To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.
This conference report summarizes the current challenges of researching microplastics pollution in the ocean as debated by international experts and stakeholders at a workshop held in San Sebastián, Spain, 1-2 October 2019. The transdisciplinary, co-learning approach of this report stressed the need to incorporate multiple perspective in solving the problem of microplastics and resulted in three proposed actions: (i) filtering microplastics from waste waters; (ii) mandatory ecolabels on plastic products packages; and (iii) circular economy of packaging plastics.
See our blog post regarding this article: https://science4sustainability.wordpress.com/2021/02/08/drowning-in-plastic-ocean-pollution-as-a-transdisciplinary-challenge/
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.
... Environmental accumulation of plastics due to the high stability of most commonly used polymers represents a priority problem and, at the same time, the vast majority of currently used polymers are based on non-renewable, fossil resources . In the attempt to find a solution, besides recycling, the upcycling of waste polymers is emerging as highly promising strategy for mitigating plastic pollution . ...
... A dual catalyst approach involving an organic base in combination with a Lewis acid has been developed by Dove et al. . In this case, N-heterocyclic carbenes (NHC1-3), 1,8-diazabicycloundec-7-ene (DBU) and 4-dimethylaminopyridine (DMAP) were selected as the bases (Figure 7), while MgX 2 (X = Cl, Br, I), FeCl 3 , ZnCl 2 , B(Ph) 3 , Bi(OTf) 3 , YCl 3 and AlCl 3 were employed as the Lewis acids. For the latter, the activity order was found to be Mg > Y > Al, while the other species proved completely unreactive. ...
... Another attractive bio-based monomer for polyethers synthesis is isosorbide, a molecule derived from sorbitol. Reineke et al. reported on a cationic and quasi-zwitterionic ROP of an annulated isosorbide derivative (1,4:2,5:3,6-trianhydro-D-mannitol) in the presence of Sc(OTf) 3 and propylene oxide. Depending on the reaction conditions, it was possible to selectively direct the polymerisation towards either linear or cyclic macromolecular architectures ( Figure 26) . ...
Synthetic polymers have a key role in modern society as they have allowed for great technological advancement since their discovery. However, the use of fossil-fuel-based raw materials and the pollution derived from plastics accumulation in the environment raised enormous concern, driving research efforts toward the identification of more sustainable alternatives. Bio-based functional molecules susceptible to ring-opening (co)polymerisation [RO(C)OP], such as lactones, cyclic carbonates, and oxiranes, represent an attractive source of monomers for the synthesis of more sustainable polymers. In this review, we describe the main advancement in this research field reported during the last seven years. In particular, we describe the preparation of monomers from (renewable) bio-sources such as sugars, terpenes, fatty acids, and carbon dioxide with a focus on structurally novel substrates. Both metal-mediated and organo-catalytic RO(CO)P methods are described, and the properties of derived functional polymers are discussed when relevant.
... Hohn et al. (2020) mention future projections according to which the amount of plastic waste could double by 2050 if no strategies to reduce waste are implemented. The pollution of oceans by plastics is severe (Riechers et al., 2021), because they persist for long periods of time. In fact, some plastics incorporate hazardous chemicals that can be released, some that are heavier than water sink to the ocean floor and cannot be recovered, and microplastics from wastewater treatment plants and the macro plastics broken into small particles end up as persistent pollution (Besseling et al., 2017;Lebreton et al., 2017;Thiel et al., 2018). ...
This work presents the most important aspects that should be considered for assessing new marine litter reduction and processing technologies. The most relevant technology features are highlighted using a Delphi method capable of gathering and handling a large quantity of valuable data in areas where information is lacking. This relies on judgements provided by recognized experts in a particular area of knowledge, through an organized procedure based on a structured questionnaire and its reiterations. The Delphi process developed in this study completed two rounds. In the first round, a questionnaire with 55 statements (potentially important aspects) was shared with experts and stakeholders from different types of institutions (Administrations, Marinas and Ports; Associations; Companies; Universities; and Research Centers). Appropriate statistical analysis of the responses determined the degree of consensus and the level of importance perceived for each aspect. Feedback information based on analysis of the answers provided during the first round was included in a second round of the survey that focused on the statements that did not gather enough consensus, and therefore needed to be reevaluated by the expert group. After checking the stability of the results between rounds, the conclusions are set out and a list of the aspects to be considered in different decision-making contexts is drawn (from technology development, investment to marketing and policy making) taking into account technical, environmental, socio-economic, and political issues.
... Packaging, including flexible films and rigid containers, represents the largest single market for the consumption of plastics, with 23 million tons per year (and 92 million tons expected in 2050). In particular, flexible film production is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the packaging industry, with a compound annual growth rate CAGR of 5% . ...
