Modelling global river export of microplastics to the marine environment: Sources and future trends

Jikke van Wijnen*, Ad M. J. Ragas, Carolien Kroeze

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Microplastics, transported by rivers to oceans, are triggering environmental concern. This study aims to better understand river export of microplastics from land to sea. We developed the Global Riverine Export of Microplastics into Seas (GREMiS) model, a global, spatially explicit model for analysing the annual microplastics export to coastal seas. Our results indicate that riverine microplastics export varies among world regions, with several hotspots, e.g., South East Asia, and, depending on the 2050 scenario, may be doubled (Business as usual') or halved due to improved waste management (Environment profits'). Globally, our model simulations indicated fragmentation of macroplastics as the main source of microplastics, but this result heavily depends on the assumed fragmentation rate. Sewerage discharges contributed only 20 ranging from 1% (Africa) to 60% (OECD countries) and decreasing by 2050 as a result of improved sanitation. We conclude that, combating microplastics in the aquatic environment requires more region-specific analyses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-401
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume673
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2019

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marine environment
Rivers
river
modeling
Sanitation
fragmentation
Waste management
Profitability
OECD
sanitation
aquatic environment
waste management
trend
Industry
ocean
simulation
sea

Cite this

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title = "Modelling global river export of microplastics to the marine environment: Sources and future trends",
abstract = "Microplastics, transported by rivers to oceans, are triggering environmental concern. This study aims to better understand river export of microplastics from land to sea. We developed the Global Riverine Export of Microplastics into Seas (GREMiS) model, a global, spatially explicit model for analysing the annual microplastics export to coastal seas. Our results indicate that riverine microplastics export varies among world regions, with several hotspots, e.g., South East Asia, and, depending on the 2050 scenario, may be doubled (Business as usual') or halved due to improved waste management (Environment profits'). Globally, our model simulations indicated fragmentation of macroplastics as the main source of microplastics, but this result heavily depends on the assumed fragmentation rate. Sewerage discharges contributed only 20 ranging from 1{\%} (Africa) to 60{\%} (OECD countries) and decreasing by 2050 as a result of improved sanitation. We conclude that, combating microplastics in the aquatic environment requires more region-specific analyses.",
author = "{van Wijnen}, Jikke and Ragas, {Ad M. J.} and Carolien Kroeze",
year = "2019",
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journal = "Science of the Total Environment",
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Modelling global river export of microplastics to the marine environment : Sources and future trends. / van Wijnen, Jikke; Ragas, Ad M. J.; Kroeze, Carolien.

In: Science of the Total Environment, Vol. 673, 10.07.2019, p. 392-401.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Modelling global river export of microplastics to the marine environment

T2 - Sources and future trends

AU - van Wijnen, Jikke

AU - Ragas, Ad M. J.

AU - Kroeze, Carolien

PY - 2019/7/10

Y1 - 2019/7/10

N2 - Microplastics, transported by rivers to oceans, are triggering environmental concern. This study aims to better understand river export of microplastics from land to sea. We developed the Global Riverine Export of Microplastics into Seas (GREMiS) model, a global, spatially explicit model for analysing the annual microplastics export to coastal seas. Our results indicate that riverine microplastics export varies among world regions, with several hotspots, e.g., South East Asia, and, depending on the 2050 scenario, may be doubled (Business as usual') or halved due to improved waste management (Environment profits'). Globally, our model simulations indicated fragmentation of macroplastics as the main source of microplastics, but this result heavily depends on the assumed fragmentation rate. Sewerage discharges contributed only 20 ranging from 1% (Africa) to 60% (OECD countries) and decreasing by 2050 as a result of improved sanitation. We conclude that, combating microplastics in the aquatic environment requires more region-specific analyses.

AB - Microplastics, transported by rivers to oceans, are triggering environmental concern. This study aims to better understand river export of microplastics from land to sea. We developed the Global Riverine Export of Microplastics into Seas (GREMiS) model, a global, spatially explicit model for analysing the annual microplastics export to coastal seas. Our results indicate that riverine microplastics export varies among world regions, with several hotspots, e.g., South East Asia, and, depending on the 2050 scenario, may be doubled (Business as usual') or halved due to improved waste management (Environment profits'). Globally, our model simulations indicated fragmentation of macroplastics as the main source of microplastics, but this result heavily depends on the assumed fragmentation rate. Sewerage discharges contributed only 20 ranging from 1% (Africa) to 60% (OECD countries) and decreasing by 2050 as a result of improved sanitation. We conclude that, combating microplastics in the aquatic environment requires more region-specific analyses.

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