The Chemistry of Plastic Marine Debris

Session Chairs: Chelsea Rochman, University of Toronto; Sang Hee Hong, Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology; Won Joon Shim, Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology; Jennifer Lynch, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Hideshige Takada, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology; Hrissi Karapanagioti, University of Patras

This session will include laboratory and field research studies related to chemistry of plastic marine debris, including topics such as chemical characterization and weathering of plastic debris, chemical detection and quantification methods, and the fate of additives or accumulated ambient chemicals.

Plastic makes up the majority of marine debris. Plastics are synthetic polymers with diverse molecular structures. When they enter the environment, plastic undergoes physical, chemical and biological weathering which decreases its size via fragmentation and alters its original shape, chemical composition and surface characteristics. As such, chemical techniques are used to measure several variables related to plastic debris. Plastic particles in the micro- and nanometer scales are difficult to identify and quantify, and thus chemical techniques such as Raman and FTIR have become critical. Because plastics in the marine environment are made up of several types of polymers with diverse additive chemicals, chemistry techniques are used to identify and quantify the fate of chemicals from manufacturing.

For example, leaching of additive chemicals is facilitated by plastic fragmentation. Moreover, it is well known that plastics accumulate organic and metal pollutants from ambient seawater, including priority pollutants that have been banned for decades (i.e., PCBs and DDT). Scientists have used modeling, laboratory experiments and field research to help answer questions about how chemicals accumulate onto plastics, leach from plastics and affect organisms. For example, studies suggest the transfer of toxic chemicals (PCBs, PBDEs, and phthalates) from marine plastics to biota that ingest plastics can occur. This session aims to highlight studies that focus on: 1) analytical methods to detect, identify, and quantify synthetic polymers, including particles from the nano- to the macro-scale, in complex environmental media including sewage, sediments, and biological tissue, 2) physiochemical characterization of plastics, 3) weathering and fragmentation of plastic debris, 4) the fate of additive chemicals, monomers and oligomers in aquatic habitats and animals 6) the fate of sorbed contaminants in aquatic habitats and animals, and 7) toxicological effects of chemicals associated with plastic debris in marine organisms.


Effects of microplastics on fish and invertebrates

Session Chairs: Chelsea Rochman, University of Toronto; Matthew Cole, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

This session focuses on new experimental evidence regarding the impacts of microplastics on fish and invertebrates in aquatic ecosystems.

Microplastic pollution has been identified in habitats and animals, in both freshwater and marine ecosystems, from all over the world. Microplastics contaminate every level of aquatic foodchains, from the smallest zooplankton to the largest vertebrates. This begs the question: how does microplastic impact animals that become contaminated via ingestion or absorption? The weight of evidence regarding impacts is rapidly increasing. This session aims to highlight new findings that demonstrate the effects that microplastic (and associated co-contaminants) can have upon fish and invertebrates. This session will highlight both field and laboratory research investigating how microplastic exposure can affect fish and invertebrates at multiple levels of biological organization. Scientific presentations in this session will contribute novel findings, work to close some of the key research gaps relating to plastic pollution, and address topics relevant to policy change.


Microfibers: Taking action on what is known, prioritizing research on the unknown

Session Chair: Nicholas Mallos, Ocean Conservancy

This session will focus on microfibers in marine environments with a focus on the latest science, research priorities, and current and potential solutions to mitigate the problem.

Marine debris from microfibers is increasingly gaining the attention of the news media, environmental NGOs and scientists. Microfibers have been reported in rain and aquatic habitats (both freshwater and marine) across the globe. In some instances, they are the most common type of marine debris found in habitats and inside animals including fish and shellfish purchased from public fish markets. Science confirms that laundering textiles is one important source of fiber emissions, demonstrating that microfibers are released from clothing during washing and enter wastewater via washing machine effluent. Despite increased attention on microfibers, our understanding of the emissions, fate and toxicity of microfibers is relatively limited. However, our current understanding suffices to warrant action. With the appropriate multi-stakeholder approach, we can collaborate to not just talk about microfiber contamination, but actually begin to mitigate it. This panel will bring leaders from academia, conservation, and the textile and/or apparel industries to lay out the background of the issue, define future research priorities, and discuss solutions to this emerging debris threats to ocean health


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.