Biodegradable polymers suffer from inherent performance limitations that severely limit their practical application. Their functionalization by coating technology is a promising strategy to significantly improve their physical properties for food packaging. In this study, we investigated the double coating technique to produce multifunctional, high barrier and heat-sealable biodegradable films. The systems consisted of a web layer, made of poly(lactide) (PLA) and poly(butylene-adipate-co-terephthalate) (PBAT), which was first coated with a poly(vinyl) alcohol based layer, providing high barrier, and then with a second layer of PLA + ethylene-bis-stereamide (EBS) wax (from 0 to 20%), to provide sealability and improve moisture resistance. The films were fully characterized in terms of chemical, thermal, morphological, surface and functional properties. The dep-osition of the PVOH coating alone, with a thickness of 5 μm, led to a decrease in the oxygen transmission rate from 2200 cm 3 /m 2 d bar, for the neat substrate (thickness of 22 μm), to 8.14 cm 3 /m 2 d bar (thickness of 27 μm). The deposition of the second PLA layer did not affect the barrier properties but provided heat sealability, with a maximum bonding strength equal to 6.53 N/25 mm. The EBS wax incorporation into the PLA slightly increased the surface hydrophobicity, since the water contact angle passed from 65.4°, for the neat polylactide layer, to 71° for the 20% wax concentration. With respect to the substrate, the double-coated films exhibited increased stiffness, with an elastic modulus ca. three times higher, and a reduced elongation at break, which, however still remained above 75%. Overall, the developed double-coated films exhibited performances comparable to those of the most common synthetic polymer films used in the packaging industry, underlining their suit-ability for the packaging of sensitive foods with high O2-barrier requirements.
... Many other actions at different scales might be explored to analyse the dynamics connecting producers/users/actors in charge of disposal, matching them with the patterns observed and reported in publications. Actions finely tuned to the specific context could be proposed, targeting, for example, the reduction of use and alternative choices to plastics (Riechers et al., 2021), as well as monitoring tools. Some of the LAZ components were found linked to beached plastics litter studies and so a data background is likely to be readily available following the conceptual up-take of the LAZ as part of a systems analysis. ...
As sites of floating marine material deposition, sandy beaches accumulate marine litter. While research and assessment on beach litter is increasing and involves various actors (scientists, society and NGOs), there is the need to assess current and future dominant trends, directions and priorities in that research. As such, a textural co-occurrence analysis was applied to published scientific literature. Words were considered both singly and as part of compound terms related to concepts relevant to sandy beach ecology: morphodynamic state; Littoral Active Zone; indicator fauna. Litter as a compound term was also included. The main co-occurrences were found within compounds, with scarce interaction of "morphodynamic state" with the others, indicating the need for further integration of beach ecology paradigms into beached plastics studies. Three approaches are proposed to overcome the research limits highlighted: the unequivocation of terms, the consideration of adequate scales, and the attention to dynamics rather than just patterns.
... rivers, seas, oceans, etc.). It is estimated that by 2050 around 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste could end up in the natural environment (Riechers et al., 2021). The environmental problems caused by the increased consumption of plastics together with society's growing environmental awareness have led to an increase in research into more environmentally friendly polymers. ...
p class="JARTEAbstract">In this study was analyzed the effect of three different compatibilizers polyethylene-graft-maleic anhydride (PE-g-MA), unmodified halloysite nanotubes (HNTs), and HNTs treated by silanization with (3-glycidyloxypropyl) trimethoxysilane (GLYMO) (silanized HNTs) in blends of bio-based high-density polyethylene (bioPE) and poly(butylene succinate) (PBS) with a weight ratio of (70/30). Each compatibilizer was added in a proportion of (3 phr regarding PBS). Standard samples were obtained by extrusion and subsequent injection molding. The analyzes of the samples were performed by mechanical tests, thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), differential scanning calorimetry (DSC), dynamic mechanical thermal analysis (DMTA), field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM), and wettability (θ<sub>w</sub>). Results suggest that the addition of modified HNTs (silanized HNTs) allowed to obtain better properties than samples compatibilized with unmodified HNTs and PE-g-MA, due to it contributes with the improvement in mechanical properties regarding bioPE/PBS blend, for instance, the tensile modulus and elongation at break increase about 8% and 13%, respectively. In addition, it was determined through FESEM images and that silanized HNTs particles were better dispersed over the matrix, which in fact contribute to the enhance in mechanical properties. TGA showed that silanized HNTs delay the degradation temperature regarding the uncompatibilized blend. While DMTA indicated the reduction in the mobility of the chains in samples with unmodified and modified HNTs. Therefore, it was successfully obtained compatibilized bioPE/PBS blends, which constitutes an interesting option to develop new sustainable polymers.</p
... Three-quarters of the interventions considered in this literature review are only proposed and not (yet) implemented. To develop and implement more effective interventions that address the root causes of marine pollution, we suggest the application of inter-and transdisciplinary approaches, which engage with plural scientific perspectives and a diversity of stakeholders (Riechers et al., 2021). Environmental conservation and management have traditionally been addressed within disciplinary boundaries and on a sectoral basis (Coppolillo et al., 2004;Simberloff, 1998). ...
