RUS-19/0001 “Establish regional capacity to measure and model the distribution and input of microplastics to the Barents Sea from rivers and currents (ESCIMO)” and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, research project 19-55-80004.

How to cite: Berezina, A., Yakushev, E., and Ivanov, B.: Modeling the influence of biogeochemical and ecosystem processes on microplastic transport in the Arctic seas on the example of Oslofjord, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-6531,, 2021.

Nicolas Beriot, Joost Peek, Raul Zornoza, Violette Geissen, and Esperanza Huerta Lwanga

One of the main sources of plastic pollution in agricultural fields is the plastic mulch used by farmers to improve crop production. The plastic mulch is often not removed completely from the fields after harvest. Over time, the plastic mulch that is left of the fields is broken down into smaller particles which are dispersed by the wind or runoff. In the Region of Murcia in Spain, plastic mulch is heavily used for intensive vegetable farming. After harvest, sheep are released into the fields to graze on the vegetable residues. The objective of the study was to assess the plastic contamination in agricultural soil in Spain and the ingestion of plastic by sheep. Therefore, three research questions were established: i) What is the plastic content in agricultural soils where plastic mulch is commonly used? ii) Do livestock ingest the microplastics found in the soil? iii) How much plastic could be transported by the livestock? To answer these questions, we sampled top soils (0–10 cm) from 6 vegetable fields and collected sheep faeces from 5 different herds. The microplastic content was measured using density separation and visual identification. We found ~2 × 103 particles∙kg−1 in the soil and ~103 particles∙kg−1 in the faeces. The data show that plastic particles were present in the soil and that livestock ingested them. After ingesting plastic from one field, the sheep can become a source of microplastic contamination as they graze on other farms or grasslands. The potential transport of microplastics due to a herd of 1000 sheep was estimated to be ~106 particles∙ha−1∙y−1. Further studies should focus on: assessing how much of the plastic found in faeces comes directly from plastic mulching, estimating the plastic degradation in the guts of sheep and understanding the potential effects of these plastic residues on the health of livestock.

How to cite: Beriot, N., Peek, J., Zornoza, R., Geissen, V., and Huerta Lwanga, E.: Low density-microplastics detected in sheep faeces and soil: A case study from the intensive vegetable farming in Southeast Spain, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7376,, 2021.

Polymer type and UV-treatment influence the first week of biofilm development in Caribbean sublittoral waters 
Maaike Goudriaan, Harry Witte, Sanne Vreugdenhil, Maartje Brouwer, and Helge Niemann
Jens Murawski, Jun She, and Vilnis Frishfelds

Marine micro plastic is a growing problem, because of its ability to accumulate in the environment. Reliable data of drift patterns and accumulation zones are required to estimate environmental impacts on natural protected areas, spawning areas and vulnerable habitats. H2020 project CLAIM (Cleaning Litter by developing and Applying Innovative Methods) uses model based assessments to improve the knowledge on marine pathways, sources and sinks of land emitted plastic pollution. The assessment follows a systematic approach, to derive reliable emission values for coastal sources, and to model drift and deposition pattern of micro plastics from multiple sources: car tyres, cosmetic products. A 3D modelling tool has been developed, that includes all relevant key processes, i.e. currents and wave induced transport, biofilm growth on the particle surface, sinking and sedimentation. Core engine is the HBM ocean circulation model, which has been set-up for the Baltic Sea in high resolution of 900m. Multi-years-studies (2013-2019) were performed to evaluate seasonal drift pattern and accumulation zones. Highest micro plastic concentrations were found in coastal waters, near major release locations, but transport related offshore pattern can be found as well. These follow the major pathways of deeper sea transport, but are controlled by the seasonal dynamic of biofilm growth and sinking. We introduce the model and all relevant key processes. Seasonal drift pattern are discusses in detail. Validation results in the Gulf of Riga and the Gulf of Finland provide an overview of the quality of the model to predict the distribution of micro plastics. The study includes the assessment of mitigation scenarios, of 30% micro plastic load reductions. The impacts on the ocean levels of micro plastic concentrations are studied in detail.  



How to cite: Murawski, J., She, J., and Frishfelds, V.: Model based assessment of drift and fate of marine micro plastics in the Baltic Sea, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10026,, 2021.

Jessica Hurley, Jorg Hardege, Katharina C. Wollenberg Valero, and Simon Morley

Microplastics have been recognised as persistent marine contaminants and mounting evidence supports their designation as anthropogenic stressors to marine organisms. Despite the remoteness of Antarctica, microplastics contamination has been reported in every marine environment investigated in this area to date. Due to ocean currents and frontal systems, microplastics may become entrapped within polar regions and increase bioavailibilty to inhabiting fauna. Antarctic marine benthic invertebrates represent a research priority due to their sensitivity to change as well as contribution to ecological functioning and food webs. The current study investigated microplastics ingestion by the epifaunal, carnivorous polychaete Barrukia cristata and the infaunal, filter-feeding bivalve, Laternula elliptica. Animals were collected by SCUBA adjacent to Rothera research station, Adelaide Island. After digestion in 10 % potassium hydroxide (KOH) followed by filtration, microplastics ingested by individual animals were separated. Microplastics were then counted and characterised by shape, colour, size and polymer type by Micro-Fourier transform Infrared spectroscopy. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) was the most abundant polymer type, followed by polyacrylonitrile (PAN) and ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). Congruent to earlier reports, fibres were found to be the most abundant source of microplastics contamination. However, it must be highlighted that fragments were also recovered from the animals analysed. Results determined the current level of microplastics ingestion by two benthic marine invertebrates of different feeding strategies in coastal environments of the Antarctic Peninsula. These findings indicated the bioavailability of microplastics and highlighted the potential of trophic transfer throughout the Antarctic marine food web.