Approaches to Ecological and Public Health Risk Assessment from Marine Debris and Microplastic Exposure

Session Chairs: Britta Denise Hardesty, CSIRO; Chris Wilcox, CSIRO; Beth Polidoro, Arizona State University

This session provides practitioners, community groups, businesses, government agencies and scientists with different tools and approaches to assess ecological and public health risk from exposure to marine debris, including microplastics.

Understanding plastic pollution from a systems perspective requires a way of conceptualizing sources, distribution and dynamics in the environment; identifying or quantifying impacts on wildlife, humans and other assets; and identifying and evaluating potential management responses. The uncertainties in our knowledge and the difficulty in resolving them satisfactorily can be challenging, given that we are confined to working with largely observational data because experiments at scale are difficult or impossible. To advance our understanding of the risk posed by anthropogenic debris, we suggest applying a conceptual framework that allows us to break the components into smaller parts that not only integrates uncertainty but also connects variables of interest to outcomes in which we are focused.

In a regulatory context, risk assessments are often the first step in developing pollutant regulations, improved resource management, and policies to protect ecological and human health. Given the exponential growth of research and monitoring in marine debris and the potential for toxicological or other adverse impacts, approaches to assess ecological, economic, biodiversity and public health risk are needed to encourage science that can underpin sound policy decision making, as well as to identify critical areas for restoration and research.

The proposed session will bring together a variety of speakers representing academia, government agencies, and conservation organizations to provide a diversity of perspectives, tools and approaches to assessing risk. Topics will include quantitative and qualitative approaches to risk assessment, demonstrated through research and case studies. Methods and tools that are especially useful in data-poor regions will be highlighted, in addition to more refined, or probabilistic methods for use in areas where more data are available.


Plastic Debris Pollution in Freshwater Environments of the World

Session Chairs: Patricia Corcoran, University of Western Ontario; Sarah Lowe, NOAA Marine Debris Program; Lorena Rios-Mendoza, University of Wisconsin-Superior

This session will gather experts in the field of freshwater plastic debris research to discuss and outline the current state of knowledge, share lessons-learned on techniques and challenges in freshwater systems, and educate the wider marine debris community about upstream effects.

Distribution and impacts of plastic pollution and other marine debris have been well documented in the world's oceans and marine ecosystems. Researchers have only recently begun to explore the abundance and impacts of plastic debris in freshwater environments, including lakes, tributaries, effluents, and their associated sediments. Although there are similarities between plastics in marine and freshwater environments, recent research suggests that marine-specific protocols and results may not be entirely relevant to freshwater systems, especially in regard to debris size, toxicology pathways, and the role of wind and currents in debris distribution. Plastic particles, whether large or small, have the potential to cause environmental and human health consequences. In addition, the lack of harmonization of analytical methodologies from sampling to analysis hinder the comparison of existing quantitative results.

This session will gather experts in the field of freshwater debris research to discuss and outline the current state of knowledge, share lessons-learned on techniques and challenges in freshwater systems, and educate the wider marine debris community about upstream effects. Plastic debris has been identified on every continent, including Antarctica, and thus, the global scope of the issue will attract speakers from numerous countries. The pervasiveness of plastic and its use on a global scale will incite members of the research community, government and not-for-profit organizations to attend the conference. The session will be an appropriate companion to concurrent oceanic and other marine-focused sessions. Following the conclusion of the session and conference, chairs will develop a summary paper of the current state of research in freshwater environments to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.


The risks of marine debris mega-pulse events: Lessons from the 2011 Great Japan Tsunami

Session Chairs: Cathryn Clarke Murray, Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Alexander Bychkov, North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES)

This session is dedicated to researchers and managers working on large-scale marine debris issues. This session will highlight many novel advances, applications, and lessons learned from Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris study in the North Pacific that can be used elsewhere.