Despite an increasing understanding of the issue of marine pollution, humanity continues on a largely unsus-tainable trajectory. This study aimed to identify and classify the range of scientific studies and interventions to address coastal and marine pollution. We reviewed 2417 scientific papers published between 2000 and 2018, 741 of which we analysed in depth. To classify pollution interventions, we applied the systems-oriented concept of leverage points, which focuses on places to intervene in complex systems to bring about systemic change. We found that pollution is largely studied as a technical problem and fewer studies engage with pollution as a systemic social-ecological issue. While recognising the importance of technical solutions, we highlight the need to focus on under-researched areas pertaining to the deeper drivers of pollution (e.g. institutions, values) which are needed to fundamentally alter system trajectories.
This study was a baseline with quantitative data of marine litter along the Gulf of Nicoya, Costa Rica. The objective of the study was to quantify marine litter and its association with human activities in this estuarine gulf. A total of fourteen sandy beaches were cataloged by the degree of urbanization, tourism intensity, beach cleaning programs, and tributary rivers as possible drivers of marine litter presence. The items of the marine litter were separated and weighted by type. Analysis by the clean coastal index (CCI) and multivariate statistics were applied to find spatial patterns in marine litter in the gulf. On beaches with the highest touristic activity, cigarette butts and straws were the main components. Locations with river plume influence, less frequent cleanup, or waste cans showed more bottles, plastic parts, and sanitary waste than beaches in other conditions. A beach in a fisherman town had recently utilized plastic bags, household goods, and boat parts in the marine litter. A wildlife refuge beach showed only small plastic and coffee foam cup fragments that came with currents from other points in the estuary. River basin management, solid waste disposal programs, and environmental education to avoid single-use items combined with correct waste disposal are needed to reduce marine litter in tropical countries focused on ecological tourism.
The conference Leverage Points 2019 attracted 500 people from all over the world, discussing interventions to create and enable radical changes towards sustainability. The 70 sessions covered the themes of rethinking knowledge, restructuring institutions, reconnecting to nature, systems thinking, transformative research practice, and emergent themes. Keynote speakers from a range of disciplines, within and outside of academia, joined us to offer their own perspectives. Through the three days, radical change emerged as the ethos of the conference, which was reflected in both the format and atmosphere of the event, and in the impact to participants. The conference originated from within the Leverage Points project, run by Leuphana University, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. The project was inspired by Donella Meadow's essay on intervening in systems (Meadows 1997). During the past five years, 15 postdoctoral and PhD researchers, and eight professors conducted a joint project on this topic at Leuphana University. The conference was the final part of this project.
Millions of metric tons of plastics are produced annually and transported from land to the oceans. Finding the fate of the plastic debris will help define the impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean. Here, we report the abundances of microplastic in the deepest part of the world’s ocean. We found that microplastic abundances in hadal bottom waters range from 2.06 to 13.51 pieces per litre, several times higher than those in open ocean subsurface water. Moreover, microplastic abundances in hadal sediments of the Mariana Trench vary from 200 to 2200 pieces per litre, distinctly higher than those in most deep sea sediments. These results suggest that manmade plastics have contaminated the most remote and deepest places on the planet. The hadal zone is likely one of the largest sinks for microplastic debris on Earth, with unknown but potentially damaging impacts on this fragile ecosystem.
We are living in a plastic age. For most of us, life without polymers and plastics is unthinkable. However, in recent years the littering of plastics and the problems related to their persistence in the environment have become a major focus in both research and the news. Biodegradable polymers like poly(lactic acid) are seen as a suitable alternative to commodity plastics in order to minimize the impact of plastics on the environment after disposal. However, poly(lactic acid) is basically non‐degradable in seawater. Similarly, the degradation rate of other biodegradable polymers also crucially depends on the environments they end up in, such as soil or marine water, or when used in biomedical devices. In this review, we show that biodegradation tests carried out in artificial environments lack transferability to real conditions and, therefore, highlight the necessity of environmentally authentic and relevant field‐testing conditions. In addition, we focus on ecotoxicological implications of biodegradable polymers: Are there any possible adverse effects on biota caused by degradation products of the polymers? We also consider the social aspects and ask how biodegradable polymers influence consumer behavior and municipal waste management. Taken together, this study is intended as a contribution towards evaluating the potential of biodegradable polymers as alternative materials to commodity plastics.