How to cite: Hurley, J., Hardege, J., Wollenberg Valero, K. C., and Morley, S.: In situ microplastics ingestion by Antarctic marine benthic invertebrates, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10252,, 2021.

Anna Sanchez-Vidal, Oriol Uviedo, Sara Higueras, Maria Ballesteros, Xavier Curto, William P. de Haan, Elisabet Bonfill, Miquel Canals, Ingrid Canales, Antoni Calafat, Andrea Comaposada, Paula Del Río, Xavi Ferrer, Helena Fos, Galderic Lastras, Martí Llorente, Ferran Martínez, Martí Ramírez, and Gines Pedrero

Research on microplastics has rapidly expanded in recent years and has led to the discovery of vast amounts of microplastics floating offshore in all main oceanic gyres and including the Mediterranean Sea. However, there is a lack of information from a few meters from the coastline where the largest plastic mass flux is suspected to occur. The reason behind is the general use of manta trawls towed by boats or research vessels to obtain samples, which hinders nearshore sampling. We have designed a manta trawl to collect samples in the nearshore from any type of recreational sports floating gear like kayaks, sailboats, rowing boats, windsurf boards and others. Data generated is comparable to that obtained with traditional scientific equipment towed from boats. During one year, starting from October 2020, 12 social, environmental and sports associations along the NW Mediterranean coast are acquiring scientific samples in the nearshore within the frame of two citizen science monitoring projects lead by the Spanish delegation of the non-governmental organization Surfrider Foundation Europe and the University of Barcelona. The projects represent a paradigm shift in microplastic research, allowing to fill the gap in knowledge of this transition coastal area, and actively involving citizens in the generation of new monitoring data (

Our results reveal that densities of floating plastics in the nearshore along the NW Mediterranean coast are on average similar to those found offshore. However, we observe high variability due to meteorological and oceanographic conditions (i.e. the occurrence of eastern storms). We also observe that whereas floating microplastics dominate offshore, greater proportions of mesoplastics and macroplastics dominate at the nearshore waters, especially in between the breakwaters in Barcelona city. Indeed, the breakwaters, that protect Barcelona beaches against wave action and coastal erosion, behave as plastic traps. This is an indication of the importance of the nearshore as a source of plastic fragments to the open sea and calls for increased research in this area.

How to cite: Sanchez-Vidal, A., Uviedo, O., Higueras, S., Ballesteros, M., Curto, X., de Haan, W. P., Bonfill, E., Canals, M., Canales, I., Calafat, A., Comaposada, A., Del Río, P., Ferrer, X., Fos, H., Lastras, G., Llorente, M., Martínez, F., Ramírez, M., and Pedrero, G.: Paddle surfing for science on microplastic pollution: a successful citizen science initiative, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10579,, 2021.

Lunch break
Chairpersons: Karin Kvale, Tim van Emmerik
Alicia Mateos-Cárdenas, Patricio Peñalver-Duque, and David León-Muez

Plastic pollution research and awareness activities have increased exponentially over the last decade, however not all citizen science activities are run with a degree of control assurance. Also, not many research projects include collaborations beyond academia or have set goals for the dissemination of results to specific non-academic stakeholders. Here, our project involves a range of collaborators from different disciplines, from the Irish academic sector to Spanish environmental NGOs and citizen scientists. Also, the project is funded by the US-based NGO Sustainable Ocean Alliance (SOA). We selected the natural area of Maro-Cerro Gordo Cliffs (southern Spain) as our sampling site due of its special status under Natura 2000. Despite this protection, previous monitoring work in 2019 identified heavily plastic polluted sites due to intensive agriculture activities in the area. Therefore, this project was designed as a citizen science initiative with a focus on (1) clean up and characterisation of litter from selected terrestrial and aquatic sites, both freshwater and coastal, and (2) an analysis of microplastics in stream and coastal waters. The main objectives of the project are to characterise the presence of litter and microplastics while working closely with citizen scientists, raising awareness and informing local authorities about the issue.


First sampling activities were carried out in December 2020. A second field trip is organised for February 2021. Citizen scientists were previously trained and always worked together under the supervision of a team member. Litter was collected following transects and using tracking apps (eLitter and MARNOBA). A total of 43 items were collected from stream transects whereas 59 items were collected in beach transects. Remarkably, 74% of litter collected in streams were plastic items, 12% were other materials, 9% was paper or cardboard and 5% was metal. Whereas in beach transects, 51% of the litter collected was paper or cardboard, 25% plastic, 10% metal and 14% other materials. Regarding microplastic sampling, 200 L of stream water and 50000 L of coastal water samples were collected using a filtration unit with a 45 µm pore size. The volume of filtered coastal water was significantly higher as it was collected from three kayaks for 30 minutes. Microfibres and fragments have been detected at both sites. Sample processing and polymer analysis is currently ongoing using FTIR. All protocols follow strict QA/QC guidelines including clean conditions and airborne contamination procedures.


Results from this project will be submitted for peer-review and also shared in the form of mid-term and final reports among local stakeholders including local environmental managers and SOA. Also, citizen scientists will take part of a workshop aimed at informing the general public. Therefore, the findings from this project are directly used to raise awareness through citizen scientists and informing local and international non-profit stakeholders. More specifically, lessons learned will be presented at EGU in the form of successes and challenges for discussion. It is imperative that, when feasible, high quality environmental research is carried out between cross-disciplinary collaborators in order to gather sound data while raising awareness and discussing solutions.

How to cite: Mateos-Cárdenas, A., Peñalver-Duque, P., and León-Muez, D.: Monitoring litter and microplastics in a highly polluted protected site of southern Spain: A research-based citizen science initiative, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-11182,, 2021.

