Government drops opposition to Bill banning microplastics

The Government has reversed a decision to oppose a Labour Party Bill banning the use of microplastics and microbeads in personal care items including scrubs, soaps, lotions and toothpastes.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney had originally planned to reject the Prohibition of microplastics Bill on the grounds that it could place Ireland in breach of EU Treaty articles on the free movement of goods and that it was flawed in definitions, enforcement and its “level of ambition”.

But in the Dáil on Thursday he told the Bill’s author, Cork East Labour TD Seán Sherlock, that the Government would not oppose the legislation but would probably abstain and allow it to proceed on the basis that “if and when we produce the Government’s legislative response to this whether in the foreshore Bill or in a separate piece of legislation after the work that needs to be done first”. (…) (, 4/05/2017)

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Plastic litter in sediments from the coasts of south Tuscany (Tyrrhenian Sea)

This study estimated the total loads of plastic litter (macro-meso- and micro-plastics) in sediments from a wide stretch of marine and coastal environment of Tyrrhenian Sea. The prevailing category of debris was microplastic. The results obtained, in terms of average amount of microplastic per kilogram of dry sediment, are in agreement with data reported by various Authors internationally. The study area resulted to be uniform for plastic items levels. Particularly evident was the influence of a flood, occurred in November 2012 in Talamone, on sediments collected at the harbour of this locality: in this area, a difference in levels and quality of plastic debris, attributable to periods before and after the flood, was observed in sediments. In addition to focusing on the effect of this phenomenon, this study gives an important overview, for what concerns the presence of plastic litter, of a significant naturalistic area.

Susanna Cannas, Paolo Fastelli, Cristiana Guerranti, Monia Renzi, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 12 April 2017, In Press

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Determination of the gut retention of plastic microbeads and microfibers in goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Microplastics are ubiquitous pollutants in aquatic habitats and commonly found in the gut contents of fish yet relatively little is known about the retention of these particles by fish. In this study, goldfish were fed a commercial fish food pellet amended with 50 particles of one of two microplastics types, microbeads and microfibers. Microbeads were obtained from a commercial facial cleanser while microfibers were obtained from washed synthetic textile. Following consumption of the amended pellet, fish were allowed to feed to satiation on non-amended food followed by fasting for periods ranging from 1.5 h to 6 days. Fish sacrificed at different time points were dissected to remove gut contents and the digesta contents retention and microplastic retention was determined. Although a small number of microplastic particles were retained in fish GI-tracts after 6 days (0–3 particles/50), the retention of microplastics was generally similar to the retention of bulk digesta contents. According to a breakpoint regression model fitted to digesta contents and microplastic particles, the 50% and 90% evacuation times were 10 h and 33.4 h, respectively. The results of this study indicate that neither microbeads nor microfibers are likely to accumulate within the gut contents of fish over successive meals.

Stefan Grigorakis, Sherri A. Mason, Ken G. Drouillard, Chemosphere, Volume 169, February 2017, Pages 233–238

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Biodegradation of polyethylene microplastics by the marine fungus Zalerion maritimum

Plastic yearly production has surpassed the 300 million tons mark and recycling has all but failed in constituting a viable solution for the disposal of plastic waste. As these materials continue to accumulate in the environment, namely, in rivers and oceans, in the form of macro-, meso-, micro- and nanoplastics, it becomes of the utmost urgency to find new ways to curtail this environmental threat. Multiple efforts have been made to identify and isolate microorganisms capable of utilizing synthetic polymers and recent results point towards the viability of a solution for this problem based on the biodegradation of plastics resorting to selected microbial strains.

Herein, the response of the fungus Zalerion maritimum to different times of exposition to polyethylene (PE) pellets, in a minimum growth medium, was evaluated, based on the quantified mass differences in both the fungus and the microplastic pellets used. Additionally, molecular changes were assessed through attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR-ATR) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR).

Results showed that, under the tested conditions, Z. maritimum is capable of utilizing PE, resulting in the decrease, in both mass and size, of the pellets. These results indicate that this naturally occurring fungus may actively contribute to the biodegradation of microplastics, requiring minimum nutrients.

Ana Paço, Kátia Duarte, João P. da Costa and al., Science of The Total Environment, Volume 586, 15 May 2017, Pages 10–15

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International policies to reduce plastic marine pollution from single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads): A review

Marine plastic pollution has been a growing concern for decades. Single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads) are a significant source of this pollution. Although research outlining environmental, social, and economic impacts of marine plastic pollution is growing, few studies have examined policy and legislative tools to reduce plastic pollution, particularly single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads). This paper reviews current international market-based strategies and policies to reduce plastic bags and microbeads. While policies to reduce microbeads began in 2014, interventions for plastic bags began much earlier in 1991. However, few studies have documented or measured the effectiveness of these reduction strategies. Recommendations to further reduce single-use plastic marine pollution include: (i) research to evaluate effectiveness of bans and levies to ensure policies are having positive impacts on marine environments; and (ii) education and outreach to reduce consumption of plastic bags and microbeads at source.

Dirk Xanthos, Tony R. Walker, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 118, Issues 1–2, 15 May 2017, Pages 17–26

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Adverse effects of microplastics and oxidative stress-induced MAPK/Nrf2 pathway-mediated defense mechanisms in the marine copepod Paracyclopina nana

Microplastic pollution causes a major concern in the marine environment due to their worldwide distribution, persistence, and adverse effects of these pollutants in the marine ecosystem. Despite its global presence, there is still a lack of information on the effect of microplastics on marine organisms at the molecular level. Herein we demonstrated ingestion and egestion of nano- (0.05 μm) and micro-sized (0.5 and 6 μm) polystyrene microbeads in the marine copepod Paracyclopina nana, and examined molecular responses to exposure to microbeads with in vivo endpoints such as growth rate and fecundity. Also, we proposed an adverse outcome pathway for microplastic exposure that covers molecular and individual levels. This study provides the first insight into the mode of action in terms of microplastic-induced oxidative stress and related signaling pathways in P. nana.

Chang-Bum Jeong, Hye-Min Kang, Min-Chul Lee, Duck-Hyun Kim, Jeonghoon Han,
Dae-Sik Hwang, Sami Souissi, Su-Jae Lee, Kyung-Hoon Shin, Heum Gi Park &
Jae-Seong Lee, Scientific Reports, 7, Article number: 41323, 11 pages, January 2017

The article

Microplastics pollution and reduction strategies

Microplastic particles smaller than 5 mm in size are of increasing concern, especially in aquatic environments, such as the ocean. Primary source is microbeads (<1 mm) used in cosmetics and cleaning agents and fiber fragments from washing of clothes, and secondary source such as broken down plastic litter and debris. These particles are mostly made from polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyesters. They are ingested by diverse marine fauna, including zooplanktons, mussel, oyster, shrimp, fish etc. and can enter human food chains via several pathways. Strategy for control of microplastics pollution should primarily focus on source reduction and subsequently on the development of cost-effective clean up and remediation technologies. Recent research results on biodegradation of plastics have revealed a potential for microbial biodegradation and bioremediation of plastic pollutants, such as PE, PS and PET under appropriate conditions.

Wei-Min Wu, Jun Yang, Craig S. Criddle, Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, February 2017, 11 (1):6

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