The rapid growth of the use and disposal of plastic materials has proved to be a challenge for solid waste management systems with impacts on our environment and ocean. While recycling and the circular economy have been touted as potential solutions, upward of half of the plastic waste intended for recycling has been exported to hundreds of countries around the world. China, which has imported a cumulative 45% of plastic waste since 1992, recently implemented a new policy banning the importation of most plastic waste, begging the question of where the plastic waste will go now. We use commodity trade data for mass and value, region, and income level to illustrate that higher-income countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation have been exporting plastic waste (70% in 2016) to lower-income countries in the East Asia and Pacific for decades. An estimated 111 million metric tons of plastic waste will be displaced with the new Chinese policy by 2030. As 89% of historical exports consist of polymer groups often used in single-use plastic food packaging (polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate), bold global ideas and actions for reducing quantities of nonrecyclable materials, redesigning products, and funding domestic plastic waste management are needed.
Microplastics (MP) are recognized as a growing environmental hazard and have been identified as far as the remote Polar Regions, with particularly high concentrations of microplastics in sea ice. Little is known regarding the horizontal variability of MP within sea ice and how the underlying water body affects MP composition during sea ice growth. Here we show that sea ice MP has no uniform polymer composition and that, depending on the growth region and drift paths of the sea ice, unique MP patterns can be observed in different sea ice horizons. Thus even in remote regions such as the Arctic Ocean, certain MP indicate the presence of localized sources. Increasing exploitation of Arctic resources will likely lead to a higher MP load in the Arctic sea ice and will enhance the release of MP in the areas of strong seasonal sea ice melt and the outflow gateways.
Although mounting evidence suggests the ubiquity of microplastic in aquatic ecosystems worldwide, our knowledge of its distribution in remote environments such as Polar Regions and the deep sea is scarce. Here, we analyzed nine sediment samples taken at the HAUSGARTEN observatory in the Arctic at 2,340 - 5,570 m depth. Density separation by MicroPlastic Sediment Separator and treatment with Fenton's reagent enabled analysis via Attenuated Total Reflection FTIR and µFTIR spectroscopy. Our analyses indicate the wide spread of high numbers of microplastics (42 - 6,595 microplastics kg-1). The northernmost stations harbored the highest quantities, indicating sea ice as a transport vehicle. A positive correlation between microplastic abundance and chlorophyll a content suggests vertical export via incorporation in sinking (ice-) algal aggregates. Overall, 18 different polymers were detected. Chlorinated polyethylene accounted for the largest proportion (38 %), followed by polyamide (22 %) and polypropylene (16 %). Almost 80 % of the microplastics were ≤ 25 µm. The microplastic quantities are amongst the highest recorded from benthic sediments, which corroborates the deep sea as a major sink for microplastics and the presence of accumulation areas in this remote part of the world, fed by plastics transported to the North via the Thermohaline Circulation.
Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However, robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.
Microplastics (plastic particles, 0.1 mme5 mm in size) are widespread marine pollutants, accumulating in
benthic sediments and shorelines the world over. To gain a clearer understanding of microplastic
availability to marine life, and the risks they pose to the health of benthic communities, ecological
processes and food security, it is important to obtain accurate measures of microplastic abundance in
marine sediments. To date, methods for extracting microplastics from marine sediments have been
disadvantaged by complexity, expense, low extraction efficiencies and incompatibility with very fine
Here we present a new, portable method to separate microplastics from sediments of differing types,
using the principle of density floatation. The Sediment-Microplastic Isolation (SMI) unit is a custom-built
apparatus which consistently extracted microplastics from sediments in a single step, with a mean efficiency
of 95.8% (±SE 1.6%; min 70%, max 100%). Zinc chloride, at a density of 1.5 g cm�3, was deemed an
effective and relatively inexpensive floatation media, allowing fine sediment to settle whilst simultaneously
enabling floatation of dense polymers. The method was validated by artificially spiking sediment
with low and high density microplastics, and its environmental relevance was further tested by
extracting plastics present in natural sediment samples from sites ranging in sediment type; fine silt/clay
(mean size 10.25 ± SD 3.02 mm) to coarse sand (mean size 149.3 ± SD 49.9 mm). The method presented
here is cheap, reproducible and is easily portable, lending itself for use in the laboratory and in the field,
eg. on board research vessels. By employing this method, accurate estimates of microplastic type, distribution
and abundance in natural sediments can be achieved, with the potential to further our understanding
of the availability of microplastics to benthic organisms.
