Floral foam adds to microplastic pollution problem: study

Floral foam inside the digestive tract of a freshwater crustacean. Image: Charlene Trestrail

As the cut flower industry hits one of its busiest periods, new RMIT research has shown that the water-absorbing green floral foam used by florists is contributing to the world’s microplastic problem.

A study published in Science of the Total Environment found the plastic foam, which breaks into tiny pieces, can be ingested by a range of freshwater and marine animals and affect their health.

Charlene Trestrail from RMIT’s Ecotoxicology Research group said the study – the first to examine the environmental effects of foam – looked specifically at the impact of this widely-used substance on aquatic animals.

“We tested a range of invertebrates with different feeding modes and all animals ingested the foam, with some species demonstrating stress responses as a result of consuming the material,” said Trestrail, a PhD researcher in the School of Science.

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