Sources of microplastic - pollution to the marine environment



The overall objective of this study ordered by the Norwegian Environment Agency is to provide a good overview of thedifferent sources contributing to microplastic pollution both in Norway and globally. For Norway, we also provide a firstassessment of the type and amount of microplastics each source contributes.Importantly, we characterize the microplastic sources only at their upstream origin, ideally just where the microplasticparticles start their “life” as environmental pollutants, for example at “the start of the pipe”, on land or at sea.   The report analyses and estimates the emissions/littering from both primary and secondary sources of microplasticpollution. For primary sources, we estimate the annual emissions in Norway at about 10.000 tons. For secondary sources,it is not possible to make an estimate. However, the report concludes that both sources are important for the generationof microplastics in the Norwegian oceans. The definition and understanding of “microplastics” is crucial and therefore discussed thoroughly in Appendix B. Mepexhas also developed a conceptual model for different kinds of microplastic sources, presented in chapter 5.8, giving thereader a systematic overview of sources.It is necessary to underline that the calculations made in this report are our best estimates, based on defined assumptionsand often, poor data. In some cases, industry has taken an active part and helped providing data. In other cases, industryis not even aware of the microplastic issue or do not want to involve themselves. It is also likely that some areas ofpollution may also have been overlooked by the authors of this pre-study.


  • Norwegian Environment Agency


  • Peter Sundt
  • Per-Erik Schulze
  • Frode Syversen

Publishing Date




  • English

Waste hierarchy

  • Prevention
  • Recycling
  • Disposal

Waste type

  • Biomass
  • Marine litter
  • Metal
  • Oil & Grease
  • Paper & Cardboard
  • Plastic
  • Wood

Area of intervention

  • Research


  • Norway

german cooperationFederal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Developmentsupported by The State Government of North Rhine-Westphalia