Plastic Waste: a European strategy to protect the planet, defend our citizens and empower our industries

The strategy will protect the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the future of Europe. There is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU and by taking the lead in this transition, we will create new investment opportunities and jobs. Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted. (…)

European Commission, 16/01/2018

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Effects of pollution on marine organisms

This review covers selected 2016 articles on the biological effects of pollutants and human physical disturbances on marine and estuarine plants, animals, ecosystems and habitats. The review, based largely on journal articles, covers field and laboratory measurement activities (bioaccumulation of contaminants, field assessment surveys, toxicity testing and biomarkers) as well as pollution issues of current interest including endocrine disrupters, emerging contaminants, wastewater discharges, dredging and disposal etc. Special emphasis is placed on effects of oil spills and marine debris due largely to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Several topical areas reviewed in the past (ballast water and ocean acidification) were dropped this year. The focus of this review is on effects, not pollutant fate and transport. There is considerable overlap across subject areas (e.g.some bioaccumulation papers may be cited in other topical categories). Please use keyword searching of the text to locate related but distributed papers. Use this review only as a guide and please consult the original papers before citing them.

Mearns, Alan J.; Reish, Donald J.; Oshida, Philip S.; Morrison, Ann Michelle; Rempel-Hester, Mary Ann; Arthur, Courtney; Rutherford, Nicolle; Pryor, Rachel, Water Environment Research, 2017 Literature Review, pp. 1704-1798 (95)

The article

Ingestion of microplastic debris by green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) in the Great Barrier Reef: Validation of a sequential extraction protocol

Ocean contamination by plastics is a global issue. Although ingestion of plastic debris by sea turtles has been widely documented, contamination by microplastics (< 5 mm) is poorly known and likely to be under-reported. We developed a microplastic extraction protocol for examining green turtle (Chelonia mydas) chyme, which is multifarious in nature, by modifying and combining pre-established methods used to separate microplastics from organic matter and sediments. This protocol consists of visual inspection, nitric acid digestion, emulsification of residual fat, density separation, and chemical identification by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. This protocol enables the extraction of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, (aminoethyl) polystyrene, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride microplastics > 100 μm. Two macroplastics and seven microplastics (two plastic paint chips and five synthetic fabric particles) were isolated from subsamples of two green turtles. Our results highlight the need for more research towards understanding the impact of microplastics on these threatened marine reptiles.

A. Caron, C. Thomas, K. Berry and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 127, February 2018, Pages 743–751

The article

Plastic found in mussels from Arctic to China – enters human food

Tiny bits of plastic are contaminating mussels from the European Arctic to China in a sign of the global spread of ocean pollution that can end up on people’s dinner plates.

Mussels in apparently pristine Arctic waters had most plastic of any tested along the Norwegian coast, according to a study this month by the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA).

Plastics may be getting swept north by ocean currents and winds from Europe and America, ending up swirling around the Arctic Ocean, NIVA researcher Amy Lusher told Reuters.

“Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked,” she said.

Past surveys have found microplastics off nations including China, Chile, Canada, Britain and Belgium. Off Norway, the molluscs contained on average 1.8 bits of microplastic – defined as smaller than 5 mm long (0.2 inch) – with 4.3 in the Arctic. (…) (reuters.com, 20/12/2017)

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A revisited conceptualization of plastic pollution accumulation in marine environments: Insights from a social ecological economics perspective

The proliferation of synthetic polymer fragments in marine ecosystems has become a prominent issue within recent years, and its disastrous implications on marine species as well as associated social and economic costs have been extensively documented. A narrow perspective of analysis has characterized current conceptualizations of the phenomenon, which is further resembled in the proposed approaches to tackle the problem. Based on a critical realist philosophy of science, this article aims to investigate the fundamental and interdisciplinary dynamics underpinning the current production, consumption and post-consumption lifecycle of plastics, by abstracting transfactual relationships. These then provide the basis to develop a conceptual model for understanding the phenomenon in a more comprehensive manner, and form a framework to assess proposed policy responses for addressing the issue. Thereby the conceptual model draws upon four fields of knowledge: (i) thermodynamic laws and its relevance for economics, (ii) behavioral psychology and resulting limitations of individuals’ decision-making under conscious consumer theory, (iii) power theories of political science, and (iv) ethical considerations. The article suggests that ontological and epistemological discrepancies across disciplines, as well as the consequential neglect of several mechanisms have so far limited scientific progress to guide meaningful political action.

Clemens W. Gattringer, Marine Policy, Available online 18 December 2017, In Press

The article

Marine litter on the seafloor of the southern Baltic

Marine litter occurrence and composition were investigated during routine bottom trawl fish surveys type BITS performed in the Polish Maritime Areas (the southern Baltic Sea). Sampling covered a distance of 325 km and an area of 16 km2 at a depth range of 19–110 m. Litter densities varying between 0 items/ha (34% of tows) and 2.23 items/ha with a mean of 0.20 items/ha (SD = 0.30) are at the bottom range of densities reported from other shelf habitats worldwide at similar water depths. The majority of the items (40%) were found at a depth range of 51–60 m. Overall, plastic was the most common litter type (67% of all items) found in all tows with litter. The results of this study indicate that despite the Baltic being a semi-enclosed basin, with a densely populated coastline and extensive shipping, marine litter pollution of the southern Baltic seafloor is low compared to other coastal areas.

Barbara Urban-Malinga, Tycjan Wodzinowski, Bartosz Witalis, Mariusz Zalewski, Krzysztof Radtke, Włodzimierz Grygiel, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 127, February 2018, Pages 612–617

The article

Proceedings of the International Conference on Microplastic Pollution in the Mediterranean Sea

This book focuses on different aspects of microplastic pollution, offering authors and readers the opportunity to share their knowledge, identify issues and propose solutions and actions to face this environmental threat. Although plastic pollution is a well-known global problem, the recent discovery of microplastics and nanoplastics in seas and oceans represents a very alarming new environmental challenge. The book offers comprehensive insights into the origins of the problem, its impact on marine environments, particularly the Mediterranean Sea and coasts, and the current research trends aimed at finding technical solutions to mitigate the phenomenon.

Part of the Springer Water book series (SPWA). Editors : Mariacristina Cocca, Emilia Di Pace, Maria Emanuela Errico, Gennaro Gentile, Alessio Montarsolo, Raffaella Mossotti, 2018

The book