(a) Contribution per country and ocean region as percentage of total macro-litter released from Europe into the ocean . (b) Frequency distribution of floating macro-litter loading (items y-1) in relation to waste management rate and basin size. Colour code refers to countries’ waste management rates: blue - high (> 90%), green - medium (80-90%) and red - low (< 80%).
Top 10 litter items across seven aquatic ecosystems globally. Indecreasing order: Bags, plastic bottles, food containers and cutlery, wrappers, synthetic rope,fishing related, plastic caps and lids, strapping bands and industrial packaging, glass bottles and cans (beverage). The colours of the bars correspond to take-out/consumer (red), ocean & waterway (blue) and industrial & household (green) origins.
Material, plastic type and probable origin of the litter found in the 7 major aquatic environments at a global scale. Each ring shows 7 segments, each corresponding to one of the environments investigated (titles are in the inner green ring). Concentric rings represent material types, plastic types and origin from the inside out, respectively. The relative sizes of colour portions in each ring segment represent the relative counts per environment. See the legend for the meaning of colours and chart structure. Smoking-related items include tobacco pouches, cigarette packages and lighters but not cigarette filters and cigar tips.
Top 10 litter items in aquatic environments. Bars show mean percentages per environment, while the darker-coloured areas around the means show the individual data. Uncertainties of results were quantified through 10,000 Monte Carlo iterations in each environment. Bar colour relates to potential origin (take-out consumer, industrial and household, ocean and waterways).
Top 10 litter items in the nearshore seafloor of the seven large world socioeconomic regions. Bars show mean percentages per region; the darker-coloured areas around the means show the individual data. Uncertainties of results were quantified through 10,000 Monte Carlo iterations in each region. Bar colour relates to potential origin.
The circles show the locations of sampling sites. The color of the circles relates to the types of environments sampled, while their size represents the number of items retrieved from each sampling site (see legend). The four regions with the highest sample density are framed and zoomed in.
The arrows show the main connections among environments depicted as pools. The contribution in relative abundance into each environment is indicated with colour bars (see colour legend). White portions in the pools account for other items. Thick connectors indicate pathways with a greater contribution to the specific flow supplying each reservoir.
Arctic accumulation zone of floating plastic debris is shown in red area, the summer extension of the polar ice cap in white area, and the schematic drawing of the North Atlantic Subtropical Ocean Gyre and the poleward branch of Thermohaline Circulation is shown by green curves. The colored dots indicate plastic concentrations at the sites sampled during the Tara Oceans circumpolar expedition.
(A) At-sea vessel density. (B) Human population. (C) Remote-sensed sea surface salinity. (D) Concentrations of floating plastic debris measured in the Tara Oceans circumpolar expedition. The polar ice cap is shown in white area, and the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre and the THC poleward branch by green curves. The northern passage from Barents Sea to Kara Sea is zoomed in, with contour lines describing salinity (5-m depth). (E) Plastic concentrations as total weight (upper graph) and abundances per plastic type (lower graph) along the circumpolar track, from the Greenland Sea to the Labrador Sea, as indicated in the left map by the black line connecting the sampling sites. Salinity at depths of 5 and 20 m is also shown in the upper graph, and two dashed lines are used as reference for 34.5 salinity and the median of plastic concentrations measured in the accumulation zones of Subtropical Gyres. The Arctic Polar Circle (66.34°N) is marked in all maps.
Pathways for the plastic accumulations in the Greenland Sea (upper maps) and the Barents Sea (lower maps) were obtained by simulations backward in time. Tracers were released at the locations of maximal plastic concentrations (red circles), and their surface transport was modeled for the previous years (1 to 3 years). Units are expressed as percentage of tracers. There is a close agreement between the modeled plastic pathway and the THC route described in the literature.
In the pie charts, the percentages of plastic types are shown in relation to weight. The size distributions are presented in the lower graph. Horizontal axes indicate both log-transformed and nontransformed size limits of the bins. More information in the original paper.
Published in July 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the map proved for the first time the existence of 5 large accumulation zones of floating plastic debris, one in the center of each of the ocean basins (North and South Atlantic, North and South Paciifc, and Indian Ocean).