Marine plastic pollution is an ever-increasing problem that demands immediate mitigation and reduction plans. Here, a model based on satellite-tracked buoy observations and scaled to a large data set of observations on microplastic from surface trawls was used to simulate the transport of plastics floating on the ocean surface from 2015 to 2025, with the goal to assess the optimal marine microplastic removal locations for two scenarios: removing the most surface microplastic and reducing the impact on ecosystems, using plankton growth as a proxy.

Microplastic debris floating at the ocean surface can harm marine life. Understanding the severity of this harm requires knowledge of plastic abundance and distributions. Dozens of expeditions measuring microplastics have been carried out since the 1970s, but they have primarily focused on the North Atlantic and North Pacific accumulation zones, with much sparser coverage elsewhere. Here, we use the largest dataset of microplastic measurements assembled to date to assess the confidence we can have in global estimates of microplastic abundance and mass.

Plastic pollution in the ocean is a rapidly emerging global environmental concern, with high concentrations (up to 580,000 pieces per km2) and a global distribution, driven by exponentially increasing production. Seabirds are particularly vulnerable to this type of pollution and are widely observed to ingest floating plastic. We used a mixture of literature surveys, oceanographic modeling, and ecological models to predict the risk of plastic ingestion to 186 seabird species globally.