February 2024, article in a peer-reviewed journal
Scientific Reports

Yvette A. M. Mellink, Tim H. M. van Emmerik and Thomas Mani

  • Publication type: Article in peer-reviewed journal
  • Publication journal: Scientific Reports
  • Publication date: February 16, 2024
  • Collaborators: Hydrology and Environmental Hydraulics Group, Wageningen University and Research (NL), The Ocean Cleanup (NL)
  • DOI: 10.1038/s41598-024-53971-8


Wind and rain are considered main drivers for mobilization and transport of macroplastics on land, yet there is a lack of empirical data that quantifies this. We present lab experiment results on land-based macroplastic mobilization and transport. We placed four types of macroplastics on terrains with varying surface roughness and slope angles, and exposed them to changing wind speeds and rain intensities. In general, we find that the mobilization probability and transport velocity of macroplastics strongly depend on the combination of the terrain characteristics and material properties. At Beaufort 3, 100% of the plastic bags were mobilized, whereas for the other plastic types less than 50% were mobilized. We found 1.4 (grass) to 5 times (paved surface) higher mobilization probabilities on land than assumed by existing plastic transport models. Macroplastic transport velocities were positively correlated with wind speed, but not with rain intensity. This suggests that macroplastics are not transported on land by rain unless surface runoff develops that can bring the macroplastics afloat. Macroplastic transport velocities were, driven by wind, 1.9 and, driven by rain, 4.9 times faster on paved surfaces than on grass. This study enhances our understanding of land-based macroplastic transport and provides an empirical basis for models.