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The Plastic Pollution Treaty and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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The Plastic Pollution Treaty and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

This article both examines the approaches, costs, and benefits of the remediation of marine plastic in the GPGP and considers the ongoing creation of the Plastic Pollution Treaty, among other topics.

As you read this article, the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution is coming to a close or recently ended. The penultimate meeting has much to debate and organize if a Plastic Pollution Treaty (PPT) is to be formed by the end of this year. Discussions will probably include issues such as plastic remediation and the technology and policies that could further, support, and/or regulate that effort.

The dimensions of cleanup just for a portion of the ocean are massive: “If you tried to clean up less than one percent of the North Pacific Ocean it would take 67 ships one year to clean up that portion. And the bottom line is that until we prevent debris from entering the ocean at the source, it’s just going to keep congregating in these areas. We could go out and clean it all up and then still have the same problem on our hands as long as there’s debris entering the ocean.”[1] That is Dianna Parker from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program.

Marine plastic pollution is a very complex problem, even if the focus were to be only on the North Pacific subtropical gyre/Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). This is because the synthetic polymer is an essential part of everyday life and even contributes to trade flows. For better and for worse, it is everywhere; moreover, it ranges in size from nanoparticles to whole fishing nets or parts of large objects. Relatedly, various actors have differing interests in and views on plastics.

Addressing, let alone resolving, the GPGP issue requires an examination and consideration of its multiple dimensions. Returning to the above statement by Parker, who would commission, operate, and maintain the cleanup/remediation: the private, public, and/or civil sectors? What sectors of the economy and which specific companies would bear the most responsibility to provide larger proportions of the resources needed to conduct such a project: feedstock, production, packaging, retail, or collection and disposal? How to attribute responsibility to actors, such as countries, along the plastics lifecycle over the past decades and now?

Even if responsibility were to be fairly attributed, there would need to be further discussions and negotiations due to the impacts of the environment on the cleanup, such as the movement of currents and the temporal shifts of the GPGP (which can move as much as 1,000 miles south in periods of the El Niño weather pattern). Cleanup impacts on the environment could include disturbing and hurting marine creatures and ecosystems and removing important biomass. Other questions need answers as well, such as those concerning the time and scale of the remediation efforts, in addition to post-cleanup movement and disposal of collected material.

Moreover, Parker’s claim assumes the use of ships in a cleanup. Large water vessels are likely necessary for any large-scale GPGP restoration solution; however, they would involve substantial operating and maintenance costs and would perhaps release carbon emissions. Additionally, the scope of the hypothetical project is unclear but would need to be understood: Would plastics be removed from the surface, water column, and/or seabed? Activities in each of these zones would require different technologies and mount distinct costs.

Nevertheless, Parker correctly emphasizes the need to control the flow of plastic into the ocean rather than just cleaning it up. Thus some actors are in favor of reducing the production of primary plastic polymers and/or advocate for plastic redesign, reuse, or recycling. In the case of the latter, waste management strategies and systems would need to be built and upgraded around the world. Company and government policies and enforcement would add impetus to and encourage change, in addition to consumer/individual and civil society awareness and behavior modification. Accountability would be practiced and expected by all actors.

This article provides further background information on marine plastic pollution. It also examines the approaches, costs, and benefits of the remediation of marine plastic in the GPGP and considers the relevant international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution that is currently being negotiated.

Thinking Before Acting: A Daunting Task in Itself

Before contemplating how to remove marine plastic from the GPGP, actors must understand the complexity, uncertainty, and diversity that are inherent to the issue of plastic pollution. [2] Complexity is marked by the numerous types of plastics that are produced, which altogether are formed with hundreds of chemicals, “including some listed as hazardous under the Stockholm Convention and many of which have been shown to be detrimental to human and environmental health.”[3] Manifold are how plastics are used, such as to provide clean drinking water in developing countries that lack sanitary infrastructure. [4] Moreover, plastic-related governance is fragmented by interests and borders, which can lead to challenges to enforcement.

Uncertainty is seen in the incomplete or missing information about plastic pollution in the wider ocean and the GPGP. To begin with, the amount of plastic waste in the seas worldwide was said to be 62 to 103 million tons in 2010[5] and 150 million tons in 2016.[6] Such pollution entering the oceans each year ranges from “500 kilotonnes [(500,000 metric tons)],”[7] two million [metric tons],[8] and 5.3 million tons[9] to 10 million tons[10] and up to 12.7 million tons.[11] Although the sources of marine plastic waste are relatively known, the amount each source annually contributes to the ocean intake is uncertain: 57,000 to 69,000 [metric tons] (“of initially buoyant plastics”) and 800,000 to 2.4 million [metric tons] overall from rivers and 190,000 to 220,000 [metric tons] (“of initially buoyant plastics”) and 4.8 million to 23 million [metric tons] overall from coastal regions.[12] Eleven million “metric tons” have been claimed to come from land-based sources[13] whereas 1.75 million tons are sea-based.[14] Another source whose exact contribution to marine plastic pollution is unknown are natural disasters such as floods and tsunamis/cyclones/hurricanes.

As for the GPGP, it is the most-studied marine waste gyre in the world and is the part of the global ocean that has the largest collection of floating plastics. [15] Even so, “information on sources and origins of debris is often missing as most debris reported from expeditions are small fragments and [fibers] collected with surface net trawls.”[16] (What is certain (or relatively so) includes the observation that “[p]olyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) were by far the most common polymer types [on the surface of the GPGP].”[17] Separately, abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) may make up at least three-fourths of floating plastic mass in the GPGP. [18] Ghost nets can weigh from 136 kilograms to just over 4.5 metric tons. [19])

Diversity is manifested by the range of positions that are taken in relation to the risk, scale, and causes of the issue itself. [20] Additionally, “plastic pollution can be framed as a waste, resource, economic, societal, or systemic problem. Doing so results in different and sometimes conflicting sets of preferred solutions […] Deciding which of these solutions is desirable is, again, not a purely rational choice.”[21] Although environmentalists, consumers, industries, and governments may recognize that plastic waste is unsatisfactorily high, they seek actions or the prioritization of some actions over others.