Jack Buckingham, Cath Waller, Claire Waluda, and Clara Manno

Microplastics are ubiquitous in the global ocean and have even been found in remote polar environments, including in Arctic snowfall and Antarctic subtidal sediments. Levels in some areas of the Southern Ocean have been shown to be 100,000 times higher than predictions.

This is the first comprehensive survey of microplastic in the nearshore waters of South Georgia, a sub-Antarctic South Atlantic island noted for its biodiversity. Microplastic has been previously documented in resident populations of higher predators. This is likely to originate from their food, but the degree to which their prey is exposed to microplastics from background environments has yet to be examined.

Surface water samples were collected from 12 sites at 1km intervals around the accessible shoreline of the Thatcher Peninsula, South Georgia, including adjacent to the outflow pipes of the research station, King Edward Point (KEP). Additionally, samples were taken directly from: (i) outflow pipes at KEP and Grytviken (a nearby whaling station, occupied in summer), in order to determine the level of local input from anthropogenic wastewater systems; (ii) Gull Lake, a freshwater system isolated from oceanographic influence; and (iii) directly from falling snow to evaluate the potential risk of atmospheric transfer of microplastics via precipitation. Preliminary results using FT-IR spectroscopy have confirmed over 24,000 suspected anthropogenic particles/fibres as being microplastic. Microplastics were present in every sample, from every site and range in size from 0.05-3mm.

Here we present the following results:

  • 1) the amount of microplastic in the background environment to which local biodiversity is exposed and;
  • 2) the similarity between the microplastic profiles of an anthropogenic point source and the local environment.


How to cite: Buckingham, J., Waller, C., Waluda, C., and Manno, C.:  Microplastic in marine, nearshore waters of South Georgia: a study of background environmental levels of microplastic contamination, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-11667,, 2021.

Dušan Materić, Rupert Holzinger, and Helge Niemann

Plastic pollution in the marine environment has been identified as a global problem;  different polymer types and sizes have been detected across all marine regions, from sea ice to the equator and the surface to the deep sea. Previous works show that smaller size classes of plastic debris are more abundant, e.g. fragments <100 µm account for 86% of all plastics pieces in the southern North Sea. However, the large unknown is to quantify the fraction of marine plastics debris below the size-detection limit of commonly used techniques (e.g. µFTIR spectroscopy, LOD >10 µm), such as ultrafine, nanometre-sized plastic particles - nanoplastics. In this work, we used a novel Thermal Desorption – Proton Transfer Reaction – Mass Spectrometry (TD-PTR-MS) method suitable for chemical detection and identification of plastics in the nm range and analysed samples from the Wadden Sea, Netherlands. We tested different sample preparation strategies including direct measurement of seawater and pre-concentration using a cascade filtration over quartz fibre filters of different average mesh sizes (>2.7, >1.2, >0.7, >0.3 µm).

Our results show the presence of Polystyrene (PS) and Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in the fraction of small microplastics (e.g. <2.7 µm) and nanoplastics (<1 µm). The average mass concentration of our semiquantitative (highly conservative) measurements for PS nanoplastics was 0.8 µg/L indicating a substantial contribution of nanoplastics to the Wadden Sea’s total plastic’s budget. For example, considering the reported average of 27.2 microplastics in m3 of southern North Sea surface water, an average size of 100 µm, spherical shape and the density of 1 g/cm3 we calculate a tentative nanoplastics mass contribution of 38% compare to microplastics. Furthermore, we observed dynamic concentration changes of small microplastics and nanoplastics over time and water depth, and we are currently investigating if these are related to tidal currents, which are a strong forcing factor in the Wadden Sea.

How to cite: Materić, D., Holzinger, R., and Niemann, H.: Nanoplastics in the Dutch Wadden Sea, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12012,, 2021.

Victoria F. Scott, Jorg D. Hardege, and Katharina C. Wollenberg Valero

Plastic production has soared since the 1950s, with the last decade seeing an  increase of 43% from 250Mt (million tonnes) in 2009 to 368Mt in 2019. Plastics and their associated chemical congeners (variants of chemical structures) which enter the environment further exacerbate pollution within already contaminated ecosystems. In this study, we investigated the effect of plastic leachate on the common littoral marine hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus,  a species  at great risk from potential adverse effects of microplastics. The effects of  plastic additives released into the environment via microplastic leaching, and of contaminants adsorbed and accumulated onto the surface of microplastics on marine organisms is understudied. This study sought to (I) investigate whether plastic leachate has an effect on the respiration rate of hermit crabs and, (II) investigate whether plastic leachate has an effect on the foraging behaviour of hermit crabs. We found that within repeated measures design hermit crabs exposed to plastic leachate had different levels of oxygen consumption when compared to their control; with there being an increase or decrease dependent on the leachate type. This is potentially problematic due to high concentrations of microplastics along coastlines which may lead to impaired filtration within crustaceans resulting in lethality and reduced food intake.

How to cite: Scott, V. F., Hardege, J. D., and Wollenberg Valero, K. C.: The effect of plastic leachates on respiration and foraging behaviour in hermit crabs, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12313,, 2021.

