This report details the results from a project funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program and led by the National Park Service (link is external) and Clemson University (link is external), in which beach sediments were collected and analyzed to assess the abundance and distribution of microplastics and microfibers on U.S. National Park beaches. Thirty-seven National Park beaches, representing 35 National Parks, Monuments, Seashores, and Recreation areas were sampled for microplastics and microfibers. Scientists found microplastics or microfibers in sand samples collected from all 37 beaches. Microfibers were the predominant type of debris found (97% by count). Individual beaches in the Great Lakes and Pacific Islands had the highest concentrations of microplastics and microfibers. Microplastics and microfibers were even found in remote areas of Alaska. (NOAA, June 2017)
To minimize microplastics from polyester fabrics getting in the ocean, and posing a threat to the marine environment, the production design of polyester fabrics needs to change. Mistra Future Fashion now release new findings where their researchers and industry partners have investigated the relation between fabric properties and shedding for polyester fabrics, and thereby contribute to fill current research gap. (…) (Mistra Future Fashion, 15/06/2017)
The worldwide production of plastics has increased considerably in the last 30 years (Plastics Europe, 2012). Microplastics are small (< 5 mm) fragments of plastic, which are of particular concern because of their bioavailability and their potential to accumulate organic contaminants in increasing quantities with decreasing size. When they enter aquatic systems, microplastics can be ingested by a range of organisms and accumulate through the food web, causing harm to humans and the environment. Plastic litter has become a priority for the G7 leaders who have acknowledged it as posing a “global challenge, directly affecting marine and coastal life and ecosystems and potentially human health” (G7 summit, 2015) and have passed an action plan on marine litter that includes a commitment to conduct further research. (…)
Anne Marie Mahon, Rick Officer, Róisín Nash and Ian O’Connor, EPA RESEARCH PROGRAMME 2014–2020, Published by the Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland, June 2017
Oxo-degradable or oxo-biodegradable plastics are conventional plastics, such as High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), commonly used in carrier bags, which also include additives which are designed to promote the oxidation of the material to the point where it embrittles and fragments. This may then be followed by biodegradation by bacteria and fungi at varying rates depending upon the environment. It has been debated for some time whether or not these additives perform in the way in which their manufacturers claim they will, whether they cause harm to the environment, and whether they effectively make plastics recycling more problematic. In November 2014, Members of the European Parliament proposed an outright ban on “oxo-degradable” plastics within the EU. Although this measure was blocked, an amendment to the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, adopted in May 2015, commits the Commission to examine the impact of the use of oxo-degradable plastic on the environment; “By 27 May 2017, the Commission shall present a report to the European Parliament and to the Council, examining the impact of the use of oxo-degradable plastic carrier bags on the environment and present a legislative proposal, if appropriate.” This study has been undertaken in response to that request and compiles the requisite information regarding environmental impacts of this material, to the extent that such information is available, in order to form an opinion on any appropriate actions to be taken. The report presented here draws on the available scientific literature in order to investigate the claims from the industry with regard to biodegradation in different environments, and compatibility with current recycling processes. Input from key stakeholders—including the industry itself—has been used during the review to understand the impacts of the use of these materials.
European Commission, Final report, April 2017, 166 pages
A chemical monitoring on site (CM Onsite) organised by NORMAN Association and JRC in support of the Water Framework Directive
Passive samplers can play a valuable role in monitoring water quality within a legislative framework such as the European Union’s Water Framework Directive (WFD). The time-integrated data from these devices can be used to complement chemical monitoring of priority and emerging contaminants which are difficult to analyse by spot or bottle sampling methods, and to improve risk assessment of chemical pollution. In order to increase the acceptance of passive sampling technology amongst end users and to gain further information about the robustness of the calibration and analytical steps, several inter-laboratory field studies have recently been performed in Europe. Such trials are essential to further validate this sampling method and to increase the confidence of the technological approach for end users. An inter-laboratory study on the use of passive samplers for the monitoring of emerging pollutants was organised in 2011 by the NORMAN association (Network of reference laboratories for monitoring emerging environmental pollutants; http://www.norman-network.net) together with the European DG Joint Research Centre to support the Common Implementation Strategy of the WFD. Thirty academic, commercial and regulatory laboratories participated in the passive sampler comparison exercise and each was allowed to select their own sampler design. All the different devices were exposed at a single sampling site to treated waste water from a large municipal treatment plant. In addition, the organisers deployed in parallel for each target analyte class multiple samplers of a single type which were subsequently distributed to the participants for analysis. This allowed an evaluation of the contribution of the different analytical laboratory procedures to the data variability. The results obtained allow an evaluation of the potential of different passive sampling methods for monitoring selected emerging organic contaminants (pharmaceuticals, polar pesticides, steroid hormones, fluorinated surfactants, triclosan, bisphenol A and brominated flame retardants). In most cases, between laboratory variation of results from passive samplers was roughly a factor 5 larger than within laboratory variability. Similar results obtained for different passive samplers analysed by individual laboratories and also low within laboratory variability of sampler analysis indicate that the passive sampling process is causing less variability than the analysis. This points at difficulties that laboratories experienced with analysis in complex environmental matrices. Where a direct comparison was possible (not in case of brominated flame retardants) analysis of composite water samples provided results that were within the concentration range obtained by passive samplers. However, in the future a significant improvement of the overall precision of passive sampling is needed. The results will be used to inform EU Member States about the potential application of passive sampling methods for monitoring organic chemicals within the framework of the WFD. (2016)
Tiny plastic particles washed off products such as synthetic clothes and car tyres could contribute up to 30% of the ‘plastic soup’ polluting the world’s oceans and – in many developed countries – are a bigger source of marine plastic pollution than plastic waste, according to a new IUCN report. (…) (IUCN, 22/02/2017)
The news and report (Primary microplastics in the oceans : a global evaluation of sources, authors: Julien Boucher, Damien Friot)
The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) provides a framework in which Member States must take the necessary measures to achieve or maintain ‘good environmental status’ in all of the EU’s marine waters by 2020. Achieving this objective means that the EU’s seas are clean, healthy and productive and the use of the marine environment is sustainable. The MSFD includes eleven qualitative “descriptors” describing what the environment should look like when good environmental status has been achieved. Commission Decision 2010/477/EU on criteria and methodological standards on good environmental status of marine waters guides Member States on how this objective is to be achieved.