 The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 2011 resulted in a unique mega-pulse marine debris event that became the subject of many long-term intensive research programs around the North Pacific Ocean. In addition to the sheer magnitude of this event, Japanese Tsunami Marine Debris (JTMD) became an important vector for many Japanese species to reach the shorelines of North America and Hawaii.

This session will focus on exciting advances in marine debris research that have arisen from efforts to characterize and understand JTMD behavior, including higher resolution ocean modeling of marine debris movement, the development of novel surveillance and monitoring tools for marine debris landfall and accumulation, and the application of bioforensics and risk assessments to determine the potential threats from exotic species transported by long-lasting anthropogenic rafts. Although tsunamis and other large-scale natural disasters will remain difficult to predict, lessons learned from the research arising from the 2011 Great Japan Tsunami provide a framework for other mega-pulse events, including predicting the potential fate and impacts associated with the sudden appearance of huge debris fields in the ocean, that can inform management decision-making or policy development around marine debris.

It is estimated that the human population will to grow by 2 billion people over the next 25 years, with approximately 40% living within 100 km of the world’s coastlines, suggesting the amount of anthropogenic material available for ocean-entry will rise significantly in the coming decades. In turn, global climate change is already affecting the frequency and scale of storm activity, including hurricanes, typhoons, and monsoons, which increases the probability and magnitude of future mega-pulse debris events. This session welcomes submissions related to JTMD and other mega-pulse debris events. Further, the trans-oceanic movement of species on marine debris is an emerging issue in invasion research, and submissions on this are also welcome.


Marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea

Session Chairs: Francois Galgani, French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER); Tatjana Hema, UN Environment Barcelona Convention Secretariat

This session is dedicated to scientists, stakeholders, institutions and managers to present and discuss their results from research and monitoring marine litter in the Mediterranean Sea and propose or discuss reduction measures in the framework of the Mediterranean Regional Action Plans.

Because of large cities, rivers and shore uses, some of the largest amounts of Municipal Solid Waste that are generated annually per person (208 – 760 kg/Year), because of tourism and intense fishing, 30% of the world’s maritime traffic, a closed basin, and insufficient infrastructure to process the wastes, the Mediterranean sea has been described as one of the most affected areas by marine litter in the world. As a consequence, densities were found to reach over 100,000 items per square kilometer of seabed and over 64 million particles per square kilometer in the Levantine basin. For the whole Mediterranean basin, it was predicted that, without management measures, the amount of plastic dumped may raise by a factor of more than 2 before 2025. Research also demonstrated the importance of hydrodynamics and the environmental impact of plastic at sea that include entanglement, ingestion, the rafting of species, social and economic harm.

While Mediterranean countries have shown important willingness to monitor and manage marine litter, still no regular monitoring is in place, most of the times experimental, with very little coverage of any marine compartment other than beach and stranded debris. There, the main groups of items are related to coastal-based tourism, recreation and the fishing and shipping industries. Then, the most effective measures and actions taken should respond to the major sources and input pathways, and also take into consideration feasibility and the specificity of this pollution in the Mediterranean Sea.

Number of key questions will have then to be considered in order to provide a scientific and technical background for a consistent monitoring, a better management system, and science based reduction measures. Further implementation of monitoring and measures is being considered within the UN Environment/MAP Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean, and in the lesser extent, the Marine strategy framework directive (MSFD), for EU countries. For the Mediterranean Sea, there is no unique/harmonized intervention, and the choice of an appropriate intervention is case specific, largely depending on the source and nature of pollution, country’s institutional characteristics and infrastructure, and the economy's sectorial composition. This will need more coordination and exchange of information to better implement the possible instruments to reduce marine litter.

In the context of the 6IMDC, the session will provide a forum to enable the presentation of updated results from research and monitoring, identify research needs of knowledge, support monitoring and management of marine litter. This will also enable exchange among the parties and scientist or managers from other basins and finally coordinated actions to reduce marine litter.


The Importance of Oceanic Subtropical Gyres as Debris Accumulation Zones and How They Affect Ocean Life

Session Chairs: Captain Charles Moore, Algalita Marine Research and Education; Shelly Moore, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) 

This session is focused on how persistent marine debris accumulates in oceanic gyres and is affecting marine organisms and community structures. This is key to continuing the discussions of what can be done to alleviate the increased debris accumulation stress.

