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Land-Sourced Litter

How can plastic litter in the seas be avoided?


Newsletter June 2021

Dear reader,

The view taken by science and research on the topic of marine litter has become broader in recent years. It is not only the litter that lands in the sea or on the beach that is of interest, but also what type of litter and along which pathways it is discharged into the soil and waterways, where it ends up, and what quantity finally gets into the sea. This wider view is now also embraced by the BKV model "From Land to Sea", which has been extended precisely in this way with the report "Plastics in the Environment". You can learn more about this report in this newsletter.

The subject of microplastics remains at the focus of research, for example how the particles can be measured, where they come from and what effects they have on flora and fauna, as well as their possible effects on man. Under the heading "Research and Science" you will find our report on a new study that was able to show for the first time in a long-term laboratory trial that microplastics have virtually no negative effect on mussels. The study shows that it was well worthwhile getting to the bottom of this issue so as to obtain a clearer picture of the alleged threat reported in some media and to be able to counter any prejudices with facts.

You will also find some more information in our marine litter newsletter on the question of the measuring methods. In this connection, it is very well worth reading what Dr. Claus Gerhard Bannick from the UBA has to say in the interview about the current status of efforts to standardize microplastic analysis.

We wish you an interesting and rewarding read, and hope the information will be helpful to you. Apart from that, we wish you a great summer. Stay well.

Kind regards,

FCIO Austrian Chemical Industry Association
PlasticsEurope Deutschland e.V.
VDMA Plastics and Rubber Machinery

BKV projects

Study: "Plastics in the Environments"

This study, which was published in German in April, is a further development of the BKV model "From Land to Sea". The report reflects the discussion among experts which is now moving away from focusing solely on discharges of plastics into the seas, and calls for a more comprehensive look at the discharges and final whereabouts of plastics in the environment. The report now provides a holistic picture of the discharges and final whereabouts of plastic waste in the aquatic and terrestrial environments. An English version will follow shortly.


From research and science

Long-term effect of microplastics on mussels

A team from the Geomar Helmholtz Center for ocean research in Kiel carried out a laboratory experiment over a period of 42 weeks in which they subjected juvenile blue mussels to various concentrations of microplastics. The results – recently published in "Science of the Total Environment" – are surprising: According to the authors, the study shows that the mussels are barely affected by microplastics in the water even over a long period of time.


Ships coatings as an important source of microplastic

Microparticles in the southern part of the North Sea stem predominantly from paints and surface coatings of ships' hulls. This was the result of a study from the Institute for Marine Chemistry and Biology of the University of Oldenburg. It claims to be the first study offering an overview of microplastic distribution in the North Sea. The research team led by Dr. Barbara Scholz-Böttcher found above all plastic particles stemming from binders of ships coatings. As a source, they are said to be of similar importance as tire abrasion on land. The results show that significantly more microplastic is produced on the open seas than previously supposed.


Microplastics in the Baltic Sea – new monitoring approach

An international team headed by Gerald Schernewski from the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde (IOW) has calculated on the basis of existing data and secondary literature how many particles of the most commonly used plastics with a size of between 0.02 and 0.05 mm from urban sources get into the Baltic Sea and how they behave there. In the opinion of the team, the results offer promising approaches for efficient monitoring and also for reduction measures.



On the right path to international standardization

In connection with the concluding conference of the funding priority "Plastics in the Environment", at which several joint projects also dealt with modeling approaches and measuring methods for the analysis of plastic discharges into the soil and wastewater (see our report), we asked an expert on the subject for his appraisal of the results and about the present situation with the standardization of the measuring methods: Dr. Claus Gerhard Bannick is head of the specialist department for wastewater technology research at the German Environment Agency (UBA).


From politics and industry

Methods of resolution to reduce the amount of plastic in the environment

Over a period of three years, specialists from different disciplines in industry, science and politics have been carrying out research in 20 joint projects within the research program "Plastics in the Environment – Sources, sinks, solutions", funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). On 20 and 21 April, the concluding conference took place online at which, reports the BMBF, many possible approaches in the areas of production, recycling and waste management were discussed. Possible solutions for the trade and for the utilization phase of plastics products and, not least, also for wastewater treatment, were also debated.



Research network set up

Under the leadership of the Augsburg geographer Prof. Peter Fiener, a research network was launched in March that aimed to examine the pollution of agricultural soil with macro- and microplastics called the "EU Innovative Training Network". With this program, the EU wants to support a new generation of innovative young scientists.


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