The complexities, uncertainties, and diversity of perspectives and interests are not irrelevant to finding ways to mitigate and remediate plastic waste. Broadly speaking, coordinated action across the international, national, and local spheres of oversight needs to be informed. More specifically, if an organization is budgeting for a cleanup operation, they must be able to calculate the weight and size composition of catches; there is knowledge on this matter. (According to one study, 90-98 percent of the plastic mass in the global ocean is large (>25 millimeters)[22], which aligns with the finding that 92 percent of the total mass thereof in the GPGP is larger than 50 millimeters. [23]) This would help to determine what kind of equipment to employ and how much financial assistance/investment to request or use. Furthermore, if an organization seeks to launch cleanup operations over time, it must identify how much and where plastic pollution is entering the sea in a given period.

Remediation of Plastics in the Distant Sea (at its Surface): Different Actors and Methods

Research has shown that there are “[250,000] metric [tons] of plastic pollution float[ing] on the surface of the global ocean” and three to 3.4 million [metric tons] “of initially buoyant plastics” doing so;[24] other estimates are 0.6 to two “metric tons” of plastics overall at the surface of the sea. [25] As for the GPGP, calculations have put the amount of plastic floating at its surface at 79,000 tons, four and sixteen times higher than quantities included in two studies published in 2014. [26] In any case, “it has been proven that the mass inside the GPGP has been increasing steadily […], even though its pace does not quite match the exponential increase in the theoretical inputs into the oceans.”[27]

Plastic pollution is not uniformly distributed across the expanse of the garbage patch but is particularly prevalent in hotspots. [28] Research has also led to “[t]he fact that material that has made its way to the GPGP is unlikely to escape this specific region of the ocean and end up elsewhere or on the shoreline [, proving] that the garbage patches cannot naturally empty.”[29] A study also observes that the position of the GPGP varies across time but lies within certain dimensions. [30]

Considering that plastic waste at the ocean surface may be highly persistent,[31] as well as the information in the previous two paragraphs, it is no wonder that efforts have been made to extract plastic. These actions remove relatively intact pieces that risk catching or injuring wildlife; degrading and fragmenting into and shedding smaller particles that are more difficult to collect; and leaching and/or soaking in chemicals.

Two noteworthy efforts of GPGP cleanup are those of The Ocean Cleanup (TOC) and the Ocean Voyages Institute (OVI). Both are non-profit organizations that have gone on multiple expeditions to the garbage patch and returned with tons of collected debris; they are also engaged in scientific activities to better understand the gyre and/or marine plastic pollution. While TOC runs a more media-friendly, visible, and partnered operation that extends to the interception of waste in rivers, OVI was involved with the GPGP earlier. (TOC partners include Maersk, The Coca-Cola Company, and KIA; OVI partners include Matson.)

TOC is based in the Netherlands while OVI is based in California, USA. Consequently, because the former has an agreement with the Dutch government and the Netherlands is a party to the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS, the foundational text of international ocean governance), it could be more susceptible to legal challenges and pressure to protect the environment. On the other hand, OVI may in theory be less subject to scrutiny as the US is not a party to UNCLOS, although in practice this might not be the case because of the environmental protections that the state of California observes.

A figure showing “the (a) numerical and (b) mass concentrations in the water column […] estimated as a function of the debris afloat at the ocean surface in the eastern North Pacific Ocean and corresponding water depth” from Egger, Matthias, Fatimah Sulu-Gambari, and Laurent Lebreton. “First Evidence of Plastic Fallout from the North Pacific Garbage Patch.” Scientific Reports 10, no. 1 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64465-8. “These plots should be interpreted as a first qualitative attempt to visualize the possible vertical distribution of plastic debris in the area.”

One of the biggest similarities between the two in relation to the GPGP is that they have been focused on extracting plastic from its surface. What contrasts them is their methodology of pollution removal: OVI puts its attention on manually removing nets (which themselves are entangled with (other plastic) items and trapped animals). [32] On the other hand, TOC operates a system-what it calls System 03, following two previous iterations-that consists of two ships pulling a barrier that ends in a collection sack. One end of the barrier is attached to one vessel and the other barrier to the second ship. [33]

Both organizations are on the cusp of a scale-up in operations. TOC began its full-on transition to System 03 in August 2023 and is looking to expand its fleet of ocean cleanup ships and deploy them to the other four ocean gyres consisting of plastic pollution. OVI has a four-year plan, starting this year, to build and then launch two, tailored crafts that will collect plastic waste from the GPGP and other places bordering the Pacific Ocean. (It intends to share its ship design with partner organizations around the world that will in turn engage in cleanups themselves.) This summer, it intends to set another record with the collaboration of the world’s second-largest marine salvage company, Resolve Marine. [34]

Of course, cleaning up plastic from the oceans is only one solution out of many that need to address upstream and downstream causes and challenges of debris consisting of the polymer. However, even in terms of ocean-specific solutions, removing floating waste only addresses part of the marine plastic pollution problem. A study notes that only one percent (or even as low as 0.2 percent[35]) of ocean plastic waste is found at the surface, in contrast with the 94 percent that rests on the seabed. [36] (In fact, “[6.2 million metric tons] of initially buoyant plastics have ended up in marine sediments since 1950, which is less than a recent estimate of [25 to 900 million metric tons].”[37])

Additionally, although the numerical and mass concentrations of small plastic particles are immensely high at the surface of the ocean, they are still found at deeper layers of the water column (measured by scores of meters, and again a topic with uncertainties[38]). This is not to mention that “94 percent of the total 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the GPGP”[39] are microplastics.

Remediation of Plastic in the Distant Sea: Costs and Benefits, Technologies and Policies

Technology solutions for the removal of nano- and microplastics at the surface of the GPGP are very limited, let alone subsea and seafloor extraction of all types of plastics. Because removing floating larger plastics is essential so that they do not degrade into smaller fragments, which are more difficult to collect, it is vital to support this removal. Nevertheless, cleanup operations need to consider multiple facets before, during, and after they are established. Benefits may come, but costs are potentially high.

An idea of the financial costs involved in cleaning up the GPGP and the global ocean overall can be garnered from a 2019 study and a 2023 brief. However, the figures are likely underestimates due to the use of the breakeven cost that TOC calculated for its 2014 feasibility study of its first system. (It has not conducted another such study for its second and third systems that are publicly available.) The cleanup system dimensions at the time were that of a passive, floating boom; the idea now is to actively use a pair of ships (and eventually a fleet of ships) to tow a barrier and a retention sack.