The movement of debris from land-based sources, as well as debris input from the ocean-based fishing industry into oceanic current systems have been shown to result in the accumulation of marine debris in subtropical gyres. Subtropical gyres serve essential roles as nursery areas for many pelagic species, including sea turtles. The accumulation of persistent plastic debris in these areas serves to skew the species distribution. Species that utilize the available and accumulated debris will find these conditions to be favorable, whereas others will not. Modelling in these areas show how the debris moves with the oceanic currents into the gyre accumulation areas. In addition, monitoring by organizations, such as the Algalita Marine Research and Education, has documented substantial increases in the quantity of debris in an area known as the "Eastern Garbage Patch". This area has been shown to be a heavy accumulation zone within the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Recent surveys in this area have shown that certain coastal species such as sea anemones are increasing in these areas. The accumulation of debris in subtropical gyres also effects foraging opportunities for seabirds, such as the Albatross. Analysis of the stomach contents of Laysan Albatross on Midway and Kure atolls show that bottle caps are the most common debris item.

These examples show how much work remains to be done to address the changes in species composition and survival in areas of high debris accumulation. With the recent monitoring in remote areas of the Artic showing the presence of persistent marine debris, this problem has been elevated to even more of a global scale, with clear international implications. The Sixth International Marine Debris Conference is a perfect forum for continuing the discussions on how to address this significant environmental problem. The goal of this session will be to bring together those doing research in these areas, not to just report on the research, but also to strategize moving forward to develop methodologies and recommendations for actions and solutions to address and solve this overarching problem.


What, Why and How: Using Research to change Littering and Recycling Behaviors

Session Chairs: Cecile Carson, Keep America Beautiful; P Wesley Schultz, California State University

This session is focused on behavior scientists, researchers, community leaders, NGOs, local government, and the general public who are interested in learning more about why people litter and ways to address the issue.

 Like many social problems, litter and marine debris is caused by human behavior.  Whether intentional or accidental, litter begins with the individual.  Given the social, economic, and environmental problems that result from litter, numerous interventions have been developed, implemented, and evaluated.  Yet despite these efforts, litter continues to be a problem.    In an effort to go beyond the typical self‐report measures used to study littering behavior, our research includes observations of individuals in a diverse sample of public locations. With regard to general littering, our statistical analyses revealed several important predictors. In addition to our systematic observations of disposal behaviors, Keep America Beautiful randomly selected locations where we conducted intercept interviews with the observed disposers. The goal was to obtain a small, representative sample of individuals and to link the responses from our intercept interview to the observed disposal behaviors. At each of the selected intercept locations, individuals who had been observed disposing (either properly or improperly) were approached to take part in a face‐to‐face survey.

A combined set of strategies is necessary to address the issues to end littering and improve recycling. For over 40 years, Keep America Beautiful has used a Behavioral Methodology to identify littering behaviors and implement and evaluate strategies that change littering behaviors. A Behavioral Advisory Council consisting of academic and cultural experts began a refresh and relaunch of the original model. During this session, researchers and in-field practitioners will share current research to address the behaviors and strategies and methods to encourage proper disposal and reduce waste.                                 

Topics of discussion will include but not be limited to: community appearance and value of consistent and ongoing community clean‐up activities convenience to containers - clean‐up efforts in the absence of infrastructure  changes are likely to produce effects that are short‐lived; role for awareness and motivation campaigns - Ad Council, local messaging and signages using research from the I Want to Be campaign targeting recycling and plastic recycling specifically; review of 2016 recycling attitudes and behavior survey to determine the value individuals place on recycling and convenience


Transport and fate of marine debris in the ocean and shelf-seas: theory, modeling and observations

Session Chairs: Erik van Sebille, Utrecht University; Kara Lavendar Law, Sea Education Association

This session focuses on how ocean waves and ocean currents move around the world. It also looks how does this transport impact the fate and transport of marine debris in the ocean.

