December 2, 2015

New method finds even the tiniest plastics in the sea

Studies have estimated that each year between 4 and 12 million tonnes of plastics end up
in the sea, and that the figure is expected to double over the next ten years. But we have
only begun to learn what happens with the plastics afterwards. Two students on the MSc
programme Aquatic Science and Technology have now developed a method that can measure
the microplastics that other methods overlook.

(December 2, 2015)  Using a filtration system mounted on the stern tube water intake of the marine research vessel Dana, the two students Robin Lenz and Kristina Enders collected microplastics on a route from northern Denmark across the Atlantic to the Sargasso Sea and back again. This enabled researchers from DTU Aqua to determine the volume of plastics in the sea.

“This is the first time that the nearly invisible microplastics have been quantified so comprehensively. And we found microplastics everywhere along the almost 10,000 km long route,” says Professor Torkel Gissel Nielsen, DTU Aqua, co-author of two articles on the collection, which has just been published in Marine Pollution Bulletin:

“There's a lot of focus on plastics in the sea just now, but there are still many unknowns. Therefore, there is a great need to develop new methods to examine the extent of the problem and understand what actually happens with the plastics that end up in the sea. For although plastics are everywhere, we do not find them in the quantities to be expected based on the the large quantities that every year is led out into sea, and the big question is what becomes of it?” asks the professor.

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