As MikroPlastik refers to small plastic particles with a diameter less than 5 mm (5000 microns ) for a definition of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2008. This definition is also from the German Federal Environmental Agency in accordance with the technical definition of the criteria of the EU Ecolabel used for detergents and cleaning agents.
A distinction can be made between the microplastic particles produced for use, e.g. B. in cosmetics , toothpaste or baby diapers , and those that result from the disintegration of plastic products ( plastic waste ). Plastic particles of both origins cause problems in the environment, especially because they are difficult to break down and have a density similar to that of water.
In January 2015, the German Federal Environment Agency warned of “Risks for the environment and water from the use of plastic particles in skin creams, peelings, shower gels and shampoos”. An assessment of the health risks for humans has not yet been made due to a lack of data , even if the risks for smaller organisms have increased (→ significance for the environment ).
According to a study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology in 2018, a total of around 446,000 tons of plastic are released into the environment in Germany every year; At around 330,000 tons, the plastic particles under 5 mm make up around three times as much as the other plastic parts (over 5 mm, macroplastics). The largest proportion of microplastics, around a third, comes from the abrasion of car tires.
Origin, origin, use
Microplastics produced and created by abrasion in the technosphere
According to a 2017 study by the IUCN , only two percent of the microplastics that enter the oceans as such are caused by activities at sea, the greater part (98%) by activities on land. Most of these particles come from the washing of synthetic textiles (35%) and from the abrasion of tires on motor vehicles (28%). This is followed by fine dust from cities (24%), removal of road markings (7%), residues from ship coatings (3.7%), residues from cosmetic products (2%) and plastic pellets (0.3%).
These plastics find their way into the oceans mainly via street runoff (66%), wastewater treatment systems (25%) and wind transmission (7%). The main source of microplastics in rivers and lakes is tire wear. According to their own studies, tire manufacturers assume that tire wear particles have no significant toxic effects on the environment. According to other studies, tire wear is a source of rubber, soot and oxides of heavy metals such as zinc , lead , chromium , copper and nickel .
According to the state government of Lower Saxony , the three largest sources of microplastics entering the environment are rubber abrasion from tires, followed by losses in production and transport and, in third place, remains of artificial turf pitches . The state government relies on values from the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental Technology . 40 to 100 tons of litter material can be incorporated into the artificial turf of a soccer field. The most common is a product in the form of small spheres based on used tires . According to tests carried out in Sweden and Norway , five to ten percent of the filler material is removed every year and has to be replaced again. In Sweden alone that is up to 4,000 tons each year that end up in the sea. The proportion there due to car traffic - mainly due to tire wear - is estimated at 13,500 tons. On the other hand, there is microplastic from hygiene and cosmetic articles with 66 tons per year. In Norway, artificial turf systems are now classified as the second largest land-based microplastic polluter - behind plastic car tires. There are around 1,600 corresponding sports facilities there, which release up to 3,000 tons of microplastic per year, ultimately into the sea. According to a 2014 publication by the Norwegian Environment Agency, 54 percent of microplastics in the oceans come from car tire wear.
As early as 2011, the journal Environmental Science & Technology reported on a study on beaches that found microplastics on all continents; including fibers from clothing made of synthetic materials (e.g. fleece ): up to 1,900 fiber particles can be found in the waste water from washing machines per wash cycle . An investigation by the Austrian Federal Environment Agency of polyester blouses, extrapolated to Austrian households, showed that around 126 tonnes of microplastics entered the wastewater through clothing. It is estimated that there are around half a million tons worldwide. Microplastics from synthetic fiber clothes enter the environment not only when they are washed, but mainly when they are worn (around 3 times more than when they are washed). The man-made fibers in outdoor clothing can be found in significant quantities in nature and are known to be the main cause of pollution in some areas, such as in the ice of the Forni Glacier . Microplastics can also be part of detergents . In solid form it was u. a. detected in detergents from Ariel , Lenor , Sunil .
Micro plastic particles are also part of z. B. from toothpaste , shower gel , lipstick or an exfoliating agent . Manufacturers add them to products so that users can achieve a mechanical cleaning effect.