After plastic debris enters the ocean, its distribution is to a large extent determined by the ocean circulation; in particular waves and current. Knowing how and where marine debris is transported by the ocean is key to understanding its fate and impact on marine ecosystems. Oceanographic phenomena that impact the transport and dispersion of marine debris occur on a large range of scales, from thousands of kilometers for the Ekman convergence in the subtropical gyres to a few centimeters for the Stokes drift by individual surface waves. The way that these different phenomena affect the dispersion of marine debris, and how this leads to the emergence of patchy accumulation regions and ‘hotspots’, is a major knowledge gap.

In this session, we invite presentations on advances in the theory and modelling, possibly supported by observations, of marine debris of all sizes and materials. Topics include but are not limited to:

-The stirring of buoyant debris due to turbulence, in particular in the mixed layer.

-The transport of plastic in coastal seas, from the surf zone to the open ocean.

-The effects of Stokes drift, Langmuir circulation, and other (nonlinear) wind effects on the transport of debris.

-The effects of fragmentation, degradation, bio aggregation and biofouling on the evolution of the buoyancy of debris particles.

-The movement and transport of debris in the water column and/or on the sea floor.

-Development of and comparison between tools and software to simulate the dispersion of debris.


Big Data: Making meaning from land and sea observations

Session Chairs: Marcus Eriksen, 5 Gyres Institute; Win Cowger, UC Riverside

This session looks at merging the many data-sets of plastic debris on land and on the sea as a monumental challenge. In doing so, the data-sets allow for richer questions about source, sink, distribution and trends. This session will appeal to an audience interested in citizen science, as well as modelers of distribution patterns of debris on land and sea.

 In this session will bring together marine debris practitioners to discuss their data collection process and lessons learned to improve comparability and utility on regional and international scales. We will focus on new advances and data synchronization. Here we aim to bring together the many data sets on land and sea that document plastic pollution. Globally the public, private, nonprofit and education sectors overlap in their efforts to document observations of plastic pollution, from nano to macro, in marine environments and on land, using varied methods.

At sea we use nets, filtered pumps, and sea surface or seafloor visual observations. On land, surveys of beaches, roads, streams, as well as waste characterizations of litter conducted by municipalities, create rich data sets. There are many organizations, universities and government agencies, like NOAA, The Great Nurdle Hunt, SEA Education, Living Lands and Waters, SCCWRP, EOA, and Keep America Beautiful that have developed litter surveys. The Ocean Conservancy, Litterati, and Marine Debris Tracker have created mobile apps to engage the public in data collection. Many environmental NGOs, like Surfrider, Coastkeeper and 5 Gyres, have created their own data sets. The sum of these efforts is tremendous data, but there are challenges in content and comparability. How do we put it all together and make sense of it? To answer, a group from the Alfred-Wegener-Institute, created LITTERBASE, a pool of academic research on plastic pollution.

We looked on land in 2016 to create the Better Alternatives Now List, which combined all land litter data from cities, mobile apps and beach cleanups for California only. In 2017 we are looking at the same for the entire U.S. These data show greater spatial resolution when lumped together, despite challenges to find common methods of categorizing types of products and packaging.

In the sea we combined all known historical data about sea surface floating plastic with our most recent data from our 2013-2017 Travel Trawl citizen science program, reported in multiyear increments from 1980 to present. With greater consistency in data reporting (particle count (#/km2) and (weight kg/km2) we were able to produce a new global budget for floating debris.

These two datasets are useful to show trends in debris accumulation, the natural systems that remove plastic from the sea, and the efficiency of mitigations on land. They also point to the need to continue engaging citizens in meaningful data collection that's comparable to other efforts. Future monitoring and mitigation require this engagement and consistency, but also a transparent discussion about how these data are utilized.


Where is all the plastic? New tools to determine the plastic marine debris budget

Session Chairs: Tracy Mincer, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Linda Amaral-Zettler, Utrech University

 This session looks at the plastic marine debris budget, news media, and the general public to determine the best path forward.