Sofia Bosi, Göran Broström, and Fabien Roquet

Understanding the physical mechanisms behind the transport and accumulation of floating objects in the ocean is crucial in order to efficiently tackle the issue of marine pollution. The main sinks of marine plastic are the coast and the bottom sediment. This study focuses on the former, investigating the timescales of dispersal from the ocean surface and onto coastal accumulation areas through a process called "beaching" in the presence of Stokes drift. Previous literature have found that the Stokes drift can reach the same magnitude as the Eulerian current speed and that it has a long-term effect on the trajectories of floating objects. Two virtual particle simulations are carried out and then compared, one with and one without Stokes drift, named SD and REF respectively. Eulerian velocity and Stokes drift data from global reanalysis datasets are used for particle advection. Particles in the SD model are found to beach at a yearly rate that is almost double the rate observed in the Eulerian model. The main coastal attractors are consistent with the direction of large-scale atmospheric circulation (Westerlies and Trade Winds). Long-term predictions carried out with the aid of adjacency matrices found that the concentration of particles in the subtropical accumulation zone after 100 years is 10 times lower in the presence of Stokes drift. The results confirm the need to accurately represent the Stokes drift in particle models attempting to predict the behaviour of marine debris, in order to avoid overestimation of its residence time in the ocean and guide policies towards prevention and removal more effectively.

How to cite: Bosi, S., Broström, G., and Roquet, F.: The role of Stokes drift in the dispersal of North Atlantic surface marine debris, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12473,, 2021.

Denise Mitrano and Wendel Wohlleben

Numerous studies have made the ubiquitous presence of plastic in the environment undeniable, and thus it no longer comes as a surprise when scientists monitor the accumulation of macroplastic litter and microplastic fragments in both urban and remote sites. The presence of plastic in the environment has sparked considerable discussion amongst scientists, regulators and the general public as to how industrialization and consumerism is shaping our world. Restrictions on the intentional use of primary microplastics, small solid polymer particles in applications ranging from agriculture to cosmetics, are under discussion globally, despite uncertain microplastic hazards and prioritization amongst options for action. In some instances, replacements are technically simple and easily justified, but in others substitutions may come with more uncertainty such as significant performance questions and monetary costs. Scientific impact assessment of primary microplastics compared to their alternatives relies on a number of factors including, but not limited to, microplastic harm, existence of replacement materials, and the quality, cost and hazards of alternate materials. Here we assess the scope, effectiveness and utility of microplastic regulations with specific emphasis on the new definitions proposed by ECHA for restriction of primary microplastics under REACH. To this end, we aim to 1) provide a systematic orientation of the polymer universe, to appreciate which (micro)plastic characteristics are relevant, measurable and enforceable, 2) cluster specific uses of solid plastic to highlight how primary microplastic can add to issues of environmental pollution and human health, 3) evaluate drivers leading to regulations and their potential for enforceability and impact and 4) suggest priority cases where regulations should be focused and precision increased to incentivize innovation of sustainable materials and promote environmental health and safety. Regulations need a precise focus and must be enforceable by measurements. Policy must carefully evaluate under which contexts microplastic use may be warranted and where incentives to replace certain microplastics can stimulate innovation of new, more competitive and environmentally conscious materials. 

How to cite: Mitrano, D. and Wohlleben, W.: Microplastic regulation should be more precise to incentivize both innovation and environmental safety, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12732,, 2021.

P. Micaela Mafla-Endara, Pelle Ohlsson, and Edith Hammer

Terrestrial ecosystems are under threat due to the continuous accumulation of plastics in soils. Particularly, microplastics have been proven to negatively affect the performance of soil macrofauna such as earthworms, as well as soil mesofauna including springtails and nematodes. Unfortunately, two big groups remain largely unexplored: the soil microfauna and microflora.

Recent studies have shown that soil microbial community composition can significantly vary depending on the concentration and type of plastic, favouring some groups and disfavouring others. To have a better understanding of these relationships, it is necessary to study them at relevant scale: the microscale.

Considering that in situ observations are hard to achieve due to the opacity of soil and ever-changing soil architecture, we used transparent micro-engineered chips to study interactions between microplastics and soil microorganisms live. We hypothesized that different concentrations of microplastics interfere with a natural microbial community in terms of 1. Soil microbial colonization/succession of the chips and 2. Soil microbial growth inside the chips’ pore space.

We fabricated chips containing different microstructures that simulate soil pore spaces. The chips were bonded to a glass slide and one side was opened to allow microbial colonization. Each chip was filled with a mix of liquid nutrient medium and 1.0 µm polystyrene microbeads at microplastic concentrations of 0.0, 0.006, 0.001 and 0.0005 mg/ml. The chip´s opening was inoculated with 5 g of soil and incubated in the laboratory at room temperature for one month. We documented the presence/absence and abundance of different soil microbial groups changing over time by using an inverted microscope.

Our preliminary study reveals that larger microorganisms are sensitive to the presence of microbeads 1.0 µm size. We found that all major soil microbial groups (fungi, bacteria, and protists) and nematodes colonized the chips. However, their abundance was affected by the presence of microplastics, irrespective of the concentration. Particularly protists and nematodes were lower in number during the first days of the exposure. The beads were clearly visibly taken up into the cells of the protists or the digestive tract of the nematodes.

We are now investigating what consequences the lower abundance of certain soil microbial groups have for the soil food web. As seen here, micro-engineered chips are useful tools to provide visual access at the scale where most cell-to-cell interactions occur.

How to cite: Mafla-Endara, P. M., Ohlsson, P., and Hammer, E.: Real time interactions between soil microorganisms and microplastics at microscale, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13314,, 2021.

Sergei Fetisov and Irina Chubarenko

The problem of contamination of the shore of the Sambian Peninsula with marine anthropogenic litter is pressing and requires detailed study since it has a detrimental effect on the touristic and recreational activity of the region. Observations show that the most volumetric marine litter wash-outs to the beach take place after certain storms and are associated with abundant spots ofbiota (primarily branched Furcellaria lumbricalis). Such spots contain litter of anthropogenic origin, such as glass, paper, etc., along with macro and micro plastics. In this paper, meteorological and hydrophysical data were collected and analyzed in order to determine the most significant factors causing the wash-outs of anthropogenic marine litter to the shore of Sambian Peninsula. Both in-situ observations and reanalysis datasets were used for the analysis. It was revealed that the wash-out to the shore occurs during the storm subsiding phase, and the determining factors are significant wave height, wind speed and current velocity during the preceding storm.

