Leakage: Loss of custodial control of plastic material to the environment, including during routine activities.
Marine debris or marine litter: Any persistent, manufactured, or processed solid material that is directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, discarded, disposed of, or abandoned into the marine, coastal, or Great Lakes environment. This definition excludes natural flotsam, such as trees washed out to sea, and focuses on non-biodegradable synthetic materials that persist in the marine environment (definition adapted from multiple sources).
Microplastic: A plastic object from 1 to 1,000 µm in size as determined by the object’s largest dimension (definition adapted from Hartmann et al. 2019).
Ocean plastic waste: A subset of marine debris; plastic waste in the marine environment including estuaries, coastlines, seawater (sea surface and water column), seafloor sediments, biota, and sea ice (these are similar ocean reservoirs as defined in Law 2017).
Ocean plastic waste, plastic marine debris, plastic marine litter, and marine plastic pollution are collapsed for clarity and used interchangeably.
Plastic solid waste: The subset of solid waste that is composed of plastics.
Plastic waste: Any plastic that has been intentionally or unintentionally taken out of use and that has entered a waste stream as part of a waste management process or released into the environment. Plastic waste in the environment is typically characterized according to size. Size classifications in this report follow the classifications used by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of the Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP 2019) and adopted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program.
Plastics: A wide range of synthetic polymeric materials and associated additives made from petrochemical, natural gas, or biologically based feedstocks and with thermoplastic, thermoset, or elastomeric properties used in a wide variety of applications including packaging, building and construction, household and sports equipment, vehicles, electronics, and agriculture, and which occur in a solid state in the environment.
Solid waste: Residential, commercial, and institutional waste (Kaza et al. 2018). Industrial, medical, hazardous, electronic, and construction and demolition waste are excluded from this definition.
Virgin plastic: Plastic resin produced from a petrochemical, natural gas, or biobased feedstock, which has never been used or processed.
|ACC||American Chemistry Council|
|ALDFG||abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear|
|ASTM||ASTM International (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials)|
|BMT||billion metric tons|
|CERCLA||Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act|
|CFR||Code of Federal Regulations|
|CWA||Clean Water Act|
|EPR||extended producer responsibility|
|FTIR||Fourier transform infrared|
|GAO||Government Accountability Office|
|GESAMP||Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of the Marine Environmental Protection|
|ICC||International Coastal Cleanup|
|IMDCC||Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee|
|ISO||International Standards Organization|
|LIDAR||Light Detection and Ranging|
|LLDPE||linear low-density polyethylene|
|MDMAP||Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project|
|MDP||Marine Debris Program|
|MEE||Ministry of Ecology and Environment|
|MMT||million metric tons|
|MRF||material recovery facility|
|MSW||municipal solid waste|
|NDPB||non-degradable plastic bags|
|NDRC||National Development and Reform Commission|
|NOAA||National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration|
|NSPT||non-degradable single-use plastic tableware|
|OECD||Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development|
|OSB||Ocean Studies Board|
|PPE||personal protective equipment|
|py-GC-MS||pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry|
|RCRA||Resource Conservation and Recovery Act|
|SOT||statement of task|
|TED-GC-MS||thermal extraction-desorption gas chromatography-mass spectrometry|
|TMDL||Total Maximum Daily Load|
|TRI||Toxics Release Inventory|
|U.S. EPA||United States Environmental Protection Agency|
|UAV||unmanned aerial vehicle|
|UNEP||United Nations Environment Programme|
|USGS||U.S. Geological Survey|
GESAMP (Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of the Marine Environmental Protection). 2019. Guidelines or the Monitoring and Assessment of Plastic Litter and Microplastics in the Ocean, edited by P. J. Kershaw, A. Turra, and F. Galgani.
Hartmann, N. B., T. Hüffer, R. C. Thompson, M. Hassellöv, A. Verschoor, A. E. Daugaard, S. Rist, T. Karlsson, N. Brennholt, M. Cole, M. P. Herrling, M. C. Hess, N. P. Ivleva, A. L. Lusher, and M. Wagner. 2019. “Are we speaking the same language? Recommendations for a definition and categorization framework for plastic debris.” Environ Sci Technol 53 (3):1039-1047. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.8b05297.
Kaza, S., L. Yao, P. Bhada-Tata, and F. Van Woerden. 2018. What a Waste 2.0: A Global Snapshot of Solid Waste Management to 2050. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.
Law, K. L. 2017. “Plastics in the marine environment.” Ann Rev Mar Sci 9:205-229. doi: 10.1146/annurev-marine-010816-060409.