Additionally, the 2023 brief correctly attributes to TOC what TOC-affiliated and non-affiliated research has shown to not be the case: that 100 million metric tons of plastic float in the GPGP. (In fact, the 2014 feasibility study “conservatively estimates the quantity of floating plastic in the North Pacific accumulation zone at 140 thousand metric tons.”[40]) In doing so, it perhaps makes TOC activities seem less feasible than they are or could be.

Furthermore, the 2019 study likely does not account for differentiations in cleanup costs per both locality and plastic location, such as distance from the shore and ocean level (surface, subsea, and seafloor). In fact, “the larger part [of land-based, mismanaged plastic waste] is believed to be predominantly accumulating on shorelines […] or on the seabed in proximity to landmasses.”[41] Finally, the calculations are outdated due to post-Covid inflation and the influx of plastic into the ocean since the two texts were written. In any case, the uncertainty around how much plastic there is in the ocean and how much enters the marine environment every year from whom and where does not help to determine costs.

In the words of the 2023 brief, the 2019 paper writes that “[a]t a global scale […] the cost to reduce marine plastic pollution by 25 percent (as compared to 2010 levels) in one decade and using only technology (i.e., the Ocean Cleanup Project) is between 0.7 and one percent of the global Gross Domestic Product in 2017 (Euros 492-708 billion).”[42] The 2019 paper refers to the total stock of “marine plastic pollution,” not just to floating waste.

According to another 2014 study, over a third of all floating marine plastic is in the North Pacific. [43] Assuming that the proportion of floating plastic is roughly equivalent to that below the waves and on the seafloor, a simple calculation would reveal a potential minimum cost of more than Euros 162 billion to clean up the GPGP above and below the ocean surface, particularly because the total stock from which to reduce 25 percent of plastic debris has gone up. The tens of billions of Euros are many orders of magnitude greater than the TOC estimate in the hundreds of millions of Euros (which admittedly reflected only surface extraction of pollution). [44]

Focusing on surface-level cleaning now, TOC’s System 03 began its operations on 28 August 2023. Since then and based on information that the organization has posted online, it has probably hauled in around 95,000 – 100,000 kilograms of pollution. Given the idea that plastics are extracted around once a week-it has completed 93 extractions to date-and that it was deployed at sea from that day in August until around 2 October 2023, from around 28 October to 22 November 2023, and from 13 March to 15 April 2024, this author calculates an average System 03 collection of 1,000 kilograms per day. That is not much of an improvement from an average of around 6,000-7,000 kilograms of debris that System 02 removed per week. [45]

In total, from 2019 to April 2024, TOC has launched 18 expeditions to the GPGP, removing over 345,000 kilograms (345 metric tons) of plastic. [46] Its objective for 2024 is to consistently collect a minimum of 100 kilograms of polymer waste per hour, which is an increase of over a third what was collected in that time in the latter half of 2023. At the moment, based on the calculation in the previous paragraph, System 03 is collecting less than half that amount per hour. (This is assuming that operations last 24 hours a day. If they last 12 hours a day, then they have increased collection by around 53% compared to the latter half of 2023).

TOC initially decided not to develop a ship-based cleanup system. Its 2014 feasibility study “indicated that its technology [System 01] is between seven to 33 times cheaper than conventional methods (i.e., net collection from a ship).”[47] That conventional method is what OVI has employed in its expeditions. To date, OVI has collected over 317.5 metric tons of plastic (mainly but not wholly from the GPGP). It has done so in a total of eight GPGP expeditions. Over two expeditions in the summer of 2022, the non-profit removed around 136 metric tons of waste from the garbage patch. The first trip, lasting 45 days, extracted approximately 87 metric tons and the latter 49 metric tons of waste. [48] (In 2020, OVI performed the largest ever extraction for any ocean pollution cleanup trip even up to this point in time: around 94 metric tons over 48 days at sea. [49])

Screenshot showing how much larger System 03 is in contrast to System 02 from ___(The Ocean Cleanup). “System 03: A Beginner’s Guide: Updates.” theoceancleanup.com, August 31, 2023. Accessed https://theoceancleanup.com/updates/system-03-a-beginners-guide/.

Comparing the effectiveness of plastic removal is not straightforward; however, it seems that as of the end of 2022, OVI had done more with less. (2023 figures for both organizations will come out later this year.) The variability of catches must be recognized: Publicly available (on the Twitter/X account of the organization) numbers reveal that the most and the least amount of pollution System 03 has removed on a given extraction is 18,360 (16 September 2023) and 7,029 (20 March 2024) kilograms. [135] In 2022, OVI extracted 56 percent more debris on its first trip than on its second trip; they were weeks apart.

Other factors to consider in any comparison include the fact that according to 2022 financial statements, OVI has no paid employees[50] whereas TOC paid staff and external contractors almost Euros 7.5 million that year. The Dutch non-profit also had a 2022 budget of Euros 53 million, of which 49% was allocated for ocean work, and total assets amounting to a little over Euros 49 million. [51] OVI had total assets of $3.63 million by the end of 2022. [52] Even so, TOC has UN consultative status and manages river operations as well.

Screenshot showing the manual extraction of a ghost net from Ocean Voyages Institute – Project Kaisei. “Largest Open Ocean Clean-up in History.” youtube.com, June 26, 2020. Accessed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7Ka0stsTO0.

Bearing in mind that TOC is a more centralized organization with plans to build up its own fleet of ships, its costs will likely be much higher than that of OVI. In fact, the Dutch non-profit has found that around 10-12 systems (like System 03, and thus comprising around 20-24 ships) could remove the plastic pollution from the GPGP.[53] If vessel chartering costs remain as they were for 2022 (Euros 17.293 million (operational costs for charter of vessels and staff) – Euros 8.051 million (human resources) = Euros 9.242 million), that could amount to Euros 92.42 million to charter the 20 ships that TOC calculates it would need to clean up the GPGP.

At least two papers question the feasibility and utility of TOC interventions as they were under Systems 01 and/or 02. One observes that “both the overall amount of floating plastic and the concentration of litter is relatively low,” also saying “[t]he economics [of the technology] are not easily accessible on their website.”[54] The other paper quantifies the constraints of System 02: “200 TOC devices running for 130 years would only capture 5% of the world’s floating plastics and result in significant CO2 emissions as two large ships tow each device.”[55] The financial costs of ocean surface-level cleanup are not welcoming at the moment.