In just over half a century plastic products have revolutionized human society and have infiltrated terrestrial and marine environments in every corner of the globe. The hazard plastic debris poses to biodiversity is well established, but mitigation and planning are often hampered by a lack of quantitative data on accumulation patterns. Here we document the amount of debris and rate of accumulation on Henderson Island, a remote, uninhabited island in the South Pacific. The density of debris was the highest reported anywhere in the world, up to 671.6 items/m(2) (mean ± SD: 239.4 ± 347.3 items/m(2)) on the surface of the beaches. Approximately 68% of debris (up to 4,496.9 pieces/m(2)) on the beach was buried <10 cm in the sediment. An estimated 37.7 million debris items weighing a total of 17.6 tons are currently present on Henderson, with up to 26.8 new items/m accumulating daily. Rarely visited by humans, Henderson Island and other remote islands may be sinks for some of the world's increasing volume of waste.
This paper provides the location, scenery and litter evaluation of 35 Colombian Caribbean beaches (9 remote, 9 village, 14 urban and 3 resort). Four litter grades were found. A: excellent (5); B: good (8); C: fair (19) and D: poor (3). A Decision Value parameter (D), for scenery gave: Class I – extremely attractive/natural, D > 0.85, 6 sites; Class II – attractive/natural sites, D = 0.85 –0.65, 2 sites; Class III – mainly natural sites, few outstanding features, D = 0.65–0.4, 1 site; Class IV – mainly unattractive sites, D = 0.4 to zero, 6 sites; Class V – very unattractive sites, D = <0, 20 sites. Litter amounts placed most beaches into a poor scenic category and many scenic beaches could jump a grade by means of clean-ups. A graphic methodology highlighted beaches with contradictory results for litter/scenic grades. Tourists abhor littered beaches and clean-ups would improve scenery scores.
Municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are frequently suspected as significant point sources or conduits of microplastics to the environment. To directly investigate these suspicions, effluent discharges from seven tertiary plants and one secondary plant in Southern California were studied. The study also looked at influent loads, particle size/type, conveyance, and removal at these wastewater treatment facilities. Over 0.189 million liters of effluent at each of the seven tertiary plants were filtered using an assembled stack of sieves with mesh sizes between 400 and 45 μm. Additionally, the surface of 28.4 million liters of final effluent at three tertiary plants was skimmed using a 125 μm filtering assembly. The results suggest that tertiary effluent is not a significant source of microplastics and that these plastic pollutants are effectively removed during the skimming and settling treatment processes. However, at a downstream secondary plant, an average of one micro-particle in every 1.14 thousand liters of final effluent was counted. The majority of microplastics identified in this study had a profile (color, shape, and size) similar to the blue polyethylene particles present in toothpaste formulations. Existing treatment processes were determined to be very effective for removal of microplastic contaminants entering typical municipal WWTPs.
This study on the removal of microplastics during different wastewater treatment unit processes was carried out at Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The amount of microplastics in the influent was high, but it decreased significantly during the treatment process. The major part of the fibres were removed already in primary sedimentation whereas synthetic particles settled mostly in secondary sedimentation. Biological filtration further improved the removal. A proportion of the microplastic load also passed the treatment and was found in the effluent, entering the receiving water body. After the treatment process, an average of 4.9 (±1.4) fibres and 8.6 (±2.5) particles were found per litre of wastewater. The total textile fibre concentration in the samples collected from the surface waters in the Helsinki archipelago varied between 0.01 and 0.65 fibres per litre, while the synthetic particle concentration varied between 0.5 and 9.4 particles per litre. The average fibre concentration was 25 times higher and the particle concentration was three times higher in the effluent compared to the receiving body of water. This indicates that WWTPs may operate as a route for microplastics entering the sea.
Marine debris, mostly consisting of plastic, is a global problem, negatively impacting wildlife, tourism and shipping. However, despite the durability of plastic, and the exponential increase in its production, monitoring data show limited evidence of concomitant increasing concentrations in marine habitats. There appears to be a considerable proportion of the manufactured plastic that is unaccounted for in surveys tracking the fate of environmental plastics. Even the discovery of widespread accumulation of microscopic fragments (microplastics) in oceanic gyres and shallow water sediments is unable to explain the missing fraction. Here, we show that deep-sea sediments are a likely sink for microplastics. Microplastic, in the form of fibres, was up to four orders of magnitude more abundant (per unit volume) in deep-sea sediments from the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean than in contaminated sea-surface waters. Our results show evidence for a large and hitherto unknown repository of microplastics. The dominance of microfibres points to a previously underreported and unsampled plastic fraction. Given the vastness of the deep sea and the prevalence of microplastics at all sites we investigated, the deep-sea floor appears to provide an answer to the question-where is all the plastic?