Investigations are supported by the Russian Science Foundation, grant No 19-17-00041 and IKBFU competitiveness improvement program for 2016-2020 (project 5-100).

How to cite: Fetisov, S. and Chubarenko, I.: Analysis of the influence of storms on massive marine litter wash-outs to the shore of the Sambian Peninsula, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13603,, 2021.

Shreyas Patankar, Ekaterina Vassilenko, Mathew Watkins, Anna Posacka, and Peter Ross

Microplastic pollution in oceans is among the global environmental concerns of our time. Emerging research on ocean environments indicates that microfibers, such as those originating from textiles, are some of the most commonly occurring type of microplastic contaminants. While Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) is commonly used to identify and characterize pollutant samples obtained from the environment, this identification is challenging because infrared spectra of materials can be modified by exposure to the ocean, air, UV light, and other ambient conditions, in a process referred to as “weathering”. We report preliminary efforts in improving FTIR characterization of microplastics by building a library of infrared spectra of common textile fibers weathered under a selection of ambient conditions. Consumer textile materials including polyester, nylon, cotton, and other, were exposed to a selection of ambient conditions: ocean, air, and wastewater treatment stages, in a controlled weathering experiment. Infrared spectra were monitored for up to 52 weeks, with the resulting data illuminating on the environmental fate and longevity of synthetic and natural fibers. Spectral changes caused by weathering were found to depend strongly on both the composition of the material and the specific ambient conditions. This library of weathered material spectra is useful not only in easier identification of environmental microfibers, but also in helping us estimate the duration and manner of weathering that a given environmental microfiber may have experienced.

How to cite: Patankar, S., Vassilenko, E., Watkins, M., Posacka, A., and Ross, P.: Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy of Environmentally Weathered Textile Fabrics for Enhanced Microplastic Identification, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13702,, 2021.

Matthias Egger, Wouter Jan Strietman, Ulphard Thoden van Velzen, Ingeborg Smeding-Zuurendonk, and Laurent Lebreton

Citizen science programs and tracking applications have been used in the collection of data on plastic debris in marine environments to determine its composition and sources. These programs, however, are mostly focused on debris collected from beach cleanups and coastal environments. Large plastic debris currently afloat at sea, which is a significant contributor to marine plastic pollution and a major source of beach litter, is less well-characterized.

Transported by currents, wind and waves, positively buoyant plastic objects eventually accumulate at the sea surface of subtropical oceanic gyres, forming the so-called ocean garbage patches. It is important to know where the debris that persists in the offshore gyres is entering the ocean, where it is produced and what practices (commercial, cultural, industrial) are contributing to the accumulation of these debris into the ocean garbage patches. This information coupled to data on how long and well the plastics persevere at the sea surface is necessary for creating effective and efficient mitigation strategies.

Here we provide a comprehensive assessment of plastic debris afloat in the North Pacific Garbage Patch (NPGP). Offshore debris collected by The Ocean Cleanup’s System 001b from the NPGP in 2019 was analyzed using the Litter-ID method, which applies an adapted and expended version of the OSPAR guideline for monitoring beach litter. Our results reveal new insights into the composition, origin and age of plastic debris accumulating at the ocean surface in the NPGP. The standardized methodology applied here further enables a first thorough comparison of plastic debris accumulating in offshore waters and coastal environments.

How to cite: Egger, M., Strietman, W. J., Thoden van Velzen, U., Smeding-Zuurendonk, I., and Lebreton, L.: Characterizing plastic debris accumulating in the North Pacific Garbage Patch, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14369,, 2021.

Michael Grelaud and Patrizia Ziveri

With a coastal population of nearly 150 million inhabitants, the influx of freshwater from densely populated river catchments and a contribution to 30% of the global shipping activity, the Mediterranean Sea has been recognized as one of the world most affected areas by marine litter. Moreover, the countries surrounding the region yearly attract about one third of the world tourism. Taken together, these pressures make this semi-enclosed sea an accumulation zone for marine litter. This high contamination goes hand to hand with a stream of adverse effects to marine ecosystems, public health or socio-economic costs. The beaches are one of the main land-based sources for litter to enter the oceans. The Mediterranean Sea is not an exception as during the summer, the beaches are a hotspot for leisure. This is particularly true for the Mediterranean islands, which due to their attractiveness will host a far greater population during the summer. In this study we evaluate the seasonal variation of marine litter as an effect of tourism on sandy beaches of Mediterranean islands and we assess the effectiveness of pilot actions in order to reduce the amount of marine litter.

147 surveys were conducted in 2017 during both the low and high touristic season. For each of the eight participating islands (Mallorca, Sicily, Rab, Malta, Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes and Cyprus), three different beaches were selected: a touristic beach, a beach mainly used by locals and a remote beach. For each beach, a periodic monitoring was performed on the same fixed 100m portion. Here, any item found was collected, characterized and properly disposed of. We included the mesoplastics (0.5 – 2.5cm), large microplastics (0.1 – 0.5cm) and pellets (raw plastic material). In 2019, a monitoring of 11 of the selected beaches was conducted following the implementation of pilot actions (mainly awareness campaigns). To test their effectiveness, the results are compared to those of 2017.