Costs for underwater ocean cleanup operations in the GPGP are likely many times higher. One brief writes: “Findings from Oceana’s research reveal that seafloor clean-ups are extremely expensive, and that these costs clearly increase with depth. The estimated cost for using these methods could rise to over Euros 29,000/day to reach polluted areas deeper than 1,000 m, which may include chartering a large vessel over 60 m long, equipped with an ROV.”[56] The GPGP easily extends to over 4,000 meters in depth. Moreover, “[n]o efficient and environmentally-sound method seems to exist to address the legacy pollution beyond a few meters water depth nor from micro- and nanoplastics.”[57]

Operational and financial costs aside, ship-based ocean cleanup operations also have the potential to cause environmental damage, such as by harming organisms and releasing carbon emissions. “In the [GPGP], ocean currents and eddies appear to consolidate plastics and marine life into highly concentrated regions.”[58] Thus, technology may not adequately distinguish between wildlife, naturally occurring objects, and human debris and end up capturing or hurting them.

Again, uncertainty exists about the high seas and the North Pacific ecosystem, for example regarding a particular group of creatures known as neuston. Such is the lack of knowledge that “the effects of cleanup on neuston populations could plausibly be anywhere between negligible and extremely substantial.”[59] That is an immensely wide spectrum of potential impacts, and that conclusion is only drawn from modeling that includes floating macroplastics (not plastics that are smaller than 50 millimeters). However, general knowledge (not GPGP-specific) about neuston indicates that it is important at least to the marine food chain.

Thus, critics are wary or pessimistic about “plastic removal technology (PRT).”[60] Technology is at the center of TOC and OVI ocean cleanup operations, whether or not they are considered employers of PRTs. The California-based non-profit has been deemed a community-run initiative and TOC has been seen as a more tech-heavy company. [61] (OVI may lose at least part of its community status in the coming years, perhaps as early as this summer when it plans to work with a world-leading marine salvage company to remove plastic pollution from the GPGP.)

OVI issues GPS trackers to sailors who will be traveling through the garbage patch; they are in turn responsible for attaching the trackers to floating nets that they come across. OVI then uses the trackers and satellite analysis (and perhaps drones) to locate and remove the tagged nets and other nearby nets. (Expeditions from the institute have given substance to the notion (which may in fact be a proven finding) that (at least) the ocean through its currents “sorts” pollution such that 10 or 12 other nets can often be found within a 12-14 mile radius of a tagged net.)[62]

OVI is now planning to obtain purpose-built ships that are fueled by wind power. It has already suggested possible removal solutions for different plastic waste sizes: “cranes and excavators” (for the largest pieces like ghost nets) and “fishing vessels [with adapted] nets” to oil abatement equipment and “devices using principles of biomimicry.”[63]

TOC uses artificial intelligence and monitoring data to direct operations to hotspots of floating plastic. [64] This increases operational efficiency. Not only that, “[it is] exploring new ways to compress and store [its] catch on deck [, which would allow the non-profit] to bring back more plastic per trip and [reduce its] total transit.”[65] TOC has also trialed “deterrents and operational procedures” to address one of its most scrutinized features: its potential impact on wildlife and the environment.

Screenshot showing the movement of tracked ghost nets and/or other debris from St. Francis Yacht Club. “Partnering with Industry to Clean the World’s Largest Oceanic Garbage Patch – WYL #289.” youtube.com, February 13, 2024. Accessed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRhcyNc9xFE.

Thus, there are benefits to technology and to the wider ocean cleanup operations in which they feature. Not only do they raise awareness about the perils of waste mismanagement and overuse, but they also enable research to be conducted at sea on its ecosystem and the extracted objects. “Cleanup initiatives have generated valuable data documenting pollution levels, identifying sources, informing research, guiding upstream mitigation efforts, and monitoring the impact of policies.”[66] The most obvious benefit is the reduction in plastic levels, preventing the degradation of plastics into particles.

Technologies, costs, and benefits must reflect or be measured against policies that indicate standards and goals if they are to be as effective, environmentally sound, socially attractive, economically and technically feasible, and politically acceptable as possible. [67] Policies range from organizational to international, and from pre-deployment to post-catch.

In 2018, TOC signed an agreement with the Dutch government. Among the stipulations were for the non-profit to remove from the ocean any equipment and such that was no longer in use; to protect species in the area where it carried out its work; and to establish a monitoring plan. However, “the [a]greement does not set out any concrete environmental standards or obligations, nor does it differentiate between the operation of a single system and the envisaged scale-up. Noteworthy in particular is the fact that the need for an EIA [Environmental Impact Assessment] is not mentioned anywhere in the [a]greement.”[68]

Despite the missing mandate to undertake an EIA, TOC has produced three such assessments: in 2018, 2021, and 2023. The most recent EIA is over 450 pages and covers topics such as water quality, neuston, sea turtles, human resources, and physical. It identifies impacts such as entanglement/entrapment in System 03 and ship-animal strikes and also subscribes to international law in the form of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) 73/78 restrictions and implementation of vessel Waste Management Plans.

Other pre-deployment activities that TOC has conducted include the 2014 feasibility study, which looked at “(i) the required investment in capital expenditures; (ii) the estimated operating expenses over ten years, (iii) the replacement cost of equipment that has a useful life of 5 years and (iv) decommissioning costs after 10 years.”[69] As for deployment policies, TOC seems to continuously monitor risks, such as its impacts on wildlife, to have some measure of catch-efficiency, and to record bycatch. (According to its 2022 calculations, bycatch amounted to 0.1 percent of its cumulative extractions.) TOC has a post-deployment waste management policy of having retrieved ocean plastics recycled.

OVI does not appear to have ever realized an EIA and to have its policies readily available for viewing. However, it has been noted that the debris it collects is recycled and repurposed. [70]

This section has shown that plastic remediation from the ocean is possible and that technologies, policies, costs, and benefits are involved. It has also briefly exposed some parties that are interested in ocean pollution recovery and has hinted at the fact that different legal jurisdictions are at play and that ocean remediation is only one feature of a larger plastic pollution mitigation framework and group of activities. Ocean cleanup efforts may become less feasible at the surface of the seas due to diminishing catches as more and more debris is removed. [71] (This will only be exacerbated by the TOC policy of targeting hotspots based on modeling. (See the figure below.)) Technology alone will not solve the problem of plastic waste.