There is emerging agreement that sustainability challenges require new ways of knowledge production and decision-making. One key aspect of sustainability science, therefore, is the involvement of actors from outside academia into the research process in order to integrate the best available knowledge, reconcile values and preferences, as well as create ownership for problems and solution options. Transdisciplinary, community-based, interactive, or participatory research approaches are often suggested as appropriate means to meet both the requirements posed by real-world problems as well as the goals of sustainability science as a transformational scientific field. Dispersed literature on these approaches and a variety of empirical projects applying them make it difficult for interested researchers and practitioners to review and become familiar with key components and design principles of how to do transdisciplinary sustainability research. Starting from a conceptual model of an ideal–typical transdisciplinary research process, this article synthesizes and structures such a set of principles from various strands of the literature and empirical experiences. We then elaborate on them, looking at challenges and some coping strategies as experienced in transdisciplinary sustainability projects in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia. The article concludes with future research needed in order to further enhance the practice of transdisciplinary sustainability research.
Since the mass production of plastics began in the 1940s, microplastic contamination of the marine environment has been a growing problem. Here, a review of the literature has been conducted with the following objectives: (1) to summarise the properties, nomenclature and sources of microplastics; (2) to discuss the routes by which microplastics enter the marine environment; (3) to evaluate the methods by which microplastics are detected in the marine environment; (4) to assess spatial and temporal trends of microplastic abundance; and (5) to discuss the environmental impact of microplastics. Microplastics are both abundant and widespread within the marine environment, found in their highest concentrations along coastlines and within mid-ocean gyres. Ingestion of microplastics has been demonstrated in a range of marine organisms, a process which may facilitate the transfer of chemical additives or hydrophobic waterborne pollutants to biota. We conclude by highlighting key future research areas for scientists and policymakers.
Consumer awareness of the environment and preference for more environmentally benign products appears to be growing steadily around the developed world and also some developing countries. The Malaysian government too has responded very positively to this challenge. In 1996 Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) lunched the national eco-labeling program verifying products according to environmental criteria such as Environmentally Degradable, Non-toxic Plastic Packaging Material, Hazardous Metal-Free Electrical and Electronic Equipment, Biodegradable Cleaning Agents and Recycled Paper. Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority (FAMA) has the Malaysia Best logo for environment friendly agriculture product and the Malaysian Energy Commission for energy efficient electrical products. But is the Malaysia consumer ready for the eco-label? Taking into consideration the infancy stage of the Malaysia green marketing initiative, traditional approach to evaluating local consumer receptiveness to the eco-label might not be suitable. This paper approaches the introduction of eco-label with two perspectives in mind. Firstly, while earlier studies from the western scholars use eco-label as a part of the augmented product, this study introduces eco-label as a separate moderating variable. Secondly, the choice of employees working in ISO14001 certified organization as the study population explore a potentially conducive place to initiate a systematic effort in developing a green consumer community. The result is very encouraging. This study has clearly shown that, with some exposure to environmental related experiences (such as those who were working with organization implementing the EMS) Malaysian consumer would indeed react positively to the eco-label. In fact, for situation that requires them to consider environmental aspects of a product that they wish to purchase, the eco-label will definitely be the crucial factor that will push them to make the right purchase choice.
Plastics have transformed everyday life; usage is increasing and annual production is likely to exceed 300 million tonnes by 2010. In this concluding paper to the Theme Issue on Plastics, the Environment and Human Health, we synthesize current understanding of the benefits and concerns surrounding the use of plastics and look to future priorities, challenges and opportunities. It is evident that plastics bring many societal benefits and offer future technological and medical advances. However, concerns about usage and disposal are diverse and include accumulation of waste in landfills and in natural habitats, physical problems for wildlife resulting from ingestion or entanglement in plastic, the leaching of chemicals from plastic products and the potential for plastics to transfer chemicals to wildlife and humans. However, perhaps the most important overriding concern, which is implicit throughout this volume, is that our current usage is not sustainable. Around 4 per cent of world oil production is used as a feedstock to make plastics and a similar amount is used as energy in the process. Yet over a third of current production is used to make items of packaging, which are then rapidly discarded. Given our declining reserves of fossil fuels, and finite capacity for disposal of waste to landfill, this linear use of hydrocarbons, via packaging and other short-lived applications of plastic, is simply not sustainable. There are solutions, including material reduction, design for end-of-life recyclability, increased recycling capacity, development of bio-based feedstocks, strategies to reduce littering, the application of green chemistry life-cycle analyses and revised risk assessment approaches. Such measures will be most effective through the combined actions of the public, industry, scientists and policymakers. There is some urgency, as the quantity of plastics produced in the first 10 years of the current century is likely to approach the quantity produced in the entire century that preceded.