Our results show that tourism in Mediterranean island beaches is a main driver of marine litter generation. Popular beaches (touristic and locals) are clearly the most impacted sites. Every day, during the high touristic season peak (July-August), visitors will leave (i.e.: cigarette butts, drink can, etc.) or generate (i.e.: MePs and MPs) 950 – 1190 items on every 100m of beach. This amount falls to 60 items for the remote beaches. At the region scale, we estimated that during July-August, visitors could be responsible for the accumulation of about 47.5 106 ± 13.5 106 items/day on the beaches of the Mediterranean islands.

The awareness campaigns is an efficient tool to reduce the amount of litter generated by visitors on the beaches. We observed an average decrease of 52.5% of the accumulation of the items abandoned by the visitors after the implementation of the pilot actions. These encouraging results probably benefit from the growing attention of the public to the plastic pollution issue. However, this reduction has a price: the average cost of the pilot actions for the whole high season would be of 111.6 k€ per km of beach.

How to cite: Grelaud, M. and Ziveri, P.: The generation of marine litter in Mediterranean island beaches as an effect of tourism and its mitigation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14421,, 2021.

Jagoda Worek, Anna Białas, and Katarzyna Styszko

At the end of the 1940s, mass production of plastics began. Since then, due to the very wide range of applications, a steady increase in their production has been observed. Anthropogenic activities have a significant impact on the natural environment. In this case, despite the knowledge of the problem, as early as the early 1970s, the harmful consequences continued to increase, and even if stopped immediately, their effects would last for centuries. In 2018, global production of plastics reached almost 360 million tonnes. The diverse use of plastics and low production costs mean that there are no other environmentally friendly alternatives that could replace them on a large scale. Therefore, it can be assumed that their production will continue to grow dynamically. The main hazard posed by the production of plastics is microplastic. These are plastic particles smaller than 5 mm. Research on microplastics in the environment is based mainly on diagnosing the problem in sea waters. Its concentration in soils is underestimated. The microparticles of plastics contained in the soil influence not only its structure or the ability to retain water, but also the organisms living in it. In the experiment, soil samples from the vicinity of a busy road in the city of Krakow, Poland, were examined. First, the samples were separated by density, and then the organic material was digested. The separated microplastics were analyzed both in terms of quantity and quality. Tests were carried out under the FTIR microscope, using the sensitive DRIFT method, and in the case of larger fragments, using ATR-FTIR. The results indicated the presence of a large fraction of microplastics, most often from tire abrasion.

How to cite: Worek, J., Białas, A., and Styszko, K.: Detection of microplastics in soil samples from the area of traffic route, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-14442,, 2021.

Isabel Jalon-Rojas, Alicia Romero-Ramirez, Kelly Fauquembergue, Linda Rossignol, Benedicte Morin, and Jerome Cachot

Understanding and predicting the transport and fate of microplastics (MPs) in aquatic systems is a complex research challenge due to the simultaneous effect of different physical processes and the large variability in MPs dynamical properties. The dynamical behavior of MPs is further complicated by the development of biofilms and weathering processes. However, the effect of these processes on the dynamical properties of MPs is not fully understood. This study aims to evaluate the effect of the particle properties and biofilm on the settling velocity of microplastic sheets and fibers under laboratory conditions. The experiments focus on two types of particles (polyethylene sheets and polyester fibers), of nine sizes (between 1 and 5 mm), two degrees of biological colonization (new and aged during 3 months in the ocean) and three replicas of each type of particles. Density, size, and shape indices were first quantified. The settling velocity was then estimated by image analysis in a sedimentation column with salt- and freshwater. The dynamical behavior of the two types of particles was very different. Interestingly, the settling velocity of sheets increased with size up to a threshold in both salt- and freshwater, from which particle swinging and drag force increased, and settling velocity decreased. The effect of biofilm was also complex, increasing or decreasing the settling velocity of sheets as a result of the combined effect of the enhanced density and the biofilm distribution that influences the particle swinging. The settling velocity of fibers was independent of their length. Biofilms increased densities but their impact on settling velocity increase is less evident due to the high variability of this property for the same type of fiber. The relevance of theoretical drag models to predict the settling velocity of pristine and biofouled particles in salt- and freshwater will be also evaluated.

How to cite: Jalon-Rojas, I., Romero-Ramirez, A., Fauquembergue, K., Rossignol, L., Morin, B., and Cachot, J.: Experimental assessment of settling velocity of pristine and biofouled microplastics , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15053,, 2021.

Hassan Elagami, Pouyan Ahmadi, Sven Frei, Martin Obst, and Benjamin Gilfedder

Plastics are among the most widespread contaminants on Earth. They build up in fresh water bodies with high concentrations and migrate between different environmental compartments. In thermally stratified lakes, in summer, MPs pollutants can migrate between epilimnion, metalimnion and hypolimnion. This increases the probability of that microplastic will be filtered by filter feeders allowing MPs to migrate through different trophic levels. In this study, the transport of MPs in lake systems is presented through laboratory experiments as well as numerical modelling. The settling velocities of various biodegradable and non-biodegradable particles with various shapes and sizes were measured in the settling column under laminar conditions using particle image velocimetry (PIV). The particles used ranged between 150 to 2400 µm in diameter. The experimental results presented that shape, size and density of a particle are the key parameters controlling the sedimentation behavior of the particles. The measured settling velocities ranged between 0.4 to 50 mms-1. In parallel, the transport of the particles used in the laboratory experiments was simulated using CFD. The laboratory experiments and CFD have shown consistent results. Subsequently, the same MPs used in the first lab experiments were incubated in a pond at the University of Bayreuth for 6, 8 and 10 weeks. The formation of biofilm on the incubated particles was investigated using confocal laser scanning microscopy. Also, the effect of biofouling of microplastics on the physical properties and thus settling velocity was investigated experimentally. It was observed that biofilm-building organisms has only colonized few regions on the surface of MPs and the whole surface was not coated with biofilm as it was anticipated. In addition, no changes in shape, size and density of the incubated were detected. After 6, 8 and 10 weeks of incubation, no significant change in the settling velocity of the incubated particles was observed. The detected changes in the settling velocity ranged between ± 5 % which was considered as a measurement error. Finally, the residence time in suspension and the distribution of MPs throughout a virtual lake water column was simulated using a simplified model. The effect of turbulences and the temperature gradient on the settling velocity were considered during the simulations. The model presented that turbulences, water temperature and layer depth control the settling velocity and thus the residence time of the MPs.

