Manila River Mouths Act as Temporary Sinks for Macroplastic Pollution

Tim van Emmerik*, Justin van Klaveren, Lourens J.J. Meijer, Joost W. Krooshof, Dixie A.A. Palmos, Maria Antonia Tanchuling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Philippines is suggested to be one of the world's main contributors to global marine plastic pollution. Several rivers in the Manila metropolitan area are assumed to be main pathways of land-based plastic waste into the ocean. However, these model estimates remain uncertain due to a lack of field data. The main goal of this study was therefore to collect field data on floating macroplastic flux and polymer category in three of Manila's main rivers: the Meycauayan, Tullahan and Pasig. We measured plastic flux, item polymer category, and flow velocity at two locations per river during an 11-day period. Each river was measured close to the river mouth, and several kilometer upstream. The results showed no significant difference between the plastic flux in upstream and downstream flow direction at the three river mouths. The Meycauayan and Pasig rivers did have significantly higher plastic flux at the river mouth compared to the upstream location. The observations suggest accumulation of macroplastics in the river mouths during periods of low freshwater discharge. In this case, instantaneous plastic flux is mainly determined by the tidal dynamics. It is hypothesized that plastics are temporarily retained in estuaries, and may be flushed out during neap tide or increased river discharge. Due to the retention capacity of the estuaries, net plastic export into the ocean could not be estimated. Future research is needed to further investigate the role of tidal dynamics on the transport and net export of riverine macroplastics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number545812
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2020


  • estuary
  • floating debris
  • hydrology
  • marine litter
  • Philippines
  • plastic
  • river plastic

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