Global Plastic Pollution Observation System to Aid Policy

Michael S. Bank, Peter W. Swarzenski, Carlos M. Duarte, Matthias C. Rillig, Albert A. Koelmans, Marc Metian, Stephanie Wright, Jennifer F. Provencher, Monica Sanden, Adrian Jordaan, Martin Wagner, Martin Thiel, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental challenges and has received commensurate widespread attention. Although it is a top priority for policymakers and scientists alike, the knowledge required to guide decisions, implement mitigation actions, and assess their outcomes remains inadequate. We argue that an integrated, global monitoring system for plastic pollution is needed to provide comprehensive, harmonized data for environmental, societal, and economic assessments. The initial focus on marine ecosystems has been expanded here to include atmospheric transport and terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. An earth-system-level plastic observation system is proposed as a hub for collecting and assessing the scale and impacts of plastic pollution across a wide array of particle sizes and ecosystems including air, land, water, and biota and to monitor progress toward ameliorating this problem. The proposed observation system strives to integrate new information and to identify pollution hotspots (i.e., production facilities, cities, roads, ports, etc.) and expands monitoring from marine environments to encompass all ecosystem types. Eventually, such a system will deliver knowledge to support public policy and corporate contributions to the relevant United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
StatePublished - May 24 2021

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2021-05-26
Acknowledgements: M.S.B. acknowledges funding from the Norway Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries (Institute of Marine Research Ocean Health Strategic Initiative Project Number 15494). P.W.S and M.M. from IAEA are grateful for the support provided to the Environment Laboratories by the Government of the Principality of Monaco. M.C.R. acknowledges funding from an ERC Advanced Grant (694368), from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF; projects BIBS and μPlastic), and from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. S.W. is funded by the Medical Research Council, UK (MRC; MR/R026521/1). A.J. acknowledges support from a MA Seaport Economic Council grant. M.W. acknowledges funding from the Norwegian Research Council (301157) and the
North Atlantic Microplastic Centre (NAMC). Y.S.O. acknowledges the support of the Cooperative Research Program for Agriculture Science and Technology Development (project no. PJ01475801), RDA, and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) (NRF-2021R1A2C2011734) in Korea.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemistry


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