Plastic is everywhere!

Sundays are never fun-days.

But since my capstone is awesome, it turned out to be a not-so-bad day after all. I’m posting the titles of the articles I read today, with a little description of each, followed by a quick conclusion. I’ll be adding this info to my Plastic Debris on Beaches section tomorrow.


Marine debris review for Latin America and the Wider Caribbean Region: From the 1970s until now, and where do we go from here? (Juliana A. Ivar do Sul and Monica F. Costa)

  • A massive literature review comparing what was being found as far back as the 1970s until 2007. Very useful in that the author compiles all the sources into tables with distinct headings by region. Info on each source listed is paraphrased. *Still reading*

Floating marine debris in coastal waters of the SE-Pacific (Chile) – M. Thiel, I. Hinojosa, N. Vasquez, E. Macaya

  • Instead of observing beach debris, analyzed FMD off the coast of Chile. Found that most debris (consisting of mostly plastic) was located in the northern latitudes, corresponding to a larger human population, and in coastal waters near major port cities.

Marine Litter Monitoring Programmes – A Review of Methods with Special Reference to National Surveys (Gareth Rees and Kathy Pond)

  • Assessment of marine monitoring programmes in the UK, gives overview of different approaches, defines marine litter. Determines that beach surveys are the most inexpensive way to create a large-sample size, given that researchers and group organizations can take on large amounts of volunteers. Concludes with a statement regarding public awareness and a change in attitude as keys in reducing the amount of waste we see on beaches and at sea.
  • Raising public awareness and persuading a change in attitude is the only guaranteed way of reducing the amount of waste reaching the sea and littering the shores.

How much is a clean beach worth? The impact of litter on beach users in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa (Anna Ballance, Peter G. Ryan & Jane Turpie)

  • Using the interview survey method, researchers questioned 1,000 visitors to various beaches along the Cape Peninsula: locals, domestic tourists and foreign tourists. All said that they would be less likely (86%) to visit a beach if there were at least two items of debris per metre and even less likely to visit (96%) if there were >10 items per metre.

*Note* if anyone knows when this paper was published, could you let me know? I found this as a .doc file which was odd because most articles I’ve been finding are PDFs from a scientific journal…

Essentially, what I have learned is as follows:

  • It is extremely difficult to compare studies, as every survey is different. Some surveys only look at types of debris found, others look at weights, and still others will observe amounts.
  • Across the board, plastic was listed as the number one item found in any survey. Mostly household products, some fishing line and fragments (most general clean ups are biased towards larger pieces, due to the fact that small fragments that have lost their color are harder to see at first glance). The types also had to do with seasonality: during tourist season–summer months, more likely to see things like plastic bags, bottles, food containers.
  • Most of the debris was thought to have originated from land-based sources: wind-blown, untreated sewer water, etc…Anything having to do with fishing was associated with marine-based sources that had landed on the beaches by way of currents and wind-patterns.
  • When scientists realized there was a problem, the problem was greatly underestimated and has continued to get worse. Articles from the late 90s were showing survey data with plastic occupying the majority and this has not changed over time (problem has intensified).

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