Some products contain up to ten percent microplastics. According to information from the German Federal Environment Agency in 2015, around 500 tons of microplastics are added to cosmetics in Germany every year. Colgate-Palmolive stated in mid-2014 that its toothpastes no longer contained plastic particles. Unilever , L'Oréal ( The Body Shop brand ) and Johnson & Johnson wanted to phase out the use of microplastics by 2015; Procter & Gamble wanted to follow suit in 2017. A BUND publication from July 2017 still listed several hundred microplastic cosmetic products on the German market, including products from the above-mentioned companies.
In a study by the Environment Agency of the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food on the occurrence, effects and sources of microplastics, it was estimated in 2015 that the annual emissions of microplastics there amount to around 5,500 to 13,900 tons. Around a tenth of these are particles from primary production , 460 to 1700 tons. The remaining nine tenths, 5,000 to 12,200 tonnes, are plastic waste particles less than 5 mm (especially from tires, 4,400–6,600 t, and textiles, 200–1000 t) created by abrasion or use. However, this list does not yet include microplastics that are secondary to the disintegration of larger plastic parts made of macroplastics in the environment.
A plastic that is frequently used in the food industry and pharmaceuticals is polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP). Low molecular weight polymers thereof are water soluble, while higher molecular weight polymers are not. The often alleged storage of PVP taken in as a food component in the body ("storage disease") and a connection between PVP and Morgellons have not been scientifically proven. However, repeated injections of drugs containing PVP can cause "pseudotumorous foreign body granulomas ".
Microplastics formed in the environment from macroplastics
In addition to microplastics that are carried into the environment or washed into the environment, smaller plastic particles also arise from macroplastics. This microplastic is z. B. formed as a result of the embrittlement and decomposition of larger plastic parts of the floating debris such as packaging , pieces of furniture, components, ghost nets, etc. Here, in addition to mechanical shredding by wave movements in the surf zone, the decomposition by the action of UV radiation from sunlight plays a special role ( -> Degradation of Plastics ). In the course of the disintegration process, ever more and ever smaller plastic particles are created, and macro- or meso-plastic becomes secondary microplastic. The decomposition often takes over a hundred years, which means that the particles can be described as persistent .
Situation in Germany
|Microplastic emissions in Germany
(in grams per person and year)
|Sports and playgrounds||131.8|
|Abrasion paints and varnishes||65|
|Abrasion agr. used plastics||45|
|Flocculants in urban water management||43.5|
|Abrasion Brooms & Sweepers||38.3|
|industrial wear protection / conveyor belts||30th|
|Container wet cleaning||23|
|Additives in cosmetics||19th|
|Detergents, care products and cleaning agents in private households||4.6|
|Additives in medicines||1.3|
|Source: Fraunhofer study from 2018|
According to a study carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute in 2018, microplastic emissions in Germany account for around three quarters of all plastic entering the environment and amount to around 330,000 tons per year. This corresponds to around 4 kilograms per person, which is extremely high in a global comparison. By far the largest part is caused by tire wear in road traffic , over 1,200 grams per person per year, mainly from cars . Not insignificant emissions are also created with 303 grams through waste disposal , 228 grams through abrasion of bitumen in the asphalt , 182 grams through pellet losses and 131.8 grams through drifting from sports and playgrounds, especially artificial turf pitches (101.5 Grams). The release on construction sites is estimated at 117 grams, the abrasion of shoe soles with 109 grams and the fiber abrasion during textile washing with 77 grams.
A study also carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute in 2018 (on behalf of the Naturschutzbund Deutschland ) on microplastics and synthetic polymers in cosmetic products as well as detergents , cleaning agents and cleaning agents estimates their emissions in Germany alone at around 977 tons per year of microplastics (and 46,900 tons of dissolved Polymers in wastewater).
The highest concentrations of microplastics were found in corresponding investigations by the Alfred Wegener Institute Bremerhaven (AWI) in 2014/15 in the Central Arctic . B. can be ruled out by rivers: In one liter of sea ice there were up to 12,000 particles.
Soils, sediments etc.
Most of the microplastic emissions end up in the ground . So far, only selective investigations have been carried out in soils and sediments (“terrestrial systems”), so that little is known about their occurrences and effects. However, an omnipresence is already emerging in all cultivated soils on earth . According to the Federal Material Testing and Research Institute , 78 percent of tire wear in Switzerland ended up in the ground in 2018.
Scientists from the University of Bern have found microplastics in 90 percent of the floodplain soils sampled in nature reserves . Projections assume that the amount of microplastics that gets into the soil with sewage sludge is greater than that which ends up in the world's oceans. The researchers estimate that there are around 53 tons of microplastic in the top five centimeters of the floodplain. Even many soils in remote mountain areas are contaminated with microplastic, which suggests an Aeolian transport . New studies suggest that microplastics in the soil can kill earthworms, for example . Since earthworms fulfill important functions in the soil, this could also impair soil fertility . A British-Dutch study assumes that soils have 4 to 23 times the microplastic content suspected in salt water .
Scientists at the University of Bayreuth estimate that an examined field in Central Franconia contains between 158,100 and 292,400 microplastic particles per hectare (corresponds to 16–29 particles per square meter). Plastic particles between one and five millimeters in size were included in the estimate. A study of the effects of six different microplastics on green onions showed significant changes in plant biomass , elemental tissue composition, root characteristics and microbial activities in the soil.
Most of the bio-waste from private households and municipalities is contaminated with various plastics . Sieving processes and sifting can significantly reduce this contamination, but never completely remove it. Even fruit peels are sometimes treated with polyethylene wax . Scientists from the University of Bayreuth found up to 895 microplastic particles in one kilo of compost. In addition, most countries allow a certain amount of foreign matter, such as B. Plastics in fertilizers ; Germany and Switzerland, for example, which have one of the world's strictest regulations on fertilizer quality, allow up to 0.1 percent by weight of plastics. In this regulation, particles smaller than 2 mm are not even considered. This usually leads to the fact that from the food retail originating waste , including packaging of the biogas plants are removed. So too can organic fertilizers, such as the fermentation residues from biogas plants, a major source of MikroPlastik be.
Every year over three million tons of microplastic particles enter the ocean worldwide . They come mainly from synthetic textiles and the abrasion of car tires and were already discovered in the Benthal of the Mariana Trench - the deepest point in the ocean . In 46 samples from the water column of the epi- and mesopelagial of Monterey Bay in 2017 at different depths between 5 and 1000 meters, the four highest concentrations of microplastics - with over 10 particles per cubic meter - were found at 200 m and 600 m depth.
At the beginning of 2016, after more than six months of measurements at 18 locations in the sea off New York, 165 million plastic parts were extrapolated (or more than 250,000 / km²) - 85% of which were less than 5 mm in size. Around Great Britain , an average of 12,000 to a maximum of 150,000 microplastic particles per square kilometer were found using fine-meshed nets; In the Mediterranean, it is estimated that there is one part of microplastic for every two plankton organisms, or up to 300,000 particles per square kilometer have been found. In 2018 there were already 1.25 million fragments per square kilometer. If finer-meshed nets were used, the amount found could be multiplied. Up to now, measurements have usually only been made with a mesh size of 333 μm.
In 2013 the sandy beach of some bays consisted of three percent microplastic; one suspects a further increase in this rate. In the habitat of the lugworms on the North Sea , PVC makes up more than a quarter of the microplastic particles. In a study published in 2018, with ice samples from 2014 and 2015, between 33 and 75,143 microplastic particles were found per liter of sea ice . In addition, up to 182 fibers and 9 fragments per 50 grams of dried sediment were detected in the marine sediments of the Tyrrhenian Sea , which corresponds to 1.9 million pieces per square meter. Only particles with a maximum length of one millimeter were taken into account.
