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Volume 4 Issue 6, June 2021

Ocean litter

Using comprehensive data, the study by González-Fernández and colleagues estimates the extent to which riverine floating macrolitter across Europe is transferred to the ocean while the article by Morales-Caselles and co-authors finds that global marine litter is dominated by plastics from take-out food, followed by fishing gear.

See Morales-Caselles et al. and González-Fernández et al.

Image: Andrés Cózar,, University of Cádiz. Cover design: Valentina Monaco


  • Scientific evidence sheds light on the extent, source and type of litter in the oceans, as well as on the limited efforts to clean it up so far. As we rely on healthy oceans for our future, it’s time to act.



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Comment & Opinion

  • Consensus on carbon accounting approaches at city-level is lacking and analytic frameworks to systematically link carbon mitigation with the Sustainable Development Goals are limited. A new accounting approach anchored upon key physical provisioning systems can help to address these knowledge gaps and facilitate urban transitions.

    • Anu Ramaswami
    • Kangkang Tong
    • Karen C. Seto
  • Experts around the world have been informing governments’ plans for a post-pandemic recovery. Leena Srivastava, Deputy Director General for Science at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and Heide Hackmann, Chief Executive officer at the International Science Council (ISC), talk to Nature Sustainability about the recent joint effort ‘Bouncing forward sustainably. Pathways to a post-COVID world’.

    • Monica Contestabile
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  • Riverine systems help transfer mismanaged waste into the ocean, but riverine litter data are scarce. Using a database of riverine floating macrolitter across Europe, this study estimates that 307–925 million litter items—82% of which is plastic—are transferred annually from Europe into the ocean.

    • Daniel González-Fernández
    • Andrés Cózar
    • Myrto Tourgeli
  • Data on marine litter are scattered. Harmonizing worldwide aquatic litter inventories, this study finds global litter dominated by plastics from take-out food, followed by fishing, with litter being trapped in nearshore areas and land-sourced plastic reaching the open ocean mostly as small fragments.

    • Carmen Morales-Caselles
    • Josué Viejo
    • Andrés Cózar
  • The use and growth of ride-sharing apps in recent years has changed urban transportation patterns. This article examines their impacts on congestion, mass transit ridership and private car ownership in North American cities.

    • Mi Diao
    • Hui Kong
    • Jinhua Zhao
  • The conversion of methane to target one-carbon oxygenates relies on a two-step process that is carbon and energy intensive. Direct oxidation offers a sustainable alternative pathway. Here, the authors report on the selective photocatalytic oxidation of methane at room temperature using bismuth vanadate catalyst, realizing high methanol and formaldehyde selectivity.

    • Yingying Fan
    • Wencai Zhou
    • Zhiyong Tang
  • Innovations to tackle marine litter are urgently needed. A global analysis of solutions to prevent, monitor and clean marine litter identifies 177 solutions, mostly for monitoring, and shows that only a few are ready to use but none have been validated for efficiency and environmental potential.

    • Nikoleta Bellou
    • Chiara Gambardella
    • Carsten Lemmen
    Analysis Open Access
  • Fossil fuel infrastructure impacts land use. This study estimates the present value from restoring lands with non-producing gas wells at US$21 billion at a restoration cost of US$7 billion. Deciduous forests, grasslands and chaparral had especially high net benefits.

    • William Haden Chomphosy
    • Sofia Varriano
    • Matthew D. Moran
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