How to cite: Elagami, H., Ahmadi, P., Frei, S., Obst, M., and Gilfedder, B.: Laboratory and numerical investigation of the factors controlling the residence time of microplastics in the water column of thermally stratified lakes, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15301,, 2021.

Verena Meraldi, Tudor Morgan, Kai Sørensen, and Bert van Bavel

Plastics and microplastics are regularly found in the marine environment around the world. Currently, the spatial and temporal dynamics of microplastics in remote areas, including polar regions, are poorly assessed and only limited long-term data is available on occurrence. Long-term data series are required to address changes in abundances of microplastics including variations in spatial and temporal distribution as well as to understand the influence of, for example, different seasons, changing weather or hydrological conditions. But there is very little data from remote regions of the world(1) including the Arctic and Antarctic.

One approach is to use ships of opportunity ( to collect data over replicated transects: these include research vessels as well as commercial vessels and expedition cruise ships. Advances in technology enable assessment of microplastic abundance at large spatial scale using existing infrastructure in addition to the collection of oceanographic meta-data. As part of the Hurtigruten – NIVA collaboration, a microplastic sampling module and a marine monitoring system (Ferry Box) was fitted on Hurtigruten’s Expedition vessel MS Roald Amundsen. The science center in this expedition ship, where single use plastic has been removed from all areas, provides a lab facility for preliminary plastic analysis and also a place for interaction with the passengers and engagement in citizen science. During the first year of operation, NIVA and Hurtigruten have collected microplastic samples in the Arctic and the Antarctic for long time periods. In addition, as part of a citizen science project, data and samples have been collected during beach clean-ups in remote areas and analysed on board using a handheld NIR smartphone scanner directly linked to a NIVA cloud database.

Average levels of microplastic within the Arctic (1.8-10 n/m3) and Antarctic (1.8-4.6) are still relatively low and consist mostly of fibres. The levels found in the Arctic study were comparable with the results from Lusher et al. 2015 and recent work in the Russian Arctic. Cellulose and cotton-based fibres dominate in the Antarctic samples and polyester is the dominant polymeric fibre. A citizen science project involving a beach clean-up and the subsequent analysis of the samples collected was performed on board MS Roald Amundsen in the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. The results showed large amounts of fishery related material including several polymer-based ropes and net pieces but also plastic utensils, food wrapping and plastic bottles.

 (1)        GESAMP (2016). Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment: part two of a global assessment (Kershaw, P.J., and Rochman, C.M., eds). Rep. Stud. GESAMP No. 93, 220 p.

(2)         Lusher, A. L., Tirelli, V., O’Connor, I., and Officer, R. (2015). Microplastics in Arctic polar waters: the first reported values of particles in surface and sub-surface samples. Nature-scientific reports. 9 p.

(3)         Yakushev E., Gebruk A., Osadchiev A., Pakhomova S., Lusher A., Berezina A., van Bavel B., Vorozheikina E., Chernykh D., Kolbasova G., Razgon I., Semiletov I. Microplastics distribution in the Eurasian Arctic is affected by Atlantic waters and Siberian rivers. Communications Earth & Environment in press. DOI: 10.1038/s43247-021-00091-0

How to cite: Meraldi, V., Morgan, T., Sørensen, K., and van Bavel, B.: The use of expedition cruise ships and citizen science to bridge the gaps in plastic marine litter knowledge in remote areas. , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15307,, 2021.

Olivia Fauny, Marc Lucas, Claire Dufau, and Jean-Baptiste Voisin

The Indonesian archipelago is rated globally the second contributor to marine plastic litter pollution. This has driven the government in recent years to step up its efforts to combat plastic pollution, on land, in rivers and in the ocean. Indeed, although most of the plastic is disposed on land, lack of a systematic collection and processing network means that it often ends up rivers and ultimately into the seas. Heavy precipitation events during the Monsoon season exacerbate the problem by transporting massive amounts of plastic into rivers and hence into the coastal seas. Amongst the more recent initiative to combat the plastic litter issue, and with funding from the World Bankthe government of Indonesia has set up a program to track the movement of plastic through a hybrid observation & model approach and to determine the location of accumulation areas if any. The project deployed and tracked number of 20 Argos drifters over a year and set up a series of drift model simulation. As the project focuses on macro plastic, several types of macro-waste drifts have been modelized depending on their buoyancy by varying wind coefficient. Three river mouths were studied, located downstream from major populated areas. Results show that the dispersion and trajectory of particles vary depending on the source river, time of the year and meteoceanic conditions. For each river, accumulation areas were identified, concentring 38% to 90% of particles and all located on shore.  

How to cite: Fauny, O., Lucas, M., Dufau, C., and Voisin, J.-B.: Marine Litter in Indonesia –  Tracking macro-plastic from river mouths with Argos buoys and modelling, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15416,, 2021.

