RESEARCH IN ACTION: LEVERAGING MARINE DEBRIS DATA TO INFORM REDUCTION EFFORTS AND POLICIES

Session Chairs: Lauren Blickley, Swell Consulting; Megan Lamson, Hawaii Wildlife Fund

This session evaluates the role of marine debris research in supporting policies, programs, and clean up strategies to reduce local marine debris loads.

Increasingly, counties, states, and countries – particularly those in coastal areas – are turning to legislation and directed grassroots efforts to reduce marine debris inputs. The creation, though, of effective mitigation and removal actions requires an understanding of debris sources and loads. Collaborations and partnerships that arise from marine debris research are therefore proving increasingly important to informing and guiding these local marine debris efforts.

This session would evaluate the role of marine debris research in supporting policies, programs, and clean up strategies to reduce local marine debris loads. It would demonstrate how research has been effectively utilized to inform both removal and reduction efforts, and highlight the relevancy of marine debris studies to small- and large-scale mitigation programs and/or policies. The session furthermore aims to identify research gaps that would be helpful in supporting mitigation efforts, share best practices in terms of connecting science to policy action and education programs, and explore the role of opportunities such as citizen science to inform marine debris action.

The session would provide examples of applied marine debris research and publications that have informed both removal and reduction efforts.

 

Abstracts

 

LEVERGING MARINE DEBRIS DATA TO INFORM MARINE DEBRIS MITIGATION EFFORTS ON MAUI.

presenting: Lauren Blickley (Swell Consulting, United States); authors: Lauren Blickley (Swell Consulting, United States)

In recent years, Hawaii has been at the forefront of marine debris policies and reduction efforts. Both Maui and Oahu have bills that prohibit smoking on county beaches. In 2016, Hawaii also became the first state with a ban on single-use plastic bags when similar measures were passed at the county level on each island. Most recently, Maui and Hawaii counties have laws restricting the use of polystyrene foam to-go containers.

Though the successful passage of these policies is the result of many factors, local marine debris data has played an in increasingly important role in influencing marine debris legislation in Maui County. Scientific information about debris sources, loads, composition, and environmental impacts has helped to both frame the context of legislation and lend credible evidence for the passage of these bills. Comparing pre-/post-legislation data on specific debris items like plastic bags furthermore provides evidence of the role that legislation plays in reducing debris loads. This evidence is then used to inform marine debris legislation nationwide.

In addition to providing scientific support for legislation, debris data helps inform the efforts of NGO’s and government agencies. By identifying primary debris items and understanding drivers of debris deposition, Maui-based efforts to mitigate and remove debris have been increasingly targeted and, ultimately, more effective.

The successful collaborations between marine debris researchers and nonprofit organizations to advance marine debris policies and mitigation efforts on Maui demonstrates the importance of leveraging marine debris data to inform mitigation strategies.

 

Bans don’t stop cups: citizen science indicates that the ban of styrofoam cups resulted in the use of other types of cups

presenting: Chieh-Shen Hu (The Society of Wilderness, Taiwan); authors: Chieh-Shen Hu (The Society of Wilderness, Taiwan)

Taiwan is one of the countries with the highest recycling rate in the world, but the production and use of single-used food packaging is also very high. Takeout drinks are an increasingly popular item in Taiwan because Taiwan has a total of 27,000 tea shops, coffee shops and convenience stores, which sell about 1.5 billion disposable cups each year. There are six different types of disposable cups sold in Taiwan, each using different materials and forms to cater to the needs of the consumer. Each type is separately regulated by a national recycling fund system. In addition, one of the six types (the styrofoam cup) has been banned by one regional government because of local environmental initiatives. In order to examine the effectiveness of the policies regulating these cups, two NGOs conducted a preliminary citizen science survey focused on the abundance and composition of beached disposable cups in different cities in 2016. The results showed that the regional ban has reduced the local styrofoam cup on the beach in the short term, but has simultaneously increased the use of several other cup types, and it also stimulated the industry to produce a new type of composite material cup which may be more difficult to recycle. This result suggests that a ban on a single type of cup (in this case styrofoam) does not necessarily reduce the overall amount of single-use packaging within the industry. From a long-term or national policy perspective, it could be more effective to change the consumption patterns, redesign recycling incentives, and enhance the extended producer responsibility.

 

Characterizing microplastics in the San Francisco Bay and adjacent National Marine Sanctuaries to inform regional policy recommendations

presenting: Carolynn Box (5 Gyres, United States); authors: Carolynn Box (5 Gyres, United States), Meg Sedlak (San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI)), Sutton Rebecca (San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI)), Marcus Eriksen (5 Gyres), Diana Lin (San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI)), Anna Cummins (5 Gyres), Alice (Xia) Zhu (University of Toronto), Chelsea Rochman (University of Toronto)

One of the goals of the San Francisco Bay Microplastic Project is to characterize microplastics in a variety of media to determine sources, pathways, loadings, and processes leading to microplastic pollution in the San Francisco Bay and adjacent Cordell Bank, Greater Farallones and monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries; this information will be used to develop scientifically robust policies and build off of past scientific efforts that influenced statewide and national legislation banning plastic microbeads in personal care products. A limited field staff collected stormwater runoff, wastewater effluent, receiving waters, fish and sediment, all of which were analyzed for microplastic. Sample sites were selected based on population density, known hotspots and ambient conditions, and were geographically distributed. The results of this study will be incorporated into a regional ocean model to determine spatial distributions. Guided by the research results, the project will bring together key policy experts in the field to develop recommendations on data-driven source reduction and communicate these recommendations to stakeholders, policy makers and the general public.

