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New GMIT Study on Marine Microplastic Pollution

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New GMIT Study on Marine Microplastic PollutionGMIT

NEW GMIT STUDY ON EUROPEAN MARINE MICROPLASITC POLLUTION PUBLISHED
Study outlines policy recommendations to mitigate plastic and microplastic pollution
Agriculture, shipping and fishing sectors are the predominant sources of plastic pollution

 

A new study commissioned by European network of marine NGOs Seas at Risk VzW (https://seas-at-risk.org/) titled, “Microplastics in the marine environment: sources, impacts and recommendations”, compiled by GMIT microplastic researchers Dr João Frias, Dr Róisín Nash, Dr Elena Pagter, Sindhura Stothra Bhashyam, M.Sc., together with Malcolm Deegan from Dublin-based MalDeegan Productions, has been published today (Thursday 27 May 2021) on GMIT’s [email protected]THEA repository, http://research.thea.ie/handle/20.500.12065/3593.

 

Sustainability has become a key pillar of Europe's environmental strategy in the past decade. With the new European Green Deal becoming more relevant and promoting a new Circular Economy, the problem of plastic pollution, particularly marine microplastics, must be tackled by all nations working together for the common good. The publication of this report coincides with the commencement of European Green Week 2021, (www.eugreenweek.eu), where the focus is on zero pollution for healthier people and planet. This report highlights the current state of the art on microplastic sources and pathways within the marine environment in Europe. The aim of the report is to provide useful information for decision-makers, stakeholders, researchers, and the general public.

 

The Principal Investigator, Dr João Frias, GMIT Marine and Freshwater Research Centre (MFRC), states that “Complex global challenges such as microplastic pollution are not beyond our reach as humans to solve when we work together. Sustainability and circularity link all sectors, pathways and sources described in this report. It is important to tackle sources to flatten the plastic curve, particularly at the production and disposal stages.”

 

Co-author Dr Róisín Nash, GMIT Marine and Freshwater Research Centre (MFRC), says: “We cannot deny that climate change is happening. We need policy makers to act decisively and take positive steps in tackling plastic pollution and its many and varied effects on marine ecosystems and on climate change.”

 

Key findings of the reports are as follows:

 

  • The predominant sources of plastics and microplastics in the marine environment come from the agriculture sector (plastic seed coatings; spreading of sludges from wastewater treatment plants  and the use of plastic mulching); the shipping industry (1816 containers lost at sea in 2020), and the fishing industry (abandoned, lost, and discarded fishing gear).

 

  • This report starts to highlight for the first time a link between plastic pollution and climate change based on scientific peer reviewed publications.  Of the plastic polymers tested, Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) (for example plastic milk bottles and shopping bags) released the highest concentrations of greenhouse gases (methane and ethylene) to the environment when exposed to solar radiation.

 

  • From the base of the food chain (plankton) to the largest marine mammals are currently threatened by the levels of microplastics in our oceans. It is predicted that by 2050 that 99% of all seabirds will have plastic in their digestive systems. All marine turtle species are impacted by plastic pollution (ingestion and/or entanglement).

 

  • The majority of microplastics in the ocean were identified as Fibres from clothing.

 

  • Based on the research findings a set of policy recommendations are proposed to reduce and minimise plastic emissions, and consequently the impacts of microplastics in the marine environment. This report provides a variety of recommendations across several sectors to address the levels of plastic pollution in Europe. These recommendations have been organised into Short (2-3 years), Medium (3-8 years) and Long term (> 8 years) to support decision makers working on this topic.

 

  • The research findings within this report encourage decision makers to take a holistic approach when exploring environmental issues within Europe. The plastic pollution problem is a complex multi-stakeholder process with many cross-sector linkages which cannot be successfully addressed in isolation.

 

The report was compiled by members of the marine microplastic research team in the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre (MFRC) at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), and MalDeegan Productions in Dublin.

Publication details
Stothra Bhashyam, S., Nash, R.*, Deegan, M., Pagter, E., Frias., J. *, (2021). Microplastics in the marine environment: sources, impacts and recommendations. http://research.thea.ie/handle/20.500.12065/3593

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