Deltares and IVM-VU investigate microplastic litter in the North Sea

Plastic waste, including microplastics, can be found throughout the world’s oceans and in the North Sea. This is a complex global environmental problem that could have wide-ranging negative impacts on the ecosystem and human health. While much is known about the macroplastic marine liter, studies on the presence of microplastics (plastic particles smaller than 5 mm in diameter) in the marine environment and the impact on marine ecosystems and public health are still scarce.



11 January 2012

Deltares and IVM-VU investigate microplastic litter in the North Sea

Deltares and the Institute for Environmental Studies of the VU University Amsterdam are studying microplastics in the marine environment. In a recent project carried out on behalf of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, our main focus was on the North Sea and the development of indicators for the implementation of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Experts from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Belgium met at Deltares on 26 September 2011 to discuss microplastic issues related to this study.

Download the report “Microplastic Litter in the Dutch Marine Environment”.

Plastic waste, including microplastics, can be found throughout the world’s oceans and in the North Sea. This is a complex global environmental problem that could have wide-ranging negative impacts on the ecosystem and human health. While much is known about the macroplastic marine liter, studies on the presence of microplastics (plastic particles smaller than 5 mm in diameter) in the marine environment and the impact on marine ecosystems and public health are still scarce. Microplastic impacts can be due to particle toxicity and/or the frequently toxic substances in or sorbed to the plastic, which can subsequently be consumed by organisms and enter the food chain as a result.

Microplastics come from a range of sources. Larger plastic waste that fragments in the sea produces most microplastics, while others enter the water already as micro-sized particles. Increasingly, microplastics are used in products such as scrub creams, deodorants and toothpaste, without regard for the specific impact that this may have on the environment and (indirectly) our health.

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