In 2015, the University of Basel examined the Rhine as a sea tributary for contamination by plastic particles. 31 samples were taken at eleven locations on the river surface. The measured concentrations were an average of nearly 900,000 particles per square kilometer at the highest so far in the World: the bend in the Rhine near Basel still under the Geneva (/ km² 220,000 particles "between Basel and Mainz 202,900 particles / km²"), in the area of the Rhine-Ruhr , however, ten times higher, with an average of 2.3 million particles / km². The peak was 3.9 million particles / km² 15 kilometers from the Dutch border near Rees . Extrapolated, the plastic load on the surface of the Rhine in the Atlantic results in 191 million particles per day, around ten tons per year. It was noted that, in addition to fiber and fragment particles, mainly plastic beads were found, which indicates an industrial discharger of unknown origin.
The federal states of Baden-Württemberg , Bavaria , Hesse , North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate had near-surface water samples analyzed for microplastics in 25 rivers in the catchment area of the Rhine and Danube and detected different concentrations of microplastics in each individual body of water. A total of 52 samples were examined by the project partner, the Department of Animal Ecology at the University of Bayreuth , using FTIR spectroscopy . It could be found MikroPlastik at all the monitoring stations - even in a near-source and not sewage leading headwaters . In total, more than 19,000 objects were analyzed analytically, of which 4,335 objects (22.82%) could be clearly identified as plastic particles. The concentration of microplastics in the Isar increases significantly along the course of the water. The plastic concentration has increased from 8.3 particles / m³ near Baierbrunn to 87.9 particles / m³ near Moosburg . Microplastics have also been detected in the Altmühlsee , Ammersee , Chiemsee and Starnberger See lakes .
In October 2013, scientists from the University of Bayreuth and the Technical University of Munich published analyzes on Lake Garda ( Northern Italy ); there, too, “a surprisingly high number” of small plastic particles were found in worms , snails , mussels, water fleas and shellfish .
According to a study by the University of Manchester of ten British rivers with forty measuring points, these are more polluted than expected; Floods could wash up to 70% of the plastic fragments from the river sediments into the sea.
Researchers at the University of Vienna examined the banks of the Danube between Vienna and Bratislava from 2010 to 2012 and found it to be significantly more polluted with plastic than previously assumed: they found an average of 317 plastic particles per 1000 cubic meters of water, but only 275 fish larvae . Fish could mistake the microplastic for their usual food such as insect larvae or fish eggs . Projected , the Danube transports around 4.2 tons of plastic waste into the Black Sea every day .
In a study commissioned by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) between June and November 2013, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Lausanne found in the vast majority of the six Swiss lakes examined ( Boden , Brienz , Geneva , Neuchâtel and Lake Zurich , Lake Maggiore ) and the Rhone near Chancy on the border with France. Microplastic particles: 60% of them are plastic fragments. The most common plastics found were polyethylene and propylene . Another 10% of the particles were made of expanded polystyrene ( Styrofoam ). It has been estimated that the Rhone could transport around 10 kg of microplastics daily from Switzerland through France to the Mediterranean , thereby contributing to marine pollution there .
In the sand samples taken, foams made up half of the particles: an average of around 1000 microplastic particles per square meter was measured here. In addition, also found cellulose acetate ( cigarette filter material) in a significant amount. On the other hand, deliberately produced microplastics, such as the polyethylene beads used in cosmetics, contributed very little to the total amount of microplastics measured.
In the water of Lake Geneva, for example, high concentrations of microplastics were found (also in every sample near the beach plastic parts, including polystyrene balls , remains of plastic objects, foils and nylon cords ).
On the other hand, tire wear from road traffic causes much higher emissions and is responsible for 93% of all emissions from microplastics / rubber. 22% of it, which ends up in the environment, ends up in surface water .
Groundwater and drinking water
Any microplastics contained in drinking water can be largely reduced by prior water treatment . In elementary and drinking water of the Canton of Zurich no MikroPlastik was found from the examined size of 8 microns.
During an examination of several samples of German drinking water, quantities were found which are in the range of the blank values . One has this with every sample through plastic particles already adhering to the laboratory apparatus and materials.
One study calculated that 4,000 particles per year could be ingested through tap water in America .
As far as we know today, the World Health Organization (WHO) considers the risk to humans posed by microplastics in drinking water to be low. Most of the microplastics are excreted from the body. In the case of nanoparticles , the amount absorbed could be higher.