Figure showing the mass concentration of plastic in the GPGP from ___(The Ocean Cleanup). “The Ocean Cleanup Returns to Great Pacific Garbage Patch for Most Ambitious Year Yet.” theoceancleanup.com, April 9, 2024. https://theoceancleanup.com/updates/the-ocean-cleanup-returns-to-great-pacific-garbage-patch-for-most-ambitious-year-yet/.

Plastic Pollution Treaty: System Change, Incremental Progress, or More of the Same?

As useful as cleanup operations and technology may be in alleviating the negative consequences of plastic pollution, they are only as useful as the political will, legal underpinnings, and financial resources that drive them. That is why drawing up and implementing an ILBI on plastic pollution is necessary, especially given the transboundary nature of plastic flows and ocean accumulations. The legal context of negotiations for that treaty is complex and was further complexified and aided by the introduction of the Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty in 2023. “The high seas lie beyond national jurisdiction, covering nearly 50% of the Earth’s surface and constituting over 64% of the ocean by area,”[72] and the GPGP is located there. Thus, how to create a treaty that sufficiently draws from other multinational environmental agreements without producing undue overlap?

“The United Nations Environment Assembly resolution to end plastic pollution specifically refers to the need for the intergovernmental negotiating committee [INC] to consider measures to reduce plastic pollution already present in the environment.”[73] As a result, these and other topics will be or already have been in conversations at the fourth session of the INC in Canada. This session follows three others, the first of which took place near the end of 2022. INC-3 saw the zero draft of the ILBI; and according to a media report[74] and a think tank analysis piece[75], and as one can take away from a reading of the UN Environment Programme’s “Report of the intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, on the work of its third session,” the session saw much disagreement and little substantive advancement in treaty formulation.

The Plastic Pollution Treaty negotiations are an opportunity to lay the groundwork for the adoption of more efficient, effective, and environmentally sound policies to address plastic waste production, accumulation, reduction, and/or remediation. “The future international instrument may therefore include provisions encouraging countries to include cleanup activities in their national action plans and other implementation measures.”[76] No matter if negotiations make the scope of the treaty take a turn towards plastic waste management or the wider plastic life-cycle, remediating the polymer from the ocean (and all environments) will be important. But must these cleanup operations continue indefinitely?

Plastic Pollution Near and Far: Information/Lessons Learned and Recommendations

Ocean plastic remediation efforts and other projects related to the plastic life cycle or the waste management thereof have allowed lessons to be learned through practice, research, and iterative design. (Unfortunately, most research in general, and those used in this paper, are largely if not wholly founded upon observations and contexts in Western countries.) “[M]ore attention is being drawn towards the externalities associated with plastics, which have been estimated to lie between US $0.8 and US $1.4 per kilogram [‚Ķ], resulting in a growing thrust towards stricter regulation of plastic use.”[77] As for pollution from that polymer, the most cost-effective measures are those of prevention/control at its sources; those targeting larger plastics; and those taking place on land, before they get to sea, or in locations on or near the coast. [78] [79] [80]

Beaches and coastlines are the sites of enormous amounts of plastic debris that can be easily (in relation to the expenses of ocean logistics) transported to post-collection centers. [81] What is more, plastic removed from the sea is more fragile than their land-extracted counterparts due to exposure to water and UV rays. As for plastic removal, “cost-effectiveness analysis [of “plastic litter collection and removal technologies” for onshore, in-shore, and near-shore contexts, but likely not the high seas] shows unequivocally that mobile skimmers and dredgers are least costly to remove plastic litter from water, with an average unit cost ranging between one and 74 Euro cents per kilogram. Their annual costs can be substantial, but so is their litter reduction capacity.”[82]

Yet again, high sea plastic pollution poses potential and/or actual risks due to degradation and fragmentation. Additionally, “[g]host gear has caused a 5-30% decline in some fish stocks [‚Ķ], with one study estimating that 90% of species caught in lost gear were of commercial value.”[83] OVI and TOC have learned lessons and/or are part of lesson learning through research, such as on methods to remove ocean plastics.

Moving beyond a focus on ocean cleanup, and in keeping with the observation that prevention is, generally speaking, more effective than treatment/remediation, “[t]ypically, policy measures cost in the range of US $0.04-0.09 per kilogram of plastic, which is the lowest possible cost experienced in managing plastic waste […] This means that policy measures should preferably be the first step in preventing or reducing contamination with plastic, particularly in developing countries.”[84] This finding comes from a comparison of policy tools along with three types of recycling, incineration, booms, trash racks, sea bins, secondary and tertiary wastewater treatment plants, stormwater treatment, drinking water treatment, and no treatment.

Other policy-related lessons include the positive change-results of financial incentives across multiple countries,[85] although they must be complemented with investment, research, and enforcement. Policies guide and contribute to the success of best-cost solutions (in this case cost-efficient), i.e. those that are upstream “(e.g., reduction, substitution, and new product designs and business models).”[86]

Lessons learned extend to technology, data collection, and post-plastic collection activities. In terms of the former, “[n]ew technologies of proven effectiveness that stakeholders can trust and whose impact does not harm the environment or the socio-economic situation, are increasingly available to policymakers.”[87] Of 51 tech solutions that a 2021 review considered, 75 percent of them were at the scale-up phase or in the market. [88] Existing technology can also, for example, assist with marine plastic extraction: the 2016-launched Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System of NASA can identify where larger quantities of microplastics are likely to be. [89]

Stormwater filters are the best ranked (or among the top) technology because of their low “energy use, autonomy of application, [ease or nonexistence of] training and [sensitivity to] weather extremes.”[90] It was compared with immobile and mobile skimmers, dredgers, and booms. Stormwater filters may be a type of trash rack. Another study ranks those racks as seventh or thereabouts after policy tools, three forms of recycling, incineration, and sea bins. [91]

Technology cannot be properly ranked without relevant data. One observation about the centrality of data collection relates to the construction of a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) that draws on insights from the European Union-backed program “Cleaning Litter by developing and Applying Innovative Methods in European seas” (CLAIM). MCDA and innovation require “thorough monitoring, properly calibrated simulation models including cost functions to reflect real economies of scale, and an additional characterization regarding ecosystem behavior.”[92] Further research needs to be conducted to identify other pertinent sources or forms of data that can guide decision-making, such as catch per unit effort (CPUE) and bycatch ratios. [93]

