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Land-Sourced Litter

Current information on the topic of plastics in the environment

Newsletter April 2022

Dear Readers,

Once again, we have put together for you a selection of what we consider to be the most important developments the fields of science, politics and industry on the subject of plastics in the environment.

As part of the model on discharge pathways, the BKV has commissioned a specific module for calculating pellet losses within the value chain. The results of this study will be available shortly. The findings from several other studies carried out by the BKV and third parties will be integrated into the module. As a result, it will be possible to obtain a more reliable estimate than before of how many pellets actually end up in the environment. In our interview with the new BKV Managing Director, Dr. Ingo Sartorius, we focus on how BKV’s project work will continue. On the subject of plastics in the environment, he also presents the position of the plastics industry and discusses potential approaches to solving the problem.

Under the heading "From Research and Science", we present a study on the scientifically controversial topic about the impact on health made by microplastics in the environment. The team from the University of Bayreuth headed by Prof. Laforsch investigated the question of why there have so far been such conflicting results on this subject. On the basis of his findings, Laforsch warns against generalised statements relating to human health and the ecological effects. Furthermore, we report on studies of how plastics in the environment are ingested and metabolised by living organisms or are used as a means of transport by coastal inhabitants. There is also news of a basic scientific research project dealing with an innovative method for analysing.

We will be back with the next issue probably in the second quarter of this year. We wish you a pleasant spring and, above all, stay well!  

Kind regards,

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

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BKV projects

Plastics in the environment: New calculations on pellet losses

The quantification of pellet losses in Germany has until now been difficult because of a lack of complete data. Pellet losses can occur during the production, processing and recycling of plastics and also during transport. On the other hand, they are also being collected and managed of by the companies themselves through cleaning systems and cleaning measures. In a study being carried out on behalf of the BKV, pellet losses are now being documented in more detail, also taking into account recent findings. The results will soon be published as a "Special report on pellet losses".
more …


From research and science

Possible cause of contradictory impact studies on microplastics

Ecotoxicological studies on the effects of microplastics on human health and the environment have, until now, frequently produced contradictory results. In relevant studies on the health risks due to microplastics, human tissue such as intestinal cells or marine organisms such as crabs and mussels were subjected to various microplastic particle concentrations in order to research the interactions with cell tissue. These microparticles were previously categorised according to the type of plastic, the shape and the size. Their chemical and physical properties were, however, seldom taken into account. An interdisciplinary research team from the University of Bayreuth headed by Prof. Dr. Christian Laforsch has now established that the characteristics of the conventional polystyrene that is frequently used in these studies differ significantly depending on the manufacturer, and that it also affects cell tissue differently. Generalised statements on health or ecological hazards from microplastics are therefore considered by the scientists to be problematical. 
more …


Plastics in the sea serve as the habitat for coastal inhabitants

Coastal inhabitants such as crabs, mussels and barnacles seem to have found a way to survive in the open sea. According to a US study, they settle on plastic waste and, in this way, drift through the ocean. The phenomenon is regarded in marine biology as a paradigm change. Until now, the open sea was regarded as inhabitable for these organisms. A group of scientists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) observed that the coastal inhabitants not only colonise the plastic waste, but many even flourish on it. How these new high-sea communities affect the eco-systems is to be the subject of further research.  more …


New measuring procedure for plastic-degrading enzymes

The metabolising of plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) with the help of enzymes has been a subject of research for many years. Several enzymes – so-called polyester hydrolases – which occur in bacteria and fungi, can degrade PET plastic up to a certain level. Its further development for industrial use has so far been very time-consuming. A working group headed by Dr. Heinz-Georg Jahnke from the University of Leipzig has developed a new measuring method with which plastic-degrading enzymes could be identified and quantified faster than before, thus significantly accelerating the development of such enzymes.  
more …



Finding a solution requires cooperation between many players

Since the end of last year, the BKV has had a new managing director, namely Dr. Ingo Sartorius. Prior to this, Sartorius spent more than 25 years at Germany’s association of plastics producers, PlasticsEurope Deutschland, where he had been the Managing Director for Consumer and Environmental Affairs (today: Climate Protection and Circular Economy). In this function, he also dealt with topics such as marine litter and plastics and the environment. In this interview, we ask him about the subject of plastics in the environment and the planned BKV projects dealing with this issue.
more …


From politics and industry

Global agreement against plastic litter in the environment

At the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) on 2 March in Nairobi, the representatives of the member states launched a binding international agreement against plastic pollution of the environment, for which it received much praise from politicians, environmental protection organisations and industry associations. The World Plastics Council as well as the German associations of the chemical and plastics industry all expressed a positive view of the agreement.
more …


In the experts' opinion, the ban on plastic bags is a "symbolic step"

Since the beginning of 2022, plastic bags are not allowed to be sold over the counter. The ban covers single-use plastic bags with a film thickness of 15 to 50 micrometres. For Christian Laforsch, Professor for animal ecology and spokesman for the special research area of microplastics at the University of Bayreuth, the ban has above all a symbolic character. In his view, it serves to create awareness and stands for the problematic handling of plastic. Laforsch considers it necessary to have a true circular economy plus a higher regard for plastics.
more …


US causes the most plastic waste

According to a US study, the United States of America is the biggest producer of plastic waste worldwide. In 2016, some 42 million tons of plastic waste was generated there – more than twice as much as was produced by China and more than all the countries of the European Union together, write the authors of an expert report. The report from the non-profit National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine was submitted to the US government, and contains a number of recommendations. Above all the production of new plastics should, in the opinion of the academies, be reduced.
more …



Corals clean seawater of microplastic

According to a study from the Justus Liebig University in Gießen (JLU), reef-forming corals incorporate small plastic particles permanently into their calcareous skeleton and contribute in this way to cleaning the seawater of microplastic. For the study, Dr. Jessica Reichert and her team examined four types of coral that live in the Indopacific. They simulated a heavy microplastic pollution and subsequently analysed skeletons and tissue of the corals.
more …


Team of volunteers collects data on microplastics in the sea

In early summer 2021, two women from Flensburg in northern Germany went fishing for microplastic in the North Sea and Baltic Sea. Nine sailing enthusiasts and a number of other volunteers assisted them in the so-called Citizen Science Project. The results will now be made available to science.
more …



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