Rainwater and air
The microplastics in the air can be washed out by rain . At a remote location in the Pyrenees , more than 350 microplastic particles per day and square meter were measured in the wet and dry separation. Microplastics are washed out of the air by snowfall even more efficiently than by rain . A particularly large amount of microplastic was found in the air in London .
Significance for the environment
Microplastic particles sometimes take hundreds of years to completely disintegrate or decompose, so that they are referred to as persistent . Empa researchers have carried out a risk assessment and do not (yet) see any threat to aquatic life in the European lakes and rivers examined so far , as the concentration of microplastics is too low. In Asia , where higher concentrations were measured, ecological risks cannot be completely ruled out.
Enrichment of toxic and other substances
Many other organic substances accumulate on the surface of microparticles, including many long-lasting, hardly degradable environmental toxins , e.g. B. hydrocarbons , DDT or flame retardants such as tetrabromobisphenol A . The exposure of aquatic organisms to pollutants is only slightly influenced by ingested microplastics. There is evidence that the effect of the presence of microplastics can be positive or negative, depending on the pollutant.
In 2015/16, the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences Hamburg (HAW) demonstrated in a study that microplastics contain three to four times as much toxins as the seabed in the immediate vicinity: In particular, microparticles made of polyethylene , the most widely used industrial plastic, tend to be deposited polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on; it binds about twice as many pollutants as silicone . Another study shows that Pfiesteria piscicida on microplastics has a density about fifty times as high as in the surrounding water and about two to three times as high as on comparable driftwood floating in the water .
The non-natural substances can cause a different colonization and consequently a different oxygen content in the polluted water.
In the sewage treatment plant , the bacterial genus Sphingopyxis has increasingly settled on plastic, which often develops antibiotic resistance . Microplastic particles are therefore possibly hotspots for the transmission of such potentially dangerous resistances.
In April and May 2015, fish samples were collected from a depth of 300 to 600 meters from the Northwest Atlantic , 1200 km west of Newfoundland . A total of 233 fish intestines from seven different species of mesopelagic fish were examined. 73% of all fish contained plastics in their intestinal contents, with the bristle mouth Gonostoma denudatum showing the highest intake rate (100%), followed by Serrivomer beanii ( sawtooth snipe eel , 93%) and Lampanyctus macdonaldi ( lantern fish , 75%).
A team of researchers from the University of Kyoto presented a study that they carried out from October to December 2016 in six coastal areas of Japan . Part of the study was to find out what the percentage of microplastics is in the fish around Japan's coasts. Among the plastic parts with a diameter of 0.1 mm or longer, 16 different types of plastics were found. Including polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). The highest concentration of plastics was found in anchovies . The research team found traces of microplastics in around 79.4% of the fish found in Tokyo Bay . The researchers justify this with the diet of the anchovies. These feed on plankton , which means that even the smallest plastic parts have easy access to the animals.
A Chinese survey found nanoplastics in the digestive tract of 94% of the birds examined.
On the North Sea island of Juist , microplastic parts were found in all of the mussels , oysters , spear balls examined , in the droppings of seagulls and harbor seals , in gray seals and in dead samples of porpoises . Microplastics were also found in the intestinal contents of all 50 marine mammals that were stranded on the coast of Great Britain. Dolphin, seal and whale strandings were examined . The most common type of polymer found was nylon . Also in the faeces of sea turtles make fibers of synthetic polymers from the vast majority.
Studies indicate that the existence of microplastics in the environment is already a decades-old phenomenon and that the intensity of pollution has not increased in recent years. The concentration of microplastic particles in fish and in seawater (each examined for the Baltic Sea ) has remained unchanged over the past 30 years. These selective long-term investigations of the gastrointestinal tract on sprat and herring , which were caught and frozen in the Baltic Sea between 1987 and 2015, indicate no increase in microplastic particles 0.1 to 5 millimeters in size.