As a main destination for recycling, reuse and disposal of solid waste in the global circular economy, China has recently issued a new regulation on its imports, banning 24 types of solid waste in 4 categories, including waste plastics, unsorted scrap papers, discarded textile materials, and vanadium slags. Bans on additional types of solid waste will take effect soon. Here we discuss the possible profound effects of such policy changes on the global circular economy of solid waste. Recycling industries in developed countries will face challenges in the short run, due to their limited capacity and past reliance on exporting, but also opportunities in the long run. Furthermore, developing countries currently without stringent environmental regulations will likely become the new “pollution haven” of solid waste from developed countries and even emerging economies such as China itself. To truly reap the benefits from China's new policies which are originally designed for environmental sustainability and social justice, the global community needs to develop appropriate policy framework to prevent the unintended consequences.
Plastic litter has become one of the most serious threats to the marine environment. Over 690 marine species have been impacted by plastic debris with small plastic particles being observed in the digestive tract of organisms from different trophic levels. The physical and chemical properties of microplastics facilitate the sorption of contaminants to the particle surface, serving as a vector of contaminants to organisms following ingestion. Bioaccumulation factors for higher trophic organisms and impacts on wider marine food webs remain unknown. The main objectives of this review were to discuss the factors influencing microplastic ingestion; describe the biological impacts of associated chemical contaminants; highlight evidence for the trophic transfer of microplastics and contaminants within marine food webs and outline the future research priorities to address potential human health concerns. Controlled laboratory studies looking at the effects of microplastics and contaminants on model organisms employ nominal concentrations and consequently have little relevance to the real environment. Few studies have attempted to track the fate of microplastics and mixed contaminants through a complex marine food web using environmentally relevant concentrations to identify the real level of risk. To our knowledge, there has been no attempt to understand the transfer of microplastics and associated contaminants from seafood to humans and the implications for human health. Research is needed to determine bioaccumulation factors for popular seafood items in order to identify the potential impacts on human health.
Plastics, especially from packaging, have gained increasing attention in waste management, driving many policy initiatives to improve the circularity of these materials in the economy to increase resource efficiency. In this context, the EU has proposed increasing targets to encourage the recycling of (plastic) packaging. To accurately calculate the recycling rates, detailed information on the flows of plastic packaging is needed. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to quantitatively and qualitatively investigate the waste management system for plastic packaging in Austria in 2013 using material flow analysis, taking into account the used product types and the polymer composition. The results show that 300,000 ± 3% t/a (35 kg/cap·a) of waste plastic packaging were produced, mainly composed of large and small films and small hollow bodies, including PET bottles. Correspondingly, the polymer composition of the waste stream was dominated by LDPE (46% ± 6%), PET (19% ± 4%) and PP (14% ± 6%). 58% ± 3% was collected separately, and regarding the final treatment, 26% ± 7% of the total waste stream was recovered as re-granulates, whereas the rest was thermally recovered in waste-to-energy plants (40% ± 3%) and the cement industry (33% ± 6%). The targets set by the EU and Austria were reached comfortably, although to reach the proposed future target major technological steps regarding collection and sorting will be needed. However, the current calculation point of the targets, i.e. on the input side of the recycling plant, is not deemed to be fully in line with the overall objective of the circular economy, namely to keep materials in the economy and prevent losses. It is therefore recommended that the targets be calculated with respect to the actual output of the recycling process, provided that the quality of the output products is maintained, to accurately assess the performance of the waste management system.
To date, only a few studies have investigated the attitude of companies towards the EU Ecolabel. This article intends to provide an updated portrait of what are the main motivations that push companies to use the EU Ecolabel, the benefits that companies perceive as deriving from it and the barriers that companies perceive as hindering uptake. In order to answer to these research questions, we have used the data collected by the empirical survey on the EU Ecolabel that ran from April to July 2014. Evidence emerging from the survey shows that companies deem that the EU Ecolabel added-value lies in it being a useful " showcase " tool of their eco-innovation efforts, potentially able to close the information gap with the market (made of consumers above all, but also retailers and public procurers) about their products and services' environmental performance. However, there is evidence throughout the study that, although the EU Ecolabel brings some market rewards, these are fewer than those expected by companies when they first decide to apply for the EU Ecolabel. This is linked to the lack of awareness of the EU Ecolabel by consumers and to the insufficient and inadequate promotion and support granted by public institutions.