Nkeshimana Godeberthe, Jantiene Baartman, Michel Riksen, and Violette Geissen

Worldwide, there is intensive plastic waste accumulation in soil, agricultural fields, and water bodies. Focus has been on oceans and aquatic environments, but recently, plastic accumulation into terrestrial ecosystem is getting attention. In many sub-tropical countries plastic wastes are being buried or disposed in open landfills without proper environmental management. In Rwanda, despite efforts undertaken by the Government to control use of non-degradable plastic bags, plastic wastes dumped into open landfills continue to be redistributed within the landscape through soil erosion processes, which presents a risk of contamination of agricultural fields, water reservoirs and groundwater ecosystems. There is a strong lack of knowledge on possible pathways of (micro-) plastics into the terrestrial environment. This study identified and evaluated the use and source of plastic material in agricultural fields around landfills in three study sites in Rwanda: Kicukiro, Rwamagana, and Muhanga villages through survey  questionnaires. A total of 1,240 households (HHs) were surveyed. The Kicukiro landfill, near the capital, was established before 1994 and closed between 2011-2014, while the landfills of Muhanga and Rwamagana were established between 2006 and 2017. Results revealed that in rural areas (Muhanga and Rwamagana) most respondents do not use plastic bags (Muhanga 63% and Rwamagana 76.9%) compared to urban areas like Kicukiro where a high rate (64.3%) of respondents still use plastic bags, which were easily available from local (super)markets, according to 45.5% of the respondents. Most interviewees in all study sites ignore if the plastic materials that they are using are degradable or not. Results revealed also that the majority of respondents are aware of the impact of using plastic bags (Kicukiro: 77.6%; Muhanga: 60.5%; and Rwamagana: 62%), and they also confirmed that they would not use plastic bags even if the government would not punish people using these (Kicukiro: 78.8%; Muhanga: 74.8%; and Rwamagana: 81.8%).

Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to identify the most influential variables, and results revealed that respondents are aware of the impacts of using plastic bags on the environment with high significance. Furthermore, also a strong correlation was found between the study sites, and plastics wastes eroded during high rainfall events and causing environmental problems in surrounding areas located near the landfill. Results showed that the education level is correlated negatively to the use of plastics bags and the age of respondents. Environmental policies on plastic ban should be reinforced for improving the strategies of controlling plastic bags from neighboring countries to overcome the use of non-degradable plastic bags. There is a high need from the country to teach its population through differnt educational programs so that they can improve their level of knowledge and awareness and risks of using non degradable plastic bags. 

How to cite: Godeberthe, N., Baartman, J., Riksen, M., and Geissen, V.: Sources of macro and micro-plastics contamination of agricultural fields in Rwanda, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15455,, 2021.

Svetlana Pakhomova and Evgeny Yakushev

Contamination of the World Ocean by synthetic non-biodegradable material has become a high profile environmental concern. Standardized sampling methods and methods of plastic identification should be developed so that results can be fed into international monitoring strategies to map plastic distribution worldwide. Here we present results of studies carried out on a transect between Tromsø and Svalbard and from Montevideo to Antarctica performed with the same sampling procedure onboard Norwegian and Russian ships in 08.2019 and 01.2020 respectively. Microplastic sampling was carried out using a filtering system. Water passed through the system and SPM was collected on a metal mesh screens. All potential plastic particles and fibers were checked for polymeric identification using a PerkinElmer Spotlight ATR-FTIR. The level of confirmed microplastics ranged from 0 to 1.9 items/m3 (0.7 items/m3 in average) on a transect Tromsø-Svalbard and from 0 to 2.5 items/m3 (0.4 items/m3 in average) on Montevideo-Antarctica transect. Both data sets were represented by 40% of fragments and 60% of fibers. Polyester was found as the main polymer type for both transects, 46% of microplastics. Other found polymer types were different in the North and South Atlantic Ocean waters. Nylon (polyamide) was the next most common polymer type in South Atlantic which was not found in Northern part. Difference was also observed in higher number of stations without any microplastics in South Atlantic.

This work was partly funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment project RUS-19/0001 “Establish regional capacity to measure and model the distribution and input of microplastics to the Barents Sea from rivers and currents (ESCIMO)” and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research, research projects 19-55-80004.

How to cite: Pakhomova, S. and Yakushev, E.: Microplastics pollution in North and South Atlantic Ocean surface waters , EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-15851,, 2021.

Jan Rene Larsen, Jennifer Provencher, and Eivind Farmen

While the Arctic Ecosystem is already stressed by the effects of the climate crisis, another threat is emerging: plastics. Plastic pollution has become an environmental issue of the highest concern world-wide, and the plastic pollution tide is also rising in the Arctic.

The pristine Arctic environments, far from most of the world’s major industrial areas, are becoming laden with plastic pollution. Microplastics have been found in Arctic snow, sea-ice, seawater, in sediments collected on the ocean floor, and on Arctic beaches. Larger pieces of plastic debris are also making their way into the food webs as whales, fish and birds can ingest them or get entangled in them. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the amount of debris in the Arctic, via melting sea-ice and increasing contributions from human activities.

The Artic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) is a Working Group of the Arctic Council. AMAP has a mandate to monitor and assess the status and trends of contaminants in the Arctic. In the Spring of 2019, AMAP decided to step up its efforts on the plastic issue and established an Expert Group on microplastics and litter with experts from Artic Council States and Observer countries.

The Expert Group has developed a comprehensive monitoring plan and technical guidelines for monitoring microplastics and litter in the Arctic. It will be the first time that all parts of the Arctic ecosystem are examined for traces of this type of pollution. The Expert Group aims to:

  • Design a program for the monitoring of microplastics and litter in the Arctic environment.
  • Develop necessary guidelines supporting the monitoring program.
  • Formulate recommendations and identify areas where new research and development is necessary from an Arctic perspective.

How to cite: Larsen, J. R., Provencher, J., and Farmen, E.: Litter and Microplastics: Environmental monitoring in the Arctic, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16515,, 2021.