Same but Different: A Framework to Design and Compare Riverbank Plastic Monitoring Strategies

Vriend, Paul; Roebroek, Caspar T.J.; Emmerik, Tim Van


Plastic pollution in rivers negatively impacts human livelihood and aquatic ecosystems. Monitoring data are crucial for a better understanding of sources, sinks and transport mechanisms of riverine macroplastics. In turn, such understanding is key to develop effective plastic pollution prevention, mitigation, and removal strategies. Riverine plastic is mostly studied through the monitoring of floating plastic and through the quantification of plastic deposited on riverbanks. Existing riverbank plastic measurement methods vary greatly, which complicates direct comparison of data collected with different monitoring strategies. We present a framework to better compare and to aid the design of riverbank plastic monitoring methods, which is based on four common elements distilled from riverbank (plastic) litter monitoring methods currently in use. This framework can be used by scientists and practitioners to find the right trade-offs between the data required to answer specific research questions, and the available resources. Subsequently, we use the framework to suggest effective monitoring strategies for four frequently asked research questions. With this paper, we aim to provide a first step toward harmonization of riverbank plastic litter monitoring efforts.