Catching and collecting waste is necessary. However, post-collection operations must be afforded equal or greater attention. There are various options, including recycling, incineration, and landfilling. Each has benefits and limitations. Mechanical recycling is the most common form of recycling;[94] its cost can range from US $0.003 to US $0.23 per kilogram, with well-sorted waste being one feature that lowers the cost. However, this type of recycling is constrained because its plastic inputs must be clean[95] and because plastic makeup is various, including thousands of chemicals. [96] [97] A significant portion, if not more, of these polymers that are drawn from the sea are weathered, contaminated, and have compromised quality. [98] [99] “Recovered [ocean] waste requires special pre-treatment technologies such as sorting, cutting, lead separation, crushing, and desalting […].”[100]

Recycling is not just a matter to be practiced post-use. “Ocean Conservancy data shows[…] that nearly 70 [percent] of the most common plastic debris collected every year in the International Coastal Cleanup® is not recyclable […] Upstream design is critical to facilitate collection, sorting, and reuse.”[101] In the case that mechanical recycling cannot be performed because of the poor quality[102] or composition[103] of the recovered plastic, jurisdictions with economical access to large amounts of energy and reactor technology[104] can undertake chemical recycling, particularly in the form of pyrolysis. [105] Chemical recycling and incineration have environmental drawbacks though.

Moving on to recommendations, the above and other information/lessons learned must inform INC-4 negotiations for the ILBI on plastic pollution. Six years before the UN Environment Assembly passed Resolution 5/14, which called for the creation of a Plastic Pollution Treaty, the member states of the body had agreed in Resolution 2/11 that they should “cooperate regionally and internationally on clean-up actions of such hotspots where appropriate and develop environmentally sound systems and methods for such removal and sound disposal of marine litter.”[106] Cooperation needs principles/ approaches, standards, and goals to guide it, and these in turn must be supported by knowledge acquired through monitoring and measurement.

  1. The PPT must at the very least outline the key components and manifestations of the principle/approach of doing things in an environmentally sound manner (ESM),[107] especially in relation to managing waste and regulating technology. These two areas of ESM application have already been discussed as part of the INC negotiations. [108] (However, beyond the PPT discussions, the definition of ESM should also be harmonized across the various international legal texts that utilize the term.)

A publication by the NGO Ocean Conservancy puts forward the notion of having “a minimum 50 [percent] reduction in single-use plastics by 2050.”[109] Reaching this target could involve bans and levies, but it will need to come about through a concerted effort from all parties, because a ban in one location “may only redirect the plastic consumption to regions without such bans.”[110] Any regulations will have to be supported by public awareness and enforcement. [111]

  1. The treaty must also set standards or enable them to be formed. These must concern, among other matters, what constitutes recycling,[112] how the trade in plastics should occur,[113] if at all, and what limitations clean-up technologies (such as design requirements) should face and what kind of studies must take place to fulfill the ESM approach. [114]

“Measurement and reporting of plastics degradation time, microplastic generation, and degradation products should be standardized.”[115] The level of the adequacy of data and a spectrum of risks must also be established. [116] Moreover, bycatch and catch-efficiency calculations need to be harmonized,[117] as do “analytical techniques to quantify microplastics in water.”[118] (Again beyond the PPT discussions, there must also be a standardization of the indirect and nonmonetary costs and benefits of marine plastic interventions. [119])

It may be helpful to spell out the necessity of coordinating plastic pollution monitoring with continually updated modeling that reflects changes in climate patterns. “Climate changes may necessitate new models and ways of tracking and cleaning up waste.”[120] The statistical probabilities of natural disasters could also be factored into analysis.

Controversially, the treaty should find a balance between respecting the data confidentiality of plastic waste cleanup companies and the need for them to share data that can inform the governance of plastic pollution.[121] Mechanisms must hold to account the various parts of the plastics value chain.[122]

  1. Developing countries need support that the PPT should provide. Support would range from building up data collection and analysis capabilities[123]; assisting with the enforcement of plastic trade rules[124]; and initiating or enhancing waste management systems and general but relevant infrastructure.[125]

One of the most important areas of concern that the ILBI must address is the informal waste sector. “According to the International Labor Organization, between 15 and 56 million people work in informal solid waste collection globally and are responsible for nearly 60% of all plastics collected and recycled.”[126] These workers need protections due to unfavorable working conditions and the formalization of their work, which enhanced waste management systems will likely bring.[127]

  1. The PPT must be innovative in assigning and sharing responsibilities to countries and other actors. One article notes that the spreading of costs “over time as well as across economic sectors and countries could also significantly reduce the”[128] percentage of global GDP that would need to be allocated to reduce the stock of marine plastic pollution, and probably the overall waste from the polymer. Other combined strategies could involve focusing on better waste management in the most polluting countries and reduced waste in high-income countries[129] and must synergize policies and technologies.[130]
  2. UNEA Resolution 5/14 “[d]ecides that the intergovernmental negotiating committee is to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.” Consequently, the treaty should enumerate steps to increase knowledge of the fishing, shipping, and aquaculture contributions to highly persistent ocean plastic.[131] Parties must also commit to abolishing the ship hull coatings that shed microplastics[132] and should stipulate that the marine plastic management industry “must publish data on the effectiveness of their litter management strategies,”[133] which is a “rare” practice.

Further recommendations are subject to disagreements between parties about what the scope of the PPT should be. Some want it to focus on plastic waste management, while others want it to encompass the production and consumption of plastic as well. [108] The use of PRTs is also a matter of debate: One group of researchers claims that “[t]here is no evidence that the net benefits of PRTs outweigh their environmental and economic impacts outside highly polluted areas.”[134]

Given that plastic has a life cycle and that its half-life spans many years, and considering that PRTs also have a use-life of their own, it makes sense that there would be provisions in the IBLI (or any future protocols or separate treaties) that would lay out specifications to make plastic more recyclable (and even reusable) and technology more repairable. Of course, the details would have to satisfy all parties and stakeholders. Manifold types of people and societal groups need to be a part of the mitigation and removal of plastic pollution: citizens, fishermen, petrochemical companies and other industries, NGOs, and governments. TOC and OVI are examples of points of multi-stakeholder engagement. They raise public awareness, request donations, and work with academics and companies.

