There is a growing amount of plastic waste (including microplastics, or very small plastic fragments) in the sea.

The Challenge

What happens to the plastic in the sea is poorly understood, though a growing body of evidence suggests it is rapidly spreading throughout the global ocean.

The mechanisms of this spread are straightforward for many larger plastics, but the fate of the smallest size fractions (the microplastics, or tiny pieces of plastic that are smaller than 5 mm) is less clear. Understanding what happens to it after it leaves human control, and what it does to the environment, is important information for understanding what threats it might pose to marine life.

Movement and Impact

At GNS Science our goal is to better understand its movements through the ocean and the resulting impacts on marine life.

We aim to:

  • constrain the fate and movement of microplastics through the open ocean
  • Identifying the global impact of plastic interaction with the base of the ocean food web (e.g. zooplankton)

The ‘life cycle’ of plastic debris

Diagram illustrating many of the possible pathways over the lifecycle of plastic litter on its journey from land to sea.