Featured Publications

Floating microplastic accumulates in the North Atlantic “garbage patch”

SEA scientists analyzed data collected from 1986 through 2008 on the abundance and distribution of floating microplastics in the western North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. They demonstrated that floating plastics accumulate in the surface convergence of the North Atlantic subtropical gyre (aka “garbage patch”), as previously shown by SEA scientist Jude Wilber. They also examined this data set – the longest of its kind – for trends in time during this period of continued growth in global plastic production. READ MORE >>

Law et al., 2010. Plastic accumulation in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. Science

Floating microplastic in the eastern Pacific Ocean: where to find it and where you won’t

SEA scientists analyzed data collected from 2001 through 2012 on floating microplastic abundance and distribution in the eastern North and South Pacific Oceans. Comparing the data to oceanographic numerical models, they found that the center of accumulation of the “garbage patch” closely corresponds to predictions from ocean physics. Further, few to no floating plastics were found outside of this region, including in the tropics and along the equator, again consistent with model predictions. READ MORE >>

Law et al., 2014. Distribution of surface plastic debris in the eastern Pacific Ocean from an 11-Year data set. Environmental Science & Technology

Estimating the amount of floating microplastic in the global ocean

In this collaborative study, scientists assembled the largest dataset to date of global microplastic measurements and used this together with three numerical ocean models to estimate the number and mass of floating microplastics in the global ocean. READ MORE >>

van Sebille et al., 2015.  A global inventory of small floating plastic debris. Environmental Research Letters

Plastic waste in the United States

In this study, scientists demonstrated that the United States generated the largest amount of plastic waste of any country in the world in 2016, an estimated 42.0 million metric tons. Most of this waste was properly collected and processed in waste management facilities, although very little was recycled. They estimated the amount of plastic waste lost to the environment domestically and abroad, due to littering, illegal dumping, and offshore processing of imported U.S. waste. READ MORE >>

Law et al., 2020. The United States’ contribution of plastic waste to land and ocean. Science Advances

Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made

In this collaborative study, scientists synthesized dispersed data on the amount of plastics (polymers plus additives) produced globally since the nominal start of commercial production in 1950. They followed the life cycle of these materials through use and disposal, finding that less than 10% of plastics have ever been recycled, with the vast majority of waste accumulating in landfills or the natural environment. READ MORE >>

Geyer et al., 2017. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances

Full Publication List

Peer-reviewed publications

Chavarry, J., K. L. Law, A. Barton, N. Bowlin, M. Ohman, C. Choy, 2022. Relative exposure to microplastics and prey for a pelagic forage fish. Environ.l Res. Lett. 17. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ac7060. (open access)

Lobelle, D., L. Shen, B. van Huet, T. van Emmerik, M. Kaandorp, G. Iattoni, K. Baldé, K. L. Law, E. van Sebille, 2022. Mapping managed and mismanaged Dutch plastic waste flows. Pre-print article (under review) doi:10.2139/ssrn.4050390. (open access)

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2022. Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi:10.17226/26132.

Law, K. L., R. Narayan, 2021. Reducing environmental plastic pollution by designing polymer materials for managed end-of-life. Nat. Rev. Mater. 1-13. doi:10.1038/s41578-021-00382-0.

Andrady, A., K. L. Law, J. Donohue, B. Koongolla, 2021. Accelerated degradation of low-density polyethylene in air and in sea water. Sci.Tot. Environ. 811. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151368. (open access)

Stubbins, A., K. L. Law, Kara, S. Muñoz, T. Bianchi, L. Zhu, 2021. Plastics in the Earth system. Science. 373. 51-55. doi:10.1126/science.abb0354.

Law, K. L., N. Starr, T. R. Siegler, J. R. Jambeck, N. J. Mallos, G. H. Leonard, 2020. The United States’ contribution of plastic waste to land and ocean. Sci. Adv. 6: eabd0288. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abd0288 (open access)

Pieper, C., Magalhães Loureiro, K. L. Law, L. A. Amaral-Zettler, V. Quintino, A. M. Rodrigues, M. A. Ventura, A. Martins, 2020. Marine litter footprint in the Azores Islands: a climatological perspective. Sci. Tot. Environ. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143310.

Borrelle, S. B., J. Ringma, K. L. Law et al. (20 authors), 2020. Predicted growth in plastic waste exceeds efforts to mitigate plastic pollution. Science 369, 1515-1518. doi:10.1126/science.aba3656.

