Combating Plastic Pollution in Our Seas

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From where, and just how much plastic debris can be found floating or submerged in our oceans? These macro-scale questions are exactly what scientists at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) at the University of California, Santa Barbara and their Australian colleagues are trying to answer. Their February 2015 study published in Science identifies over 20 major sources of plastic pollution in 192 coastal countries, and breaks it down by the numbers in millions of tons, and by the grocery bag, with in-depth computer models.

According to the researchers, the information could be used to improve waste managements systems, and even boost economies worldwide, when combined with local and cultural knowledge.

SEA scientists, as well as undergraduate students participating in the study abroad program, SEA Semester in Woods Hole, Massachusetts contributed to data collection in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans for the study. “Not only are students sailing to regions never before sampled for plastic debris on our newly expanded trans-Atlantic and South Pacific cruise tracks, but they are gaining a first-hand understanding of the human impact on the oceans,” said SEA President Peg Brandon.

Read more in the journal, Science.