MAY 11, 2018 — In March and April 2018, staff from the Marine Debris Program (MDP) participated in a series of sessions discussing the plastic marine debris issue organized by the National Academies of Sciences Board.
The objective of these complementary sessions was to explore scientific issues concerning various challenges and potential solutions to the problem of plastic marine debris to determine how the Academies can best contribute to the issues. In each session, a group of marine debris experts each gave presentations and then participated in a panel discussion with the board members.
In the first of these sessions, the MDP Director, Nancy Wallace, gave a presentation and participated in a discussion with the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology. This session explored the scope of the issue, chemistry of plastics degradation, and leaching/adsorption of contaminants onto plastics in the marine environment. The session also addressed potential chemical approaches to addressing the issue, such as advanced recovery and recycling.
In mid-April, the MDP Research Coordinator, Carlie Herring, participated in a plastic marine debris session with the National Academies of Sciences Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology (BEST). The BEST session meeting focused on characterizing the transport and transformation of plastic debris in the marine environment, interactions of plastics with toxic chemicals, exposure pathways, and risks to human and ecosystems.
During the final session, Amy Uhrin, the MDP Chief Scientist, gave a presentation in the final session to the Ocean Studies Board. This session integrated information discussed during the previous two sessions in the context of coastal and marine environments and resources and the board members discussed potential actions that the National Academies of Sciences might explore moving forward.