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Land-Sourced Litter

Current information on the topic of plastics in the environment

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Newsletter December 2022

Dear Readers,

In this newsletter, we again have some interesting study results that we have researched on the topic of plastics in the environment. Researchers from the Thünen Institute have certainly caused a bit of a surprise. As part of the project "Plastic waste in marine animals", they found in the evaluation of their experiments that, contrary to their own expectations, microplastics apparently do not harm the health of fish. They conclude from this that there can also be no health risk to humans from eating fish. We asked the polar and deep-sea researcher Melanie Bergmann from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), for her appraisal of the results. In its own studies, the AWI had found effects on marine animals that Ms. Bergmann had described as "worrying." You can read in the interview in this newsletter what she now says about the Thünen Institute's latest results.

The BKV can report on a recent study with brand new figures on the recycling of plastics and the use of plastic recyclate in plastics processing. This "material flow analysis", commissioned by the BKV every two years with the support of numerous plastics associations and institutions, is not directly related to the topic of "Plastics in the Environment", but it is the definitive set of figures in Germany on the "career" of plastics produced, consumed, processed and properly collected and recycled in Germany. With this study and the reports "Plastics in the Environment" and "From Land to Sea", including the special reports on individual aspects, the BKV can draw a complete overall picture of the life cycle of plastics and/or the products made from them.

A research group from the Dutch non-profit organisation "The Ocean Cleanup" has been investigating where the plastic litter in the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch actually comes from. It published its findings in September. We report on the results and also on the results of a series of experiments with "superworms" which, according to a research team from the Australian University of Queensland, can digest polystyrene. In addition, under the heading "Politics and Industry", we report on the progress of a project initiated by the Schwarz Group in Indonesia and what the EU Commission has prepared legislatively to restrict the use of microplastics.

We wish you an informative read.

Kind regards,

FCIO (Austrian Chemical Industry Association)
IK Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V. (German Plastics Packaging Industry Association)
PlasticsEurope Deutschland e.V.
VDMA Association Plastics and Rubber Machinery

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Material flow analysis 2021: the current status of plastics recycling

Every two years since 1994, the BKV, in collaboration with what are now fifteen associations and institutions in the plastics and recycling industry and the IGBCE trade union, has published a comprehensive collection of data and facts on the production, processing and recycling of plastics in Germany. The study meanwhile is entitled "Material flow analysis of plastics in Germany" and also provides information on the production and use of recycled materials. As a result, the figures, which are highly regarded and cited in business and politics, are also seen as an indicator of the status of plastics recycling in Germany.

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From research and science

Plastic waste in the sea stems mainly from fishing

A large proportion of the litter that has accumulated in the subtropical vortex of the North Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii in the so-called "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" (GPGP) originates, according to a recent study, directly at sea and is caused by very few countries. According to the study, which has been published in “Scientific Reports” by a research group from the Dutch non-profit organisation “The Ocean Cleanup”, the garbage vortex contains mostly fishing nets, ropes and other waste from industrial fishing.


Microplastics not harmful to fish

According to the scientific findings of a group of researchers led by fisheries ecologist Jörn Scharsack from the Thünen Institute in Bremerhaven, the quantities of microplastics ingested by fish in the North Sea and Baltic Sea do not lead to adverse effects on fish health. According to the scientists, eating fish from the two seas also does not pose a health risk to humans in this respect.

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Marine Litter als Lebensraum

“Superworms“ can digest plastic

The larvae of a beetle species native to Central and South America can apparently survive with the plastic polystyrene as their only food source and even gain weight by ingesting it. This was the finding of a new study by the Australian University of Queensland, published in the journal Microbial Genomics. The researchers were able to demonstrate that the larvae of the species Zophobas morio (large black beetle), known as "superworms," are able to digest polystyrene (PS) thanks to the microbes in their intestines.

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"A somewhat bold interpretation"

Melanie Bergmann is a polar and deep-sea researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). Since 2012, Ms. Bergmann has been working intensively on the pollution of the oceans with plastics, has published extensively on this topic, among others, the book "Marine Anthropogenic Litter". Furthermore, she is a member of several expert groups - including the German delegation for negotiating the UN Plastics Treaty - and coordinates the international MICRO symposia on microplastics. At AWI, she is involved in the development of new methods for measuring plastic litter and microplastics in the seas, and also works on studies about the effects of plastic residues on organisms. Against this professional background, we asked Ms. Bergmann for her assessment of the results of the study by the Thünen Institute for Fisheries Ecology (see the report "Microplastics not harmful to fish").

more …
Lefèvre, Jörg

From politics and industry

EU Commission: Draft to restrict intentionally added microplastics

On behalf of the European Parliament, the EU Commission is preparing a ban on intentionally added microplastics as part of the EU Plastics Strategy and the EU Action Plan "Pollutant-free air, water and soil". Such polymers are added to cosmetic and cleaning products, for example in the form of small beads with an abrasive effect, and are also found among other things in paints, varnishes or artificial turf fillings.

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Indonesia: Schwarz Group hands over marine litter project to local stakeholders

The river cleaning project "Bekasi River Cleanup" (BRIC) was launched in Indonesia in 2019 by the Schwarz Group together with the environmental organisation One Earth - One Ocean, plus a local waste disposal company, and with the support of the authorities in Bekasi. BRIC, was set up as a "REmove" project as part of the Group-wide sustainability strategy, and has now, according to the Schwarz Group, been developed to the point where it can be handed over to a local team. 

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International coalition pushes for a global agreement against plastic litter in the environment

At the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi in March, it was agreed to start negotiations on an international legally binding instrument against plastic pollution of the environment. To drive implementation of the UNEA resolution, a group of countries including Germany initiated the international “High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution” (HAC) at the end of August.

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Plastics litter

Floating litter trap fishes waste from the River Rhine

Since September 2022, the litter trap of the Cologne-based non-profit association K.R.A.K.E has been floating on the River Rhine at kilometre 690.3 near the Zoobrücke bridge, where it fishes waste out of the Rhine. One of the sponsors of the so-called "Rheinkrake" is plastics specialist, Igus.

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Uli Martin
Tel: +49 2642 903 45 50


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Editor: Uli Martin


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