Our love of plastic has had major consequences for our environment. Fleece sweaters, car tyres, and paint are some of the products that release microplastics that then find their way into our oceans. Plastic waste that is discarded in nature, where it slowly degrades, can also be a source of microplastic pollution.
For several years, researchers from DTU have tried to get an overview of how much microplastic is in our marine environment and the effect it has on the food chain in the oceans. They have just published a study that rapports the concentration of microplastics in the inner Danish waters—and it makes for pleasant reading, says Professor Torkel Gissel Nielsen:
“The negative thing, of course, is that all the samples contain microplastics—because plastic doesn’t belong in the ocean. But the positive thing is that there’s actually very little.”
To collect the samples, the researchers used equipment that can capture far smaller plastic particles than those picked up by the equipment that’s usually used to collect plastic in the oceans. This is because the researchers are particularly interested in particles that are so small that copepods—which make up a significant part of the marine food chain—can eat them. Specifically, particles that measure less than 300 micrometres (one thousandth of a millimetre) and down to 10 micrometres.