By analyzing the number of microplastic particles in mussels , British scientists were able to show that 15 to 600 times more microplastic is ingested during a meal from dust in the air than from eating microplastic-containing mussels: the fiber exposure from dust waste is 13,731 to 68,415 particles per capita and year, exposure to mussels is 123 to 4,620 particles per capita and year. The University of Southern Denmark has commissioned by Greenpeace randomly Seafood can be studied and herring from the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic, which were purchased on November 10, 2019 the Hamburg fish market on micro plastic particles. A total of 72 individuals were analyzed. In the mussels 2.8 and 1.2, the oysters 3.8 and in the herring 14 microplastic particles were found per individual . In the case of herrings, the particles were only found in the digestive tract and not in the muscle meat.
If the recommended water intake is met only from bottled springs, an additional 90,000 microplastics are ingested annually, compared to 4,000 microplastics for those who only drink tap water. Investigations by the chemical and veterinary investigation office Münsterland-Emscher-Lippe in cooperation with the University of Münster show that microplastics from the packaging material get into the mineral water. Most of the particles found in the returnable PET bottles were identified as polyethylene terephthalate (PET, 84%) and polypropylene (PP; 7%). The returnable bottles are made of PET and the lids are made of PP. Only a few PET particles were found in the water in the non-returnable PET bottles . Other polymers such as polyethylene and polyolefins were found in the water in the beverage cartons and glass bottles . This is explained by the fact that beverage cartons are coated with polyethylene films and closures are treated with lubricants. Therefore, these results suggest that the packaging itself can release microparticles.
Microplastic particles were also found in sea salt , although a health hazard was classified as unlikely; the highest concentrations were found in “ Fleur de Sel ”. In 2018, a study showed that over 90% of the salts tested contain microplastics. Most of it was found in sea salt. If salt mills with a plastic grinder are used, additional microplastics can get into the salt due to wear .
In 2013 and 2014, microplastic particles and other foreign particles were found in sampled honeys . However, the contamination by microplastics could not be confirmed in a more recent study. The non-validated methods used in previous studies were classified as unsuitable. The findings were attributed as artifacts to laboratory contamination by microplastics in the air. In June 2014, the NDR reported that microplastic particles were found in all of the fizzy drinks and beers sampled ; for mineral water up to 7.3 plastic fibers per liter, for beer up to 78.8 per liter. Fleece material from functional clothing was assumed to be the origin . Responsible associations rejected these findings with reference to their own investigations. The Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Office in Karlsruhe also expressed doubts about the methodology used. In 2019, the consumer magazine tested a total of ten plastic kettles . In six of the kettles tested, plastic particles between 5 and 50 micrometers in size came off when they were boiled. In addition, when preparing bag tea, depending on the type of bag (e.g. pyramid bags made of nylon ), considerable amounts of microplastic can migrate into the drink. A study in 2020 proved that microplastics are produced when plastic packaging is opened.
The topic of microplastics has gained increasing importance in the public perception in recent years (as of 2019). According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, a final health risk assessment of the effects of microplastics cannot yet be carried out. So far, there are no specific studies that prove harmful effects of microplastics for humans. Since most polymers (main components of plastics) are considered to be unreactive (inert) under physicochemical conditions of the body, the risk seems likely to be low, but there are still many unanswered questions.
Studies on polymers that are used as carriers for drugs show that particles in the nanometer range are absorbed into the bloodstream, but are also excreted again. In October 2018, microplastics were detected in human stool for the first time in a pilot study with eight international test subjects . The researchers from the Austrian Federal Environment Agency and the Medical University of Vienna found an average of 20 particles of various microplastics per 10 grams of stool . The most common found were polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
In response to the ingestion or accumulation of microplastics, mussels showed e.g. B. Inflammatory reactions, fish and hermit crabs behavior changes. In an experiment by leading marine worms one - key type of Tidenbereiche the North Sea - along with sand (their usual food) imbibed Mikroplastikteilchen to inflammatory reactions in their digestive tract. The worms also stored environmental toxins adhering to the plastic particles in their body tissue. Among other serious consequences, after four weeks, their energy reserves were sometimes only half as large as those of the control group . Mathematically, the reduced feeding activity leads to a more than 25% lower circulation of the affected mudflat sand . Microplastic particles inhaled by rats entered their bloodstream via the alveoli and were distributed from there to the rest of the body. Laboratory tests showed that the particles could also penetrate the human placenta .