A linear economy approach results in many environmental challenges: resources become depleted and end up as waste and emissions. One of the key strategies to overcome these problems is using waste as a resource, i.e. evolving toward a circular economy. To monitor this transition, suitable indicators are needed that focus on sustainability issues whilst taking into account the technical reality. In this paper, we develop such an indicator to quantify the circular economy performance of different plastic waste treatment options. This indicator is based on the technical quality of the plastic waste stream and evaluates resource consumption by using the Cumulative Exergy Extraction from the Natural Environment (CEENE) method. To illustrate the use of this new indicator, it was applied in a case study on post-industrial plastic waste treatment. The results show that the indicator can be a very useful approach to guide waste streams towards their optimal valorization option, based on quality of the waste flow and the environmental benefit of the different options.
The Stockholm Convention bans toxic chemicals on its persistent organic pollutants (POPs) list in order to promote cleaner production and prevent POPs accumulation in the global environment. The original ‘dirty dozen’ set of POPs has been expanded to include some of the brominated diphenyl ether flame retardants (POP-BDEs). In addition to cleaner production, there is an urgent need for increased resource efficiency to address the finite amount of raw materials on Earth. Recycling plastic enhances resource efficiency and is part of the circular economy approach, but how clean are the materials we are recycling? With the help of a new screening method and detailed analyses, we set out to investigate where these largely obsolete BDEs were showing up in Dutch automotive and electronics waste streams, calculate mass flows and determine to what extent they are entering the new product chains. Our study revealed that banned BDEs and other toxic flame retardants are found at high concentrations in certain plastic materials destined for recycling markets. They were also found in a variety of new consumer products, including children's toys. A mass flow analysis showed that 22% of all the POP-BDE in waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is expected to end up in recycled plastics because these toxic, bioaccumulative and persistent substances are currently not effectively separated out of plastic waste streams. In the automotive sector, this is 14%, while an additional 19% is expected to end up in second-hand parts (reuse). These results raise the issue of delicate trade-offs between consumer safety/cleaner production and resource efficiency. As petroleum intensive materials, plastic products ought to be repaired, reused, remanufactured and recycled, making good use of the ‘inner circles’ of the circular economy. Keeping hazardous substances – whether they are well known POPs or emerging contaminants – out of products and plastic waste streams could make these cycles work better for businesses, people and nature.
There has been a considerable increase on research of the ecological consequences of microplastics released into the environment, but only a handful of works have focused on the nano-sized particles of polymer-based materials. Though their presence has been difficult to adequately ascertain, due to the inherent technical difficulties for isolating and quantifying them, there is an overall consensus that these are not only present in the environment – either directly released or as the result of weathering of larger fragments – but that they also pose a significant threat to the environment and human health, as well. The reduced size of these particulates (< 1 μm) makes them susceptible of ingestion by organisms that are at the base of the food-chain. Moreover, the characteristic high surface area-to-volume ratio of nanoparticles may add to their potential hazardous effects, as other contaminants, such as persistent organic pollutants, could be adsorbed and undergo bioaccumulation and bioamplification phenomena.
In ecological economics the terms sustainable development and transdisciplinarity are closely related. It is shown that this close relation is due to the fact that research for sustainable development has to be issue oriented and reflect the diversity, complexity and dynamics of the processes involved as well as their variability between specific problem situations. Furthermore, the knowledge of people involved and their needs and interests at stake have to be taken into account. There are three basic and interrelated questions about issues to be addressed in sustainability research: (1) In which way do processes constitute a problem field and where are the needs for change? (2) What are more sustainable practices? (3) How can existing practices be transformed? To treat them properly, transdisciplinary research is needed. The emergence of transdisciplinary research in the North and the South is described. By distinguishing analytically among basic, applied and transdisciplinary research the challenges that have to be tackled in transdisciplinary projects are analyzed.
How People Harness Their Collective Wisdom and Power to Construct the Future in Co-laboratories of Democracy
A N Christakis
K C Bausch
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The Talking Point: Creating an Environment for Exploring Complex Meaning
T R Flanagan
A N Christakis
Flanagan, T.R., Christakis, A.N., 2010. The Talking Point: Creating an Environment for
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Plastics of the future?
T P Haider
F R Wurm
Haider, T.P., Völker, C., Kramm, J., Landfester, K., Wurm, F.R., 2019. Plastics of the
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Marine and Coastal Ecosystems and Human Wellbeing:A Synthesis Report Based on the Findings of theMillennium Ecosystem Assessment (UNEP)
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Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science: practice, principles, and challenges
Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment