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Environ Sci Technol. 2017 Nov 7;51(21):12246-12253. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b02368. Epub 2017 Oct 11.

Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea.

Author information

1
Department of Hydrogeology, Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ , Permoserstrasse 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany.
2
Department of Environmental Engineering, University of Applied Sciences Weihenstephan-Triesdorf , Markgrafenstrasse 16, 91746 Weidenbach, Germany.
3
Department of Analytical Chemistry, Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ , Permoserstrasse 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany.

Abstract

A substantial fraction of marine plastic debris originates from land-based sources and rivers potentially act as a major transport pathway for all sizes of plastic debris. We analyzed a global compilation of data on plastic debris in the water column across a wide range of river sizes. Plastic debris loads, both microplastic (particles <5 mm) and macroplastic (particles >5 mm) are positively related to the mismanaged plastic waste (MMPW) generated in the river catchments. This relationship is nonlinear where large rivers with  population-rich catchments delivering a disproportionately higher fraction of MMPW into the sea. The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88-95% of the global load into the sea. Using MMPW as a predictor we calculate the global plastic debris inputs form rivers into the sea to range between 0.41 and 4 × 106 t/y. Due to the limited amount of data high uncertainties were expected and ultimately confirmed. The empirical analysis to quantify plastic loads in rivers can be extended easily by additional potential predictors other than MMPW, for example, hydrological conditions.

PMID:
29019247
DOI:
10.1021/acs.est.7b02368
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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