The effect of plastic particles is very difficult to assess because they develop new properties in nano-size (i.e. less than a micrometer in size): Large surfaces are created, their electrical charge can change, so that the parts directly with cell envelopes , cell interiors or biological molecules and the Genetic material could react . Investigations of fulmar birds , which are considered a bio-indicator for plastic pollution due to their eating behavior , did not reveal any health impairments in animals heavily contaminated with plastic (compared to uncontaminated animals). Microplastics have a negative effect on the chemosensors of large periwinkles and lead to a reduced or no escape reaction from predators.
With microplastics made of polyethylene (PE), the common mussel forms fewer byssus threads and the bond strength is reduced by around 50 percent. With microplastics made of polyethylene and also made of polylactide (PLA) , a protein metabolism disorder occurs - a change in the hemolymph proteome . This shows that even biodegradable plastic can alter the health of the common mussel. In a laboratory study it could be shown that some coral species are affected by microplastics.
A study published in 2017 showed that microplastics in mice, when ingested via the digestive tract, accumulate in intestinal tissue and other body tissues (e.g. the liver ), where they lead to inflammatory reactions and changes in metabolism. A study with large water fleas published at the end of 2019 documented the extinction of test groups exposed to microplastics within four generations.
Microplastics can affect the composition of freshwater benthic communities in the long term . In a study, Naididae ringelworms in particular were severely affected by an increased concentration of nano- and microplastics.
One of the proposed measures is the ban on entry via ships . Also littering , particularly cigarette filters , represents an avoidable burden. 2019 called for a research group in The BMJ , the sale of filter cigarettes completely ban. At least in Switzerland excess food from the food retail sector are often not exempt from the packaging before in a biogas plants to land where the contaminated by micro plastic fermentation residue is then poured onto the fields as fertilizer. Here, by unpacking beforehand, as was common in the past, the amount of microplastic discharged could be reduced considerably. From 2020 Bio Suisse no longer wants to distribute fermentation residues from biogas plants in its fields, in which material packaged in plastic is also fermented. A car-free society could prevent large amounts of microplastics.
Alternatives to microplastics in products
In mid-2014, researchers presented bio- wax particles (e.g. from carnauba wax ) as an alternative e.g. B. to the microplastic beads used in cosmetics. Since then, the use of microplastics in cosmetics has been significantly reduced. The European umbrella organization of the cosmetics industry, Cosmetics Europe, published a survey in May 2018, according to which the amount of solid, non-degradable plastic particles that are used in wash-off cosmetic products due to their cleaning and peeling effect between the years 2012 and 2017 was reduced by 97 percent (4,250 t). According to the recommendation of Cosmetics Europe, solid plastic particles for cleaning and peeling should no longer be used in wash-off cosmetics in 2020 .
In sewage treatment plants , most of the microplastics can be captured in a 4th purification stage. For reasons of cost, however, this method is rarely used. By 2035, Switzerland wants to upgrade 100 of the more than 700 wastewater treatment plants accordingly. Sewage treatment plants with more than 80,000 connected people are affected. The efficiency of sewage treatment plants in the retention of particles larger than 300 micrometers is an average of 99%, for particle sizes in the range of 20-300 micrometers it is 64-97%. The retained portion is disposed of with the sewage sludge , the not inconsiderable rest ends up in the environment with the treated wastewater. Even with winter service , which itself pollutes the environment, no cleaning is done for cost reasons. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology is currently working on a water filter that will one day be able to filter out particles up to 10 µm from the wastewater . There are considerations to get rid of plastic waste in the oceans .
Control with bacteria
The plastic waste in the sea is often covered by a biofilm made up of microorganisms. It is believed that these bacteria are involved in breaking down the plastic. Therefore, there are considerations to take action against the problem with the help of microorganisms. For this purpose, algae have already been equipped with a customized version of a bacterial gene. In contrast, mechanical filtering would not make sense, since microorganisms such as plankton would also be removed.
At the beginning of June 2017, a G20 expert ministers conference in Bremen adopted an action plan against marine litