Plastic Pollution in the World's Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea

Type Article
Date 2014-12-10
Language English
Author(s) Eriksen Marcus1, Lebreton Laurent C. M.2, Carson Henry S.3, 4, Thiel Martin5, 6, 7, Moore Charles J.8, Borerro Jose C.9, Galgani FrancoisORCID10, Ryan Peter G.11, Reisser Julia12
Affiliation(s) 1 : Five Gyres Institute, Los Angeles, California, United States of America
2 : Dumpark Data Science, Wellington, New Zealand
3 : University of Hawaii at Hilo, Marine Science Department, Hilo, Hawaii, United States of America
4 : Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington, United States of America
5 : Facultad Ciencias del Mar, Universidad Católica del Norte, Coquimbo, Chile
6 : Millennium Nucleus Ecology and Sustainable Management of Oceanic Island (ESMOI), Coquimbo, Chile
7 : Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA), Coquimbo, Chile
8 : Algalita Marine Research and Education, Long Beach, California, United States of America
9 : eCoast Limited, Raglan, New Zealand
10 : Institut français de recherche pour l′exploitation de la mer (Ifremer), Departement Océanographie et Dynamique des Ecosystemes, Bastia, Corsica, France
11 : University of Cape Town, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, Rondebosch, South Africa
12 : School of Environmental Systems Engineering and University of Western Australia, Crawley, Oceans Institute, Perth, Australia
Source Plos One (1932-6203) (Public Library of Science), 2014-12-10 , Vol. 9 , N. 12 , P. 1-15
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0111913
WOS© Times Cited 1788
Abstract Plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment, yet estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics have lacked data, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and remote regions. Here we report an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world's oceans from 24 expeditions (2007-2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea conducting surface net tows (N=680) and visual survey transects of large plastic debris (N=891). Using an oceanographic model of floating debris dispersal calibrated by our data, and correcting for wind-driven vertical mixing, we estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons. When comparing between four size classes, two microplastic <4.75 mm and meso- and macroplastic >4.75 mm, a tremendous loss of microplastics is observed from the sea surface compared to expected rates of fragmentation, suggesting there are mechanisms at play that remove <4.75 mm plastic particles from the ocean surface.
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Eriksen Marcus, Lebreton Laurent C. M., Carson Henry S., Thiel Martin, Moore Charles J., Borerro Jose C., Galgani Francois, Ryan Peter G., Reisser Julia (2014). Plastic Pollution in the World's Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea. Plos One, 9(12), 1-15. Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :