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Management of Marine Plastic Debris

By: , Posted on: September 6, 2017

The book addresses the global problem of marine plastic debris (MPD), a waste created by human activities in oceans, seas, lakes, waterways, and the coast lines. Most of the plastic debris, which are disposed deliberately or accidentally in water bodies, are non-biodegradable polymers, meaning that they remain in the water environment for a very long period. Floating, sunk, and stranded plastic debris in the oceans and the beaches have become a major environmental issue with serious social and economic effects, which can be compared with other issues of modern time, including climate change, ocean acidification, and loss of biodiversity. Many efforts have been undertaken, and several technologies have been developed for the collection and removal of MPD without much success. A large number of international and regional treaties, conventions, agreements, national laws, etc. have been designed to control and minimize the disposal of plastics in water, but despite all these regulations the size of plastics debris in the oceans keeps growing, covering vast areas. In the meantime, new materials such as nanoplastics are entering the oceans, with still-unknown effects on marine life and human health, aggravating the problem and making the need to find a solution to marine plastic pollution more urgent.

The problem of MPD has been extensively described with vivid colors in the media and the internet, accompanied by shocking photographs and alarming descriptions to alert the public opinion and the scientific community and has been documented in a plethora of articles, reports, technical papers, and books. Despite the broad publicity to the issue and all the accumulated information, little progress has been made in finding a technical solution for cleaning the oceans and the seas and implementing a proper prevention mitigation policy/strategy. Most of the proposed technical solutions from researchers and entrepreneurs alike refer either to scenarios, small-scale pilot projects, or technologies handling only a part of MPD (e.g., derelict fishing nets or expanded polystyrene buoys). There are good reasons for this situation related to the transboundary nature of the MPD and the difficulty of controlling large swathes of the planet’s oceans and seas covered and/or embedded with vast amounts of plastic debris, the cost of collecting and treating, the lack of public awareness on the consequences, and the lack of alternative materials, which are technically equivalent and economically profitable to replace the widely used fossil fuel–derived plastics. Moreover, a substantial amount of MPD is in the form of microplastics, and as such, their collection from the sea is practically unfeasible and economically no viable.

The present book comes to fill a critical gap in the literature in the technical field of water pollution by solid waste and aims to contribute to the quest of finding a feasible and viable solution to the problem of MPD, which pollutes the marine environment and disturbs the ecological balance.

Current efforts to address the problem of MPD include (1) cleanup operations for the collection and removal of MPD from the sea surface and seafloor, shorelines, and beaches; (2) treatment practices for the disposal and/or recycling of MPD; (3) prevention measures and techniques for the protection and confinement of MPD; (4) mitigation for the reduction of the impact of MPD in the marine environment by developing alternative materials; and (5) legislation involving international, regional, and national conventions and treaties for the implementation of the adopted measures and policies. The present book is drawn around these strategy lines.

This book provides an updated and detailed overview of the environmental, social, and economic problems created by the disposal of plastic debris in oceans, seas, and waterways, giving an analysis of the type, composition, and chemical identity of the constituting polymers, reviewing all available technologies for the treatment of MPD, and providing the regulatory framework to work within. It consists of seven chapters.

Chapter 1: The Problem of Marine Plastic Debris presents the problem of marine plastic pollution, the geographic distribution of MPD, the origins (land- or marine-based plastics), the physical types (macro-, micro-, or nanoplastics), the conditions (floating, submerged, or beach plastics), and the identities (chemical nature) of the main types of plastics found in the marine environment.

Chapter 2: Environmental, Social, and Economic Impacts presents the environmental, social, economic, and health effects of MPD, causing direct or indirect damage to marine ecosystems and human activities, such as fishing and aquaculture, shipping, recreational activities, and tourism. The environmental impacts of MPD on sea life refer to increased levels of mortality or sublethal effects on biodiversity caused by (1) entanglement of marine animals in various types of plastic debris such as derelict fishing nets (also referred to as “ghost” nets) and plastic fragments; (2) ingestion of small pieces of MPD by marine (micro) organisms and the transport of persistent organic pollutants to the stomachs and the gastrointestinal track of marine animals; (3) dispersal via rafting of many invasive species to distant places; (4) creation of new habitats of marine species; and (5) effect on existing habitats. The social impacts of MPD include deterioration in the quality of human life, reduced recreational opportunities, loss of aesthetic value, and loss of nonuse or vicarious value. The economic impacts relate to the reduction of opportunities to exploit the marine environment, for pleasure or profit.

Chapter 3: Degradation of Plastics in the Marine Environment examines the various degradation modes of plastics in the marine environment.

Chapter 4: Assessment examines all the available technologies, methods, apparatuses, marine vessel designs, and commercial appliances for the collection and removal of floating, submerged, and beached MPD. It also reviews all the applied techniques for the identification of MPD.

Chapter 5: Treatments and Uses examines all the available techniques for (pre)treating and recycling MPD by critically reviewing all the non-patent and patent literature as well as the business opportunities arising from the exploitation of this waste.

Chapter 6: Prevention and Mitigation investigates the various measures taken to control and reduce MPD, including technologies to capture debris before it reaches the open sea, use of alternative polymers and products (e.g., biodegradable polymers and cigarette filters with improved degradability), social awareness actions and campaigns, and use of economic incentives and disincentives. Emphasis has been given to the measures to tackle the problem of derelict fishing gear.

Chapter 7: Regulatory Framework reviews the main international, regional, and selected national agreements and regulations, which are related directly or indirectly to MPD. There are also presented legislative measures for specific MPD, including fishing gear, buoys, microplastics, plastic bags, food plastic packaging and tableware, cigarettes, and boats made from fiber-reinforced plastic composites.

This book has been built around Chapter 4 and Chapter 5, which review all available processes and techniques for recovering, cleaning, and recycling MPD from the oceans and seas. At the same time it presents all the methods for monitoring and identifying floating, submerged, or beached plastic debris. The supporting chapters aim to give a spherical view of the marine plastic pollution issue.

The author adopts a multidisciplinary approach in his effort to cover all aspects of the marine plastic pollution, while providing updated information on all new developments and techniques and reviewing the literature and the media on trends, policies, new projects, and ideas.

Management of Marine Plastic Debris

  • Reviews all available processes and techniques for recovering, cleaning and recycling marine plastic debris
  • Presents and evaluates viable options for engineers to tackle this growing problem, including the use of alternative polymers
  • Investigates a wide range of possible applications of marine plastics debris and opportunities for businesses to make a positive environmental impact
  • Includes a detailed discussion of the regulatory environment, including international conventions and standards and national policies

The book is available now on ScienceDirect. Want your own copy? Order on and save up to 30%. Enter STC317 at the checkout!

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Materials Science

The highly interdisciplinary field of materials science examines elements of applied physics and chemistry, as well as chemical, mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering. Nanoscience and nanotechnology in particular have yielded major innovations in this area, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes. Elsevier’s authoritative content in this area ranges from undergraduate textbooks to multi-volume reference works investigating the relationships between the structure of materials and their properties. Our journals (including Materials Today), books, and eBooks help researchers stay abreast of developments in this swiftly advancing field, coving major sub-disciplines like energy and power; metals and alloys; ceramics; composite materials; polymer science and biomaterials; interdisciplinary materials science; and structural materials.