Burke, E., C. C. Collins, L. Bergeron, K. L. Law, 2020. Teen activism leads to local laws banning single-use plastics: a two-year experiential learning journey. Sustainable Earth 3:15. doi: 10.1186/s42055-020-00035-0.

van Sebille, E., S. Aliani, K. L. Law, N. Maximenko, J. M. Alsina, A. Bagaev, M. Bergmann, B. Chapron et al. (38 authors), 2020. The physical oceanography of the transport of floating marine debris. Environ. Res. Lett. 15, 023003, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ab6d7d (open access).

Wilcox, C., B. D. Hardesty, K. L. Law, 2019. Abundance of floating plastic particles is increasing in the western North Atlantic Ocean. Environ. Sci. Technol. 54, 790-796, doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b04812.

Maximenko, N., P. Corradi, K. L. Law, E. van Sebille, S. Garaba, R. S. Lampitt, F. Galgani, V. Martinez-Vicente, et al. (62 authors), 2019. Toward the integrated marine debris observing system. Front. Mar. Sci. 6, 447, doi:10.3389/fmars.2019.00447.

Pieper, C., L. Amaral-Zettler, K. L. Law, C. M. Loureiro, A. Martins, 2019. Application of matrix scoring techniques to evaluate marine debris sources in the remote islands of the Azores Archipelago. Env. Poll. 249, 666-675, doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2019.03.084.

Mitchell, K., A. T. Lima, P. van Cappellen, 2019. Selenium in buoyant marine debris biofilm. Mar. Poll. Bull. 149, 110562, doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2019.110562.

Irwin, E. G., P. J. Culligan, M. Fischer-Kowalski, K. L. Law, R. Murtugudde and S. Pfirman, 2018. Bridging barriers to advance global sustainability. Nat. Sustain., 1, 324-326, doi:10.1038/s41893-018-0085-1.

Zettler, E. R., H. Takada, B. Monteleone, N. Mallow, M. Eriksen, L. A. Amaral-Zettler, 2017. Incorporating citizen science to study plastics in the environment. Anal. Methods 9, 1392-1403, doi:10.1039/c6ay02716d.

Koelmans, A. A., M. Kooi, K. L. Law, E. van Sebille, 2017. All is not lost: Deriving a top-down mass budget of plastic at sea. Environ. Res. Lett., 12, 114028, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aa9500.

Geyer, R., J. R. Jambeck and K. L. Law, 2017. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Sci. Adv. 3, e1700782, doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782.

Law, K. L., 2017. Plastics in the marine environment. Ann. Rev. Mar. Sci. 9:10.1–10.25, doi:10.1146/annurev-marine-010816-060409.

GIl, M. A., J. B. Pfaller, 2016. Oceanic barnacles act as foundation species on plastic debris: implications for marine dispersal. Sci. Rep. 6, 19987, doi:10.1038/srep19987.

Kukulka, T. and K. L. Law, 2016. Upper ocean turbulence and its influence on microplastic particle transport. J. Ocean Technol., 11, 96-97.

Mincer, T. J., E. R. Zettler, L. A. Amaral-Zettler, 2016. Biofilms on plastic debris and their influence on marine nutrient cycling, productivity, and hazardous chemical mobility. In: Takada, H., Karapanagioti, H. (eds) Hazardous Chemicals Associated with Plastics in the Marine Environment. The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry, v. 78. Springer, Cham. doi:10.1007/698_2016_12.

Kukulka, T., K. L. Law and G. Proskurowski, 2016. Evidence for the influence of surface heat fluxes on turbulent mixing of microplastic marine debris. J. Phys. Oceanogr., 46, 809-815, doi:10.1175/JPO-D-15-0242.1.

Van Sebille, E., C. Wilcox, L. Lebreton, N. Maximenko, B. D. Hardesty, J. A. van Franeker, M. Eriksen, D. Siegel, F. Galgani and K. L. Law, 2015. A global inventory of small floating plastic debris. Environ. Res. Lett., 10, 124006, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/10/12/124006. Selected as one of 25 articles in “Highlights of 2015” by Environmental Research Letters.

Brunner, K., T. Kukulka, G. Proskurowski and K. L. Law, 2015. Passive buoyant tracers in the ocean surface boundary layer: 2. Observations and simulations of microplastic marine debris. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 120, 7559-7573, doi:10.1002/2015JC010840.

