River plastic emissions to the world’s oceans

Rivers are a major source of plastic waste into the oceans. We estimate that over 1000 rivers are accountable for 80% of global annual emissions which range between 0.8 – 2.7 million metric tons per year, with small urban rivers amongst the most polluting. The remaining 20% of plastic emissions are distributed over 30,000 rivers, represented by smaller blue dots.

Our findings displayed in this map are currently under review for scientific publication. The results can assist in prioritizing, developing and implementing mitigation measures and strategies.

The Ocean Cleanup has developed a technology, the Interceptor, to help in combatting river plastic emissions into the world’s oceans.

Working together with government leaders, private corporations and the scientific community our goal is to tackle these 1000 most polluting rivers in 5 years from full-scale rollout.

Our new model approach includes geographically distributed data on plastic waste, land-use, wind, precipitation and rivers and calculates the probability for plastic waste to reach a river and subsequently the ocean.

This probabilistic approach highlights regions that are likely to emit plastic into the ocean. Combined with mismanaged plastic waste, displayed in this map, our model predicts plastic emissions for each river. Detailed information on our modeling approach and data will follow in our scientific update.

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