 

How land-use and hydrology characteristics affect microplastic contamination and distribution in subwatersheds of Lake Ontario

presenting: Jelena Grbic (University of Toronto, Canada); authors: Jelena Grbic (University of Toronto, Canada), Paul Helm (Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change), Chelsea Rochman (University of Toronto)

Canada has been making progress with microplastics regulation, enforcing a ban on the manufacturing of microbeads for personal care products. To continue informing policy, scientists in the province of Ontario are actively investigating urbanized regions within the Lake Ontario Watershed for microplastics. In this study, we collected grab water samples of wastewater treatment plant effluent, storm water, agriculture, and lake surface water onto 10um polycarbonate filters to identify microplastics across varying sources and at smaller size classes than regularly investigated. The type and abundance of microplastics will be determined using microscopy and Raman micro-spectroscopy, and their relationship to watershed attributes will be assessed using regression models. We expect that watersheds with higher percent urban land cover and population density, and a greater number of end-of-life vehicle yards, landfills, wastewater treatment plants and plastic industry will have a higher abundance of microplastics. Discerning the types of microplastics found in relation to the watershed features, hydrology, and activities will enable policy makers to target the sources of microplastics in urban watersheds that lead into lakes and oceans, mitigating potential harm to both freshwater and marine waters and wildlife.

 

Paradise Trashed? Understanding the types and sources of marine debris in French Polynesia as a means of assessing local mitigation strategies

presenting: Krista Verlis (Macquarie University, Australia); authors: Krista Verlis (Macquarie University, Australia), Scott Wilson (Macquarie University)

Marine debris is a significant issue across the globe, but no formal data existed on levels in French Polynesia. This multi-island nation is known for its picturesque beauty and diversity of marine life, including over 600 species of coral. Like many other South Pacific nations, tourism is an important economic resource with marine debris having the capacity to negatively impact on this critical industry. Thus, increased knowledge of the sources, types and extent of recovered marine debris can lead to more informed management of this ecologically sensitive area. Our study assessed baseline levels of macro- and micro-sized marine debris loads on beaches and ingestion of marine debris by sea cucumbers on the more populous islands of Moorea and Tahiti. Many sites on both islands were classed as ‘extremely dirty’ or ‘dirty’ based on the Clean Coast Index (>1 item/m2). Land-based sources of marine debris were the most common, with stormwater/local source being the greatest contributor (37%), followed by land-based tourism (18%) and recreational boat/yachts (17%). Unsurprisingly, plastics dominated recovered marine debris (72%), with glass (10%) and metal (8%) the most common non-plastic items. Beverage containers and associated items, such as caps were commonly recovered. Limited abatement measures to reduce marine debris loads have been implemented locally. Based on the collected debris data the efficacy of the existing programs will be discussed and recommendations for improvements suggested.

 

Solid waste in coastal cities: an initial assessment on the transboundary role of tourists

presenting: Marina Ferreira Mourão Santana (James Cook University, Australia); authors: Marina Ferreira Mourão Santana (James Cook University, Australia), Andrea Lima de Oliveira (University of São Paulo, Oceanographic Institute), Elisa V. S. Menck (Costa Brasilis Institute), Caiuá M. Peres (University of São Paulo, Oceanographic Institute), Turra Alexander (University of São Paulo, Oceanographic Institute)

Generation of solid waste is one of the major impacts of tourism economy in coastal areas. Thus, understanding the production and discharge of solid waste by tourists can help coastal management strategies related to marine debris. In this study, 30 tourists (second home owners and users) and residents of Maranduba Beach (Ubatuba-SP, Brazil) were interviewed regarding: the amount of solid waste they produce (in average per week); the destination they give to it; and the drivers for these habits. Tourists were also questioned about their habits at their local cities. Based on results, tourists produce more debris (recyclable or not) than local community. Also, most of the tourists (67%) dot not separate recyclable items when on vacation, contrasting with their habits at home, where 80% separate recyclable waste. According to them, this behaviour is driven be either the absence of an efficient system for selective waste collection, the lack of communication about public services, and/or the lack of personal engagement. However, local people also mentioned lack of information about public waste management services. As an alternative, 46.67% of tourists count on waste pickers to better dispose wastes such as cans and PET bottles. Nevertheless, for most of the visitors, “reduce consumption” and “reuse materials” were not considered individual actions towards good practices of waste management when on vacation. Differently, most of local people recognize the importance of reusing materials and decreasing consumption. Results suggest that tourism activity increases waste generation in coastal destinations and that deficiencies in public services and/or lack of engagement of tourists hinder the efficiency of waste management. Together these factors raise the risks related to the generation marine debris in coastal areas.