Van Franeker, J. A. and K. L. Law, 2015. Seabirds, gyres and global trends in plastic pollution. Environ. Poll., 203, 89-96, doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2015.02.034.

Jambeck, J. R., R. Geyer, C. Wilcox, T. R. Siegler, M. Perryman, A. Andrady, R. Narayan and K. L. Law, 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347, 768-771, doi:10.1126/science.1260352. Featured as #27 in the Altmetric Top 100 2015 list of widely discussed and shared academic papers.

Amaral-Zettler, L. A., E. R. Zettler, B. Slikas, G. D. Boyd, D. W. Melvin, C. E. Morrall, G. Proskurowski, T. J. Mincer, 2015. The biogeography of the Plastisphere: implications for policy. Front. Ecol. Environ. 13, 541-546, doi:10.1890/150017.

Law, K. L. and R. C. Thompson, 2014. Microplastics in the seas. Science 345, 144-145, doi:10.1126/science.1254065.

Law, K. L., S. E. Morét-Ferguson, D. S. Goodwin, E. R. Zettler, E. DeForce, T. Kukulka and G. Proskurowski, 2014. Distribution of surface plastic debris in the eastern Pacific Ocean from an 11-year dataset. Environ. Sci. Technol., 48, 4732-4738, doi:10.1021/es4053076.

Zettler, E. R., T. J. Mincer, L. A. Amaral-Zettler, 2013. Life in the “Plastisphere”: Microbial communities on plastic marine debris. Environ. Sci. Technol., 47, 7137-7146, doi:10.1021/es401288x.

Kukulka, T., G. Proskurowski, S. Morét-Ferguson, D. Meyer and K. L. Law, 2012. The effect of wind mixing on the vertical distribution of buoyant plastic debris: Observations and modeling. Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L07601, doi:10.1029/2012GL051116.

Zettler, E. R., T. Mincer, G. Proskurowski, L. A. Zmaral-Zettler, 2011. The “plastisphere”: a new and expanding habitat for marine protists. J. Phycol., 47, S45, doi:10.1111/j.1529-8817.2011.01050.x.

Hirai, H., H. Takada, Y. Ogata, R. Yamashita, K. Mizukawa, M. Saha, C. Kwan, C. Moore et al. (15 authors), 2011. Organic micropollutants in marine plastic debris from the open ocean and remote and urban beaches. Mar. Poll. Bull. 62, 1683-1692, doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.06.004.

Law, K. L., S. Morét-Ferguson, N. A. Maximenko, G. Proskurowski, E. E. Peacock, J. Hafner and C. M. Reddy, 2010. Plastic accumulation in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. Science, 329, 1185-1188, doi:10.1126/science.1192321.

Morét-Ferguson, S., K. L. Law, G. Proskurowski, E. K. Murphy, E. E. Peacock and C. M. Reddy, 2010. The size, mass, and composition of plastic debris in the western North Atlantic Ocean. Mar. Poll. Bull., 60, 1873-1878, doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2010.07.020.

Other publications

Law, K. L. and E. van Sebille, 2016. Far more microplastics floating in oceans than thought. The Conversation, 7 January 2016,

GESAMP, 2015. Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment: a global assessment. (Kershaw, P. J., ed.). (IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/UNIDO/WMO/IAEA/UN/UNEP/UNDP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection). Rep. Stud. GESAMP No. 90, 96 pp,

Law, K. L., 2013. What Does the Garbage Patch Really Look Like? Ocean Health Index blog, 15 April 2013,

Law, K. L. and M.C. Goldstein, 2012. “The Ocean’s ‘Garbage Patches’: What They Are and How They Impact the Ocean Ecosystem”. Brooks/Cole Enrichment Module (textbook chapter), Brooks/Cole, Belmont, CA, 29 pp.

Law, K. L. and N. Maximenko, 2011. Understanding Sources, Sinks, and Transport of Marine Debris. Meetings Report, Eos, 92 (28), 235.

Law, K. L., 2011. Plastic Marine Debris: Perspectives from SEA. Flotsam and Jetsam (Quarterly journal of Massachusetts Marine Educators), Spring 2011 issue.

Wilber, J. R., 1987. Plastic in the North Atlantic. Oceanus, 30, 61-68.