Studies suggest that trillions of microplastic particles are floating on the surface of the global oceans and that the total amount of plastic waste entering the ocean will increase by an order of magnitude by 2025. As such, this ever-increasing problem demands immediate mitigation and reduction. Diverse solutions have been proposed, ranging from source reduction to ocean-based cleanup. These solutions are most effective when guided by scientific evidence. A study published in Environmental Research Letters (Sherman and van Sebille 2016 Environ. Res. Lett. 11 014006) took a closer look at the potential effectiveness of ocean-based cleanup. They conclude that it will be most cost-effective and ecologically beneficial if clean-up efforts focus on the flux of microplastics from the coasts rather than in the center of the oceans where plastic accumulates in so called ‘garbage patches’. If followed, this example may become one of a series of examples where science has informed a solution to the complex problem of plastic pollution.
Chelsea M Rochman, Environemental Research Letters, , 23 March 2016