Universidad Autonoma de Madrid

Project name:
Environmental risk of micro and nanoplastics in wastewater treatment systems and receiving bodies

Project description:
Microplastics have long been recognized as environmental pollutants causing impacts to marine and terrestrial life. Microplastics decompose and break up into smaller plastic debris under the action of microbiological and physicochemical degradation processes leading to nanomaterials. Nanoplastics, like other nanomaterials, have unique properties due to their size, shape and their capacity to interact with other substances due to their large surface area. Nanoplastics can produce physical damage but they may also be transported across cell membranes and persist in the environment due to their relative inertness. The chemical composition of plastics makes them a conveyor for non-polar anthropogenic pollutants supposing an additional risk factor for which very little is known.

This proposal aims at providing the information required to evaluate the risk posed by nanoplastics to freshwater ecosystems with particular attention to the processes of fragmentation and environmental transformation in real world scenarios. We will also study the role of micro and nanoplastics as vectors for other pollutants and, for the case of larger particles, as habitats for microbial communities growing on them as biofilms. In particular, we will investigate the damage to organisms naturally exposed to nanoplastics in the receiving bodies of wastewater discharge. The toxicity of nanoplastics to photosynthetic microorganisms will be combined with protozoa and invertebrates representing three trophic levels. Special attention will be paid to the mechanisms of nanoplastic internalization and to their toxic action by using a battery of fluorochromes as indicators of cytotoxicity, cell viability, oxidative and genotoxic damages.

University of Alcalá, Spain

Participating institutions:

  • Universidad de Alcalá (coordinator)
  • Spanish Astrobiology Center, INTA-CSIC
  • Institut de Ciències del Mar, CSIC
  • Instituto Español de Oceanografía, IEO
  • Madrid Institute for Advanced Studies, IMDEA-Water
  • National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology, INIA
  • Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
  • Universidad de La Laguna
  • Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
  • Universidad de Málaga
  • Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia
  • Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena
  • Universidade de A Coruña
  • Universidade de Vigo

Project name:
Thematic Newtork of Micro- and Nanoplastics in the Environment (EnviroPlaNet)

Project description:
EnviroPlaNet Thematic Network is an interdisciplinary project coordinating fifteen Spanish research teams working on issues related to the contamination by plastic debris. The objective is to improve coordination in critical key aspects such as the definition of sampling procedures, sample analysis or the development of consistent toxicological and ecotoxicological assessment methodologies. The network includes teams with a prolonged expertise in marine research and the damage to wildlife, fisheries and touristic industry caused by the accumulation of plastic debris in the environment. Other groups focus on risks derived from the generation of smaller fragments, namely micro- and nanoplastics, the leaching of plastics additives or the chemical risk caused by the adsorption of hydrophobic pollutants. The dissemination of microorganisms associated to the plastisphere is another hot topic covered by several teams in the Network. In addition, the Network is granting researchers access to techniques available in other institutions, thereby strengthening the competitive position of participating groups and associated partners. Collaboration instruments include an internal communication structure, research staff training activities such as collaboration in scientific campaigns, and the preparation of publishable materials. Attention is paid to promoting the participation of the different groups in national and international networks and consortia. The Network also promotes knowledge transfer to companies and regulators, as well as to NGOs, policy makers and other social agents. Communication and dissemination activities are being carried out through multiple channels including specialized platforms, scientific dissemination events, and the use of social networks.


Published articles (pdf, 76KB)

Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Project name:
Microplastic pollution study in the Ogun and Osun River Systems, Nigeria

Project description:
Rivers Osun and Ogun are the two major rivers in the southwestern part of Nigeria and both are tributaries of the Gulf of Guinea within the Nigerian territory. River Osun takes its source from Ekiti State and finally flows into the Lekki Lagoon which is interconnected with the Lagos Lagoon. River Ogun flows from Oyo State into the Lagos Lagoon, and is ultimately linked with the Gulf of Guinea. The project aims at assessing microplastic occurrence and load in the water column and river bed of the both rivers. Sampling will be conducted over a period of time such that it covers the major seasons in Nigeria (e.g. early rainy season, late rainy season, early dry season, late dry season). Samples will be collected for both water and sediment analysis from different sections of the river, as well as in some key indicator macroinvertebrate species. Thereafter, appropriate laboratory techniques will be employed to extract microplastics from the samples, and final identification will be carried out using the micro Fourier Transform-Infrared (µFT-IR) spectroscopy.

Dalhousie University, School for Resource and Environmental Studies

Project name:
Policies to reduce use and disposal of single-use plastics

Project description:
The project aims to build strategic partnerships to mobilize knowledge into solutions and policies to reduce use and disposal of single-use plastics. Our project includes sampling, data collection, interpretation, research engagement and partnership collaboration through the School for Resource and Environmental Studies (SRES) as led by Professor Tony Walker.

Dalhousie University, School for Resource and Environmental Studies

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Project name:
RIMMEL (RIverine and Marine floating macro litter Monitoring and Modelling of Environmental Loading)

Project description:
The JRC exploratory project RIMMEL provides information about litter, mainly plastic waste, entering the European Seas through river systems. RIMMEL has collected data on riverine floating macro litter inputs to the sea. Data acquisition was based on the Riverine Litter Observation Network (RiLON) activities, which collected data from rivers in the European marine basins over a period of one year (September 2016 – September 2017). Data was collected by visual observations and documented with the JRC Floating Litter Monitoring Application for mobile devices, allowing a harmonized reporting, compatible with the MSFD Master List of Categories for Litter Items. Results provide the list of most frequent floating macro litter items entering the European Seas through rivers. Quantitative results and analysis of riverine litter input data will provide estimates of riverine litter load at European scale

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Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (funded by UKWIR)

Project name:
Sink to River – River to Tap A review of potential risks from nanoparticles and microplastics

Project description:
The objectives of this projects are to establish what is known and to provide empirical evidence on plastic and microplastic particles entering and leaving UK water and wastewater works in addition to identifying whether the fate of microplastics are influenced by different treatment practices. The study will provide an up to date review on what is known around the world on MPs in potable water and wastewater.  In addition, through an intensive programme of field work and analysis, it will represent the most comprehensive study yet carried out on the fate of MPs both in drinking water and wastewater treatment.  The information will establish the position of the Water Industry with respect to the challenge of MPs entering and leaving WTW and WwTW plants in the UK.  It will search for evidence of certain treatments being more efficacious than others.

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

WESSLING Hungary Ltd.

Project name:
Microplastic Sampling Method

Project description:
Our goal is to develop a procedure and a tool set for the sampling and sample preparation of microplastics from freshwater environments (water, sediment) that can make a significant contribution to the standardization of this type of tests. The creation of a high resolution water sampling device will enable us to sample the fraction with a greater significance from an environmental and, presumably, physiological significance (20-50 micrometers). This is done in order to be able to supply data currently missing for freshwater matrices, to ensure that the results of river and lake microplastics surveys and monitoring projects that will necessarily start across Europe will be comparable in the future.

Sample preparations will be evaluated using different model systems and field collected samples as well. For water samples, an efficient and economical sample volume reduction process  and a high throughput workstation prototype is developed, which will not only increase the ease of handling, but will serve sustainability, because it will minimize the use of chemicals. For the preparation of field sediment samples, we intend to use different methods: processes that had been tested in a model system previously, developed on the basis of various publications, and optimized for commercially available instruments will be investigated. Based on the principle of the surrogate standard addition concept, we strive to develop an internal control for sample preparation, in order to obtain a more reliable picture of the measurement uncertainty, and to increase the reliability of the measurements later on.

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Lagos State University, Nigeria

Project description:
Microplastics are a fast emerging class of pollutants emanating from human domestic, industrial, and, other ancillary activities. This is especially true in large urban aggregations with large populations such as Lagos, Nigeria. This projects is intended to establish presences, types, and ubiquity of occurrence of microplastics in the Lagos lagoon while concurrently establishing ecotoxicological implications if any.

Germany’s Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF)

Project name:
Plastics in the Environment – Sources • Sinks • Solutions

Project description:
Plastics in the environment are a global problem and the evidence for this is hard to miss: huge waste deposits are seen in the oceans even in remote areas of the Arctic, plastic particles are found in the stomachs of fish and seabirds, and plastics of all sizes and shapes are clearly visible on almost any beach around the world.

Despite a range of activities and approaches, our knowledge of the full extent of plastic pollution is still limited: there is not enough validated knowledge on the origins of plastics in the ocean, their behaviour in oceans, inland waters and soils, and how they could affect animals and humans.

Germany’s Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) addresses this issue with its current research focus, an initiative called “Plastics in the Environment – Sources • Sinks • Solutions”. The BMBF is thus supporting the transition to a resource and environmentally friendly economy, which is at the heart of the flagship initiative Green Economy within the BMBF-framework programme ”Research for Sustainable Development” (FONA). With this research focus, the BMBF expands on work conducted in previous funding measures, e.g.: the international funding programme investigating microplastics in the oceans (part of JPI OCEANS), the ongoing joint research project “Microplastics in the water cycle” (MiWa) (part of the funding priority Sustainable Water Management), as well as the Social-ecological Junior Research Group PlastX working in this area.

The interdisciplinary nature of the research focus will enable a better understanding of the environmental impacts of plastic waste from river basins all the way to the oceans. The aim of the research is a first and comprehensive scientific assessment of the problem of plastic waste and to fill in existing knowledge gaps. In addition, solutions for reducing the emission of plastics into the environment are identified and implemented. For this purpose, the entire value chain of plastics, from production and use to disposal, is examined in order to identify opportunities for improvement and options for action, especially in an international context.

In the period of 2017–2021, a total of 18 joint research projects and an accompanying scientific project will be funded with around €35 million. More than 100 institutions from science, industry , civil society, and public administration are involved in what is currently the world‘s largest research focus in the field of the effects of plastic on the environment.

The goal of the BMBF’s research focus “Plastic in the Environment – sources, sinks and solutions” is to develop and establish scientific procedures, methods, instruments and concepts for investigating plastics in the environment. This involves

  • creating a consistent picture of the overall problem and making it the basis for international action
  • identifying, developing, and implementing solutions to the problem together with relevant political, economic and social actors
  • starting projects to reduce entry of plastics into the environment in cooperation with international partners from countries that constitute the most important producers and consumers of plastic

The overarching, long-term goal is to noticeably reduce the amount of plastics in the environment.

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