Conclusion

“According to a recent assessment, plastic pollution results in an annual loss of $500-2500 billion in marine natural capital, or $3300-33,000 per ton plastic in the ocean.”[135] (The lower end entails the global stock of ocean plastic waste numbering over 150 million tons.) These figures must then be added to the social, economic, and environmental costs that plastic waste in all its forms imposes.

Marine plastic cleanup operations are likely to stay and expand in the coming months and years despite the criticisms that have been leveled at the technology-driven solutions. Consequently, there is a need for more policies that raise awareness and facilitate behavior change and legal text that guides standards. Various stakeholders and actors must participate in reducing epistemic uncertainties regarding ocean ecosystems and plastic waste.

The Plastic Pollution Treaty negotiations are only one solution, as important as they are. But without actively addressing the pollution that already exists, learning, and respectfully challenging ourselves and others along the way, words and commitments may drown in a sea of plastic.

REFERENCES

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[22] Kaandorp et al (2023).

[23] Lebreton et al (2018).

[24] Kaandorp et al (2023).

[25] Lebreton et al (2022).

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[27] Bruno Sainte-Rose, Yannick Pham, and Wayne Pavalko. “Persistency and Surface Convergence Evidenced by Two Maker Buoys in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Journal of Marine Science and Engineering 11, no. 1 (2023): 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse11010068.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Lebreton et al (2018).

[31] Egger, Matthias, Fatimah Sulu-Gambari, and Laurent Lebreton. “First Evidence of Plastic Fallout from the North Pacific Garbage Patch.” Scientific Reports 10, no. 1 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64465-8.

[32] St. Francis Yacht Club. “Partnering with Industry to Clean the World’s Largest Oceanic Garbage Patch – WYL #289.” youtube.com, February 13, 2024. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRhcyNc9xFE. Accessed April 15 or 16, 2024.

[33] ___(The Ocean Cleanup). “System 03: A Beginner’s Guide: Updates.” theoceancleanup.com, August 31, 2023. Accessed https://theoceancleanup.com/updates/system-03-a-beginners-guide/.

[34] Mission Resolve. “Ocean Voyages Institute and Mission Resolve Ghost Net Cleanup.” youtube.com, January 30, 2024. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qGCEMbghf8. Accessed April 16-20, 2024.

[35] Oceana. “Litter Clean-Ups Will Not Solve the Marine Plastics Crisis The Ecological, Technical, and Economic Constraints of Seabed Clean-Ups.” Madrid: Oceana in Europe, December 2022. Accessed March 2, 2024. Found at: https://europe.oceana.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/26/2022/12/20221221_Factsheet-underwater-clean-ups-def.pdf

[36] Eunomia Research and Consulting Ltd. “Plastics in the Marine Environment.” Bristol: Eunomia Research and Consulting Ltd, June 2016. Accessed April 11, 2024. Found at: https://safety4sea.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Eunomia-Plastics-in-the-Marine-Environment-2016_06.pdf

[37] Kaandorp (2023).

[38] Egger, Sulu-Gambari, and Lebreton (2020).

[39] Carney Almroth and Eggert (2019).

[40] Slat, Boyan, Agnes Ardiyanti, Emile Arens, Evelien Bolle, Hyke Brugman, Holly Campbell, and Pierre-Louis Christiane. “How the Oceans Can Clean Themselves: A Feasibility Study.” The Ocean Cleanup: The Ocean Cleanup, 2014. Accessed April 16-20, 2024. Available at https://assets.theoceancleanup.com/app/uploads/2019/04/TOC_Feasibility_study_lowres_V2_0.pdf.

[41] Lebreton et al (2022).

[42] Helm and Richards (2023).

[43] Chaturvedi, Yadav, Siddiqui, and Chaturvedi (2020).

[44] Slat et al (2014).

[45] Helm and Richards (2023).

[46] ___(The Ocean Cleanup). “The Ocean Cleanup Returns to Great Pacific Garbage Patch for Most Ambitious Year Yet.” theoceancleanup.com, April 9, 2024. Accessed April 17-18, 2024. https://theoceancleanup.com/updates/the-ocean-cleanup-returns-to-great-pacific-garbage-patch-for-most-ambitious-year-yet/.

[47] Schmaltz et al (2020).

[48] ___(Matson). “Cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” matson.com, n.d. Accessed April 22, 2024. https://www.matson.com/corporate/inside-matson/cleaning-up-the-great-pacific-garbage-patch.html.

[49] Ocean Voyages Institute – Project Kaisei®. “Largest Open Ocean Clean-up in History.” youtube.com, June 26, 2020. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7Ka0stsTO0.

[50] Suozzo, Andrea, Alec Glassford, Ash Ngu, and Brandon Roberts. “Ocean Voyages Institute.” project.propublica.org, April 12, 2024. Accessed April 19, 2024. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/942665367.

[51] ___(The Ocean Cleanup). “2022 Annual Report.” The Netherlands: The Ocean Cleanup, June 22, 2023. Accessed April 19, 2024. Available at https://assets.theoceancleanup.com/app/uploads/2023/06/TheOceanCleanup_AnnualReport_2022.pdf

[52] Suozzo et al (2024).

[53] ___(The Ocean Cleanup) (2023). & ___(The Ocean Cleanup) (2024)

[54] Andrea Winterstetter, Marie Grodent, Venkatesh Kini, Kim Ragaert, and Karl C. Vrancken. “A Review of Technological Solutions to Prevent or Reduce Marine Plastic Litter in Developing Countries.” Sustainability 13, no. 9 (2021): 4894. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13094894.

[55] Bergmann, Melanie, Hans Peter H. Arp, Bethanie Carney Almroth, Win Cowger, Marcus Eriksen, Tridibesh Dey, Sedat G√ºndoƒüdu, et al. “Moving from Symptom Management to Upstream Plastics Prevention: The Fallacy of Plastic Cleanup Technology.” One Earth 6, no. 11 (2023): 1439-42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2023.10.022.

[56] Oceana (2022).

[57] Richon, Kvale, Lebreton, and Egger (2023).

[58] Helm and Richards (2023).

[59] Spencer, Matthew, Fiona Culhane, Fiona Chong, Megan O Powell, Rozemarijn J Roland Holst, and Rebecca Helm. “Estimating the Impact of New High Seas Activities on the Environment: The Effects of Ocean-Surface Macroplastic Removal on Sea Surface Ecosystems.” PeerJ 11 (2023): e15021. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.15021.

[60] Bergmann et al (2023).

[61] Helm and Richards (2023).

[62] St. Francis Yacht Club (2024).

[63] Ocean Voyages Institute. “Project Kaisei®.” oceanvoyagesinstitute.org, n.d. Accessed https://www.oceanvoyagesinstitute.org/project-kaisei/.

[64] ___(The Ocean Cleanup) (2023).

[65] Ibid.

[66] Falk-Andersson, Jannike, Idun Rognerud, Hannah De Frond, Giulia Leone, Rachel Karasik, Zoie Diana, Hanna Dijkstra, et al. “Cleaning up without Messing Up: Maximizing the Benefits of Plastic Clean-up Technologies through New Regulatory Approaches.” Environmental Science & Technology 57, no. 36, 2023: 13304. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.3c01885.

[67] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[68] Spencer et al (2023).

[69] Cordier and Uehara (2019).

[70] Silverstein, Nikki. “North Bay Nonprofit Removes Deadly Ghost Nets from Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Pacific Sun.” pacificsun.com, February 20, 2024. Accessed April 16, 18, or 19, 2024. https://pacificsun.com/north-bay-nonprofit-removes-deadly-ghost-nets-from-great-pacific-garbage-patch/?fbclid=IwAR0BFPbh3eFPQLfUHQoin53_69XvV2OJ91mwrlUADHrUc3QI_Hwt8KcfpgU_aem_AWohcd_7DpTiercQvnLp1Rr3Il_g3jybkve1YPKBRdADejvPymp-ytryPs18EM2Ga-hMrAX5X085UtCbYxeggUZS.

[71] Falk-Andersson et al (2023).

[72] Spencer et al (2023).

[73] Falk-Andersson et al (2023).

[74] See https://apnews.com/article/united-nations-plastic-pollution-treaty-negotiations-inc-55283d8c15d9d4449ac25109ebebcd68.

[75] See https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/inside-tangled-negotiations-global-plastic-treaty.

[76] Falk-Andersson et al (2023).

[77] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[78] Ibid.

[79] Cunha, Maria C., Kostas Tsiaras, Jo√£o R. Marques, Yannis Hatzonikolakis, Luis C. Dias, and George Triantaphyllidis. “A Multi-Criteria Assessment of the Implementation of Innovative Technologies to Achieve Different Levels of Microplastics and Macroplastics Reduction.” Marine Pollution Bulletin 191 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2023.114906.

[80] Brouwer, Roy, Yichun Huang, Tessa Huizenga, Sofia Frantzi, Trang Le, Jared Sandler, Hanna Dijkstra, et al. “Assessing the Performance of Marine Plastics Cleanup Technologies in Europe and North America.” Ocean and Coastal Management 238 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2023.106555.

[81] Winterstetter et al (2021).

[82] Brouwer et al (2023).

[83] Victoria et al (2023).

[84] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[85] Ibid.

[86] Falk-Andersson et al (2023).

[87] Cunha et al (2023).

[88] Winterstetter et al (2021).

[89] Cho, Renée. “How Do We Clean up All That Ocean Plastic?” news.climate.columbia.edu, October 13, 2022. Accessed March 19, 2024. https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2022/10/13/how-do-we-clean-up-all-that-ocean-plastic/.

[90] Brouwer et al (2023).

[91] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[92] Cunha et al (2023).

[93] Falk-Andersson et al (2023).

[94] Winterstetter et al (2021).

[95] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[96] Helm and Richards (2023).

[97] Bergmann et al (2023).

[98] Ibid.

[99] Falk-Andersson et al (2023).

[100] Winterstetter et al (2021).

[101] Victoria et al (2023).

[102] Falk-Andersson et al (2023).

[103] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[104] Winterstetter et al (2021).

[105] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[106] Schmaltz et al (2020).

[107] Falk-Andersson et al (2023).

[108] See the “Report of the intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, on the work of its third session.”

[109] Victoria et al (2023).

[110] Alpizar, F., F. Carlsson, G. Lanza, B. Carney, R.C. Daniels, M. Jaime, T. Ho, et al. “A Framework for Selecting and Designing Policies to Reduce Marine Plastic Pollution in Developing Countries.” Environmental Science and Policy 109 (2020): 25-35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2020.04.007.

[111] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[112] Victoria et al (2023).

[113] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[114] Falk-Andersson et al (2023).

[115] Zoie Diana, Rachel Karasik, Greg B. Merrill, Margaret Morrison, Kimberly A. Corcoran, Daniel Vermeer, Evan Hepler-Smith, et al. “A Transdisciplinary Approach to Reducing Global Plastic Pollution.” Frontiers in Marine Science 9 (2022). https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2022.1032381.

[116] Spencer et al (2023).

[117] Falk-Andersson et al (2023).

[118] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[119] Murphy, Erin L, Miranda Bernard, Gwenllian Iacona, Stephanie B Borrelle, Megan Barnes, Alexis McGivern, Jorge Emmanuel, and Leah R Gerber. “A Decision Framework for Estimating the Cost of Marine Plastic Pollution Interventions.” Conservation Biology : The Journal of the Society for Conservation Biology 36, no. 2 (2022): e13827. https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13827.

[120] Greenly, Chris, Hannah Gray, Hueson Wong, Samuel Chin, James Passmore, Prisilla Johnson, and Yaseen Zaidi. “Observing and Tracking the Great Pacific Garbage Patch .” Utah State University: 35th Annual Small Satellite Conference, 2021.

[121] Brouwer et al (2023).

[122] Diana et al (2022).

[123] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[124] Ibid.

[125] Winterstetter et al (2021).

[126] Victoria et al (2023).

[127] Nikiema and Asiedu (2022).

[128] Cordier and Uehara (2019).

[129] Jambeck et al. according to Winterstetter et al (2021).

[130] Schmaltz et al (2020).

[131] Lebreton et al (2018).

[132] Diana et al (2022).

[133] Brouwer et al (2023).

[134] Bergmann et al (2023).

[135] See https://twitter.com/TheOceanCleanup/status/1704512161324704066 and https://twitter.com/TheOceanCleanup/status/1770104191769321666.

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