Sticky tape and simulations help assess microplastic risk

Tiny pieces of plastic, now ubiquitous in the marine environment, have long been a cause of concern for their ability to absorb toxic substances and potentially penetrate the food chain. Now scientists are beginning to understand the level of threat posed to life, by gauging the extent of marine accumulation and tracking the movement of these contaminants. (…)

N. Grover, Horizon EU magazine, 23/04/2018

The news


Microplastics ‘found in nearly all bottled water’ – study

Tests on some of the world’s leading brands of bottled water have found most contain tiny pieces of plastic.

Some 259 bottles from 11 brands in nine countries – Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Thailand, and the US – were examined in research conducted at the State University of New York.

The study found 93% of the samples showed signs of microplastics, with an average of 10 plastic particles per litre, each larger than the width of a human hair.

Polypropylene, often used to make plastic bottle caps, was found to be the most common material (54%) with nylon being the second most abundant (16%).

The World Health Organisation has said it will launch a review into the potential risks of tiny plastic particles in bottled water. (…) (, 15/03/2018)

The news

The study

Conférence « Microplastiques : impacts, enjeux et comportements » jeudi 22 mars, Océanopolis (Brest)

Accès libre (20h30, Auditorium Marion Dufresne, Océanopolis, Brest)

Les microplastiques, une menace pour les organismes marins ?

Résumé : Les plastiques sont des matériaux persistants qui s’accumulent dans l’environnement marin et peuvent affecter les organismes marins. Les microplastiques sont généralement définis comme l’ensemble des particules de plastique inférieures à 1 mm. Ils sont composés de matériaux persistants, d’origine anthropique, qui s’accumule dans l’environnement marin. Ils proviennent notamment (origine primaire) d’abrasifs industriels, de la pré-production de pastilles plastiques, du rejet de fibres synthétiques issus de nos lessives ou sont les produits de dégradation (origine secondaire) des macro-déchets plastiques.

Ils contiennent des additifs potentiellement toxiques, mais sont aussi concentrateurs de contaminants organiques persistants ainsi que véhicules de microorganismes. Ils peuvent être ingérés par les organismes marins et ainsi entrer dans la chaine alimentaire.

Notre travail consiste à caractériser les niveaux de contamination dans le milieu marin, et notamment en rade de Brest, pour ensuite permettre des expositions en conditions de laboratoire à des doses et sous conditions environnementales afin d’estimer les impacts de particules de plastiques sur les organismes marins, information importante pour permettre de l’aide à la décision.

How plastics made from plants could be the answer to the world’s waste problem

(…) Using these platform molecules, the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence at the University of York, has been working with the plastics industry to create a new generation of bio-based polyesters. These are often used to make fibres for clothing, as well as films and containers for liquids and foods. The resulting materials are entirely plant based, recyclable and – importantly – fully biodegradable. (…) (, James William Comerford, 23/02/2018)

The news

Gallatin Microplastics Initiative

The Gallatin River carries the mountains to the sea. It carries our communities and our livelihoods. It carries our stories and dreams. And this river also carries something more ominous in its waters: Our garbage.

In a pilot survey of five sites along the Gallatin River, microplastic particles were found in every sample, some in startlingly high numbers. With this knowledge, we launched the Gallatin Microplastics Initiative to study the abundance and types of microplastics in the Gallatin Watershed. This is an expansion of the Worldwide Microplastics Project.

​In each year of the Gallatin Microplastics Initiative, 60+ volunteers will return four times to their assigned sites on the main Gallatin and its tributaries, gathering an in-depth picture of plastic pollution from 70 sites in the watershed. This information will help us understand the extent of the problem and how to resolve it.

The website

China Focus: Chinese scientists to improve microplastics research

When Wang Wenfeng, a PhD candidate in central China’s Hubei Province, undertook his research into microplastics he did not expect British Prime Minister Theresa May to draw attention to his work. Studying at Wuhan Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, capital of the province, Wang, 29, met the British Prime Minister on Wednesday, the first day of her three-day official visit to the country. She talked with Chinese scholars during her stay in Wuhan, and Wang was among them. “I introduced my studies and findings to her in English. The prime minister listened carefully and said microplastic pollution is a global concern,” Wang said. (…)

Wang and his team carried out research in freshwater by innovating and updating technologies over the past years. They successfully obtained information about microplastic pollution in lakes in Wuhan and the Three Gorges Reservoir area. (…) (, 02/02/2018)

The news

Danish study finds understanding of microplastics ‘extremely defective’

The research, carried out by the Danish Technological Institute with environmental consultancy group COWI, looked at existing techniques for measuring microplastics, to see how challenges in sampling, sample treatment and analyses could be used to develop new methods.

In order to tackle and quantify the problem, a standardised analytical method needs to be developed to measure the smallest particles, their report says.

It found that the most commonly used analysis method – light microscopy – is unable to analyse particles smaller than 100μm, or determine microplastic types.

The report identifies the “great differences” in the types and size of microplastics being discharged from wastewater treatment plants. The problem is that analysis is often only able to focus on larger particles, it says. (…) (, 16/01/2018)

The news