Accumulation and exposure classifications of plastics in the different coastal habitats in the western Philippine archipelago

Norchel Corcia F. Gomez, Simon M. Cragg, Jean-François Ghiglione, Deo Florence L. Onda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies consistently ranked the Philippines as one of the top contributors of plastic wastes leaking into the ocean. However, most of these were based on probabilities and estimates due to lack of comprehensive ground-truth data, resulting also in the limited understanding of the contributing factors and drivers of local pollution. This makes it challenging to develop science-driven and locally-contextualized policies and interventions to mitigate the problem. Here, 56 sites from different coastal habitats in the western Philippine archipelago were surveyed for macroplastics standing stock, representing geographic regions with varying demography and economic activities. Clustering of sites revealed three potential influencing factors to plastic accumulation: population density, wind and oceanic transport, and habitat type. Notably, the amount and types of dominant plastics per geographic region varied significantly. Single-use plastics (food packaging and sachets) were the most abundant in sites adjacent to densely populated and highly urbanized areas (Manila Bay and eastern Palawan), while fishing-related materials dominated in less populated and fishing-dominated communities (western Palawan and Bolinao), suggesting the local industries significantly contributing to the mismanaged plastics in the surveyed sites. Meanwhile, isolated areas such as islands were characterized by the abundance of buoyant materials (drinking bottles and hygiene product containers), emphasizing the role of oceanic transport and strong connectivity in the oceans. Exposure assessment also identified single-use and fishing-related plastics to be of “high exposure (Type 4)” due to their high abundance and high occurrence. These increase their chances of encountering and interacting with organisms and habitats, thus, resulting into more potential harm. This study is the first comprehensive work done in western Philippines, and results will help contextualize local pollution, facilitating more effective management and policymaking.
Original languageEnglish
Article number122602
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Early online date26 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2023


  • plastic accumulation
  • exposure assessment
  • West Philippine Sea
  • Single-use plastics
  • archipelago
  • UKRI
  • NERC
  • NE/V009516/1

Cite this