Solutions to Plastics in the Ocean – the Baltic and Beyond

Date: 2019-06-13 00:00 - 2019-06-14 00:00

Address: Frescativägen 40, Stockholm

Venue: Stora Hörsalen, Swedish Museum of Natural History

Host: The Environmental Committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The symposium is funded by Svenska Postkodstiftelsen. The symposium is now available as video.

Watch the other lectures from the symposium at our YouTube channel

The oceans are final deposits for huge quantities of plastics and there is great concern regarding its environmental impact, including the toxicity to living organisms. It has been estimated that out of twelve million tons of plastics that enters the oceans annually only 1% is found at the surface. Where and in what forms is the rest? We know that the vast majority of the plastics in the oceans is in the form of small particles, often less than a millimetre.  Many of these small particles, known as micro-plastics, are produced as such, i.e. tiny plastic spheres used in body washers, toothpaste, etc. Other plastics that enter the oceans will become micro-plastics with time when they are exposed to the forces of nature that cause degradation.
Much research is focused on tracing the fate of plastics in the oceans but there are still large gaps in our knowledge about how fast plastics are degraded and which processes are at hand. For instance, how important are light radiation and microbial activity? And are the processes different for different kinds of plastics? A critical question related to micro-plastics in the marine environment is its toxicity. It is known that filter-feeding organisms ingest plastic particles that are gradually moved up the food chain when these organisms are consumed by others. It is not only the plastic polymers that constitute risks, but also many chemicals that are added during the manufacturing process have toxic effects.
Multipronged approached are likely to be required in order to reduce plastic pollution in oceans and other ecosystems. Novel strategies may include degradation of polymers using engineered enzymes with enhanced efficiency that have been introduced into naturally occurring organisms. Can such systems be developed for safe use?
This symposium will bring together researchers and other experts to exchange knowledge about micro-plastics in marine environments regarding distribution and toxicity. Possible solutions and ways forward to achieve degradation of plastic pollutants as well as regulations to restrict the dispersion of plastic products will be discussed. Development of pathways to solve the degradation of plastic pollutants in the oceans will be discussed including use of tertiary water treatment plans to minimize the flow of plastics. Biosafety concerns as well as financial needs will also be considered.
Lectures by:
Stefan Bertilsson, Uppsala University
Bethanie Carney Almroth,  University of Gothenburg
Martin Hassellöv, University of Gothenburg 
Ignacy Jakubowicz, Research Institute of Sweden (RISE)
Verena Reiser, Novozymes
Joao Sousa, IUCN
Kristian Syberg, Roskilde University



This symposium is funded by Svenska Postkodstiftelsen.

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