Freshwater’s macro microplastic problem

Like in the oceans, the bulk of the pollution in rivers and lakes is not in the form of plastic bottles and other large pieces, but tiny pieces called microplastics that would be hard to spot. “Three quarters of what we take out of the Great Lakes are less than a millimeter in size,” she says. “It’s basically the size of a period of a sentence.” These plastics are concerning to scientists because they are being ingested by a variety of aquatic organisms. (…) (, 11/05/2017)

The news

Is the Montreal Protocol a model that can help solve the global marine plastic debris problem?

The impacts of plastic debris on the marine environment have gained the attention of the global community. Although the plastic debris problem presents in the oceans, the failure to control land-based plastic waste is the primary cause of these marine environmental impacts. Plastics in the ocean are mainly a land policy issue, yet the regulation of marine plastic debris from land-based sources is a substantial gap within the international policy framework. Regulating different plastics at the final product level is difficult to implement. Instead, the Montreal Protocol may serve as a model to protect the global ocean common, by reducing the production of virgin material within the plastics industry and by regulating both the polymers and chemical additives as controlled substances at a global level. Similar to the Montreal Protocol, national production and consumption of this virgin content can be calculated, providing an opportunity for the introduction of phased targets to reduce and eliminate the agreed substances to be controlled. The international trade of feedstock materials that do not meet the agreed minimum standards can be restricted. The aim of such an agreement would be to encourage private investment in the collection, sorting and recycling of post-consumer material for reuse as feedstock, thereby contributing to the circular economy. The proposed model is not without its challenges, particularly when calculating costs and benefits, but is worthy of further consideration by the international community in the face of the global threats posed to the ocean by plastics.

Karen Raubenheimer, Alistair McIlgorm, Marine Policy, Volume 81, July 2017, Pages 322–329

The article

Microplastic in Aquatic Ecosystems

The contamination of marine and freshwater ecosystems with plastic, and especially with microplastic (MP), is a global ecological problem of increasing scientific concern. This has stimulated a great deal of research on the occurrence of MP, interaction of MP with chemical pollutants, the uptake of MP by aquatic organisms, and the resulting (negative) impact of MP. Herein, we review the major issues of MP in aquatic environments, with the principal aims 1) to characterize the methods applied for MP analysis (including sampling, processing, identification and quantification), indicate the most reliable techniques, and discuss the required further improvements; 2) to estimate the abundance of MP in marine/freshwater ecosystems and clarify the problems that hamper the comparability of such results; and 3) to summarize the existing literature on the uptake of MP by living organisms. Finally, we identify knowledge gaps, suggest possible strategies to assess environmental risks arising from MP, and discuss prospects to minimize MP abundance in aquatic ecosystems.

N. P. Ivleva, a. Wiesheu, R. Niessner, Angew.Chem.Int., Volume 56, Issue 7, February 6, 2017, Pages 1720–1739  

The article

Eunomia To Investigate Microplastics In Ocean Environment

The European Commission has appointed environmental consultancy Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd, in partnership with ICF, to lead a study quantifying losses of microplastics from various sources and investigating options to reduce losses to the aquatic environment. (…)

Eunomia is inviting a wide range of stakeholders to engage with the project by registering for updates at The team is looking for input from:

  • Retailers, manufacturers and trade associations for
  • clothing, textiles, washing machines,
  • Road surfaces, road paint, and vehicle tyres
  • plastics manufacturing
  • sports surfaces
  • Government
  • NGOs (…)

(, 3/04/2017)

The news

A rapid and efficient method for the detection of microplastic in the gastrointestinal tract of fishes

The rising evidence of microplastic pollution impacts on aquatic organisms in both marine and freshwater ecosystems highlights a pressing need for adequate and comparable detection methods. Available tissue digestion protocols are time-consuming (> 10 h) and/or require several procedural steps, during which materials can be lost and contaminants introduced. This novel approach comprises an accelerated digestion step using sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and nitric acid (HNO3) in combination to digest all organic material within one hour, plus an additional separation step using sodium iodide (NaI) which can be used to reduce mineral residues in samples where necessary. This method yielded a microplastic recovery rate of ≥ 95 % and all tested polymer types were recovered with only minor changes in weight, size and colour with the exception of polyamide. The method was also shown to be effective on field samples from two benthic freshwater fish species, revealing a microplastic burden comparable to that indicated in the literature. In consequence, the present method saves time, minimizes the loss of material and the risk of contamination and facilitates the identification of plastic particles and fibres, thus providing an efficient way to detect and quantify microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract of fishes.

Samuel Roch and Alexander Brinker, Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript, March 30 2017

The article

NORMAN interlaboratory study (ILS) on passive sampling of emerging pollutants

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; 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)

The report

Distribution and importance of microplastics in the marine environment: A review of the sources, fate, effects, and potential solutions

The presence of microplastics in the marine environment poses a great threat to the entire ecosystem and has received much attention lately as the presence has greatly impacted oceans, lakes, seas, rivers, coastal areas and even the Polar Regions. Microplastics are found in most commonly utilized products (primary microplastics), or may originate from the fragmentation of larger plastic debris (secondary microplastics). The material enters the marine environment through terrestrial and land-based activities, especially via runoffs and is known to have great impact on marine organisms as studies have shown that large numbers of marine organisms have been affected by microplastics. Microplastic particles have been found distributed in large numbers in Africa, Asia, Southeast Asia, India, South Africa, North America, and in Europe. This review describes the sources and global distribution of microplastics in the environment, the fate and impact on marine biota, especially the food chain. Furthermore, the control measures discussed are those mapped out by both national and international environmental organizations for combating the impact from microplastics. Identifying the main sources of microplastic pollution in the environment and creating awareness through education at the public, private, and government sectors will go a long way in reducing the entry of microplastics into the environment. Also, knowing the associated behavioral mechanisms will enable better understanding of the impacts for the marine environment. However, a more promising and environmentally safe approach could be provided by exploiting the potentials of microorganisms, especially those of marine origin that can degrade microplastics.

H.S. Auta, C.U Emenike, S.H Fauziah, Environment International, Volume 102, May 2017, Pages 165–176

The article