Plastics have become the most common form of marine debris in the 60 years since they have entered the consumer arena and present a major and growing pollution concern. As materials of immense utility and durability, plastics represent a growth industry, with the current annual global production exceeding the total human biomass on our planet. Unfortunately, mismanagement of plastic waste is commonplace. It is estimated that nearly a third of single-use plastics escape the waste stream, creating the most common mechanism for the creation of plastic marine debris (PMD) in coastal regions. Once these predominantly buoyant plastic materials enter the ocean they can migrate large distances. For example, PMD from U. S. Northeastern Seaboard locations can migrate over 1000 kilometers to the interior of the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre (NASG), in less than 60 days. Surface net tow surveys by several research groups have quantified PMD in the NASG and North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. Additionally, PMD has been documented to accumulate in all five of the world’s subtropical gyres, coastal areas, and remote areas including the Marianas Trench, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, and pristine tropical islands. Indeed, it is now apparent that all ocean habitats have the potential to be impacted by PMD. However, the overall risk of microplastics (commonly described as 5 millimeters to 1 micrometer in size) and nanoplastics (less than 1 micrometer in size) on biota such as filter feeding species is underexplored.

On average, it is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic escape the waste stream and enter our oceans annually. A recent model projected that over 150 million tons have been input to the oceans since plastic has entered the consumer arena. Paradoxically, the highest PMD estimate from recent global surface ocean surveys is only 250,000 metric tons– orders of magnitude lower than the amount of PMD projected, begging the question: “Where is all the plastic?” New technologies such as Raman Spectroscopy and micro-FTIR are allowing unprecedented detection of micro- and even nanoplastics. And methods separating micro- and nanoplastics from sediments and water column particulates such as ‘marine snow’ are yielding new insights into the distributions of PMD. Microbes have also been shown to interact with PMD, decreasing buoyancy, and possibly accelerating its degradation. These microbial consortia colonizing PMD can now be analyzed with powerful laser-scanning confocal visualization methods and combined with molecular probes, providing new insights into the spatial and temporal organization of biofilms on PMD. Computational models integrating datasets are yielding insight into the distribution of PMD below the ocean surface.      

The overarching theme and goal of this session is to discuss integrative approaches of technologies, such as the ones listed above, to enable the collection of datasets to rigorously determine, the residence time, distribution, sources and sinks of PMD. We feel that this session will be well-received by the PMD research community and will provide a framework for future large-scale PMD budget estimations.


Degradation of plastic debris in different marine and coastal environments

Session Chairs: George Papatheodorou, Department of Geology, University of Patras; Hrissi Karapanagioti, University of Patras

This session is focused on marine debris scientists dealing with environmental degradation and floating, beached and benthic plastic litter.

Plastics are ubiquitous in the marine environment and present even on the most remote areas of the planet. The boom in the global plastic production is reached up to 280 million tons in 2012. The imprudent use of plastics in our everyday life has elevated plastics into a major environmental threat. The generated plastic waste in 192 coastal countries in 2010, has been estimated at approximately 275 million metric tons (MT), from which 4.8–12.7 million MT have entered the oceans. For the synthetic polymers, the degradation process starts once they are deposited into the oceans, mainly due to the synergistic effect of environmental variables and the inherent material instability. Nonetheless, the degradation rate of the polymers is significantly slow, which makes them extremely persistent. Thus, plastics can last in the marine environment for decades or even hundreds of years when in surface; likely far longer when in deep sea.

Most synthetic polymers (polyethylene, polypropylene) are buoyant in waters while other (high-density polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate) may sink. The torpid degradation of the large plastic items, will result in the formation of small fragments (< 5 mm); microplastics. Both plastics and microplastics have adverse effects on the marine biota. They may collocate with microorganisms, invertebrates and microbial communities, and even form plastiglomerates. Although there are many studies on the degradation of plastic in the laboratory by polymer scientists there are only limited studies on the environmental degradation of plastic in the marine and coastal environment.  This session will address topics on identification and characterization of plastic, determination of the alterations, identification of possible mechanisms of degradation, dating of plastics and estimation of lifetime of plastics in the environment. This session will accept studies based on samples from field surveys and also studies from laboratory experiments. However, priority will be given to studies that provide characterization of plastic samples collected from the field.

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