Integrated Marine Debris Observing System
Why is monitoring marine debris important?
According to the definition of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), marine debris, also referred to as marine litter, is characterised as “any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment” (UNEP7) Overall, plastic waste makes up most debris identified in aquatic systems, accounting for approximately 80% of the total debris by number (Morales-Caselles4).
Plastic pollution has been recognized as a planetary boundary threat along with other novel chemicals (Persson5) and is poorly reversible -if not completely irreversible- because even if plastic emissions into the environment cease immediately, existing environmental load of plastic waste and its continuous weathering will result in ongoing pollution for a prolonged period (MacLeod2). Addressing the global distribution and effects of such a complex pollutant is only possible with the coordination of a holistic monitoring approach in time and space. This approach should involve producing harmonised data through sustained long-term observations, which will enable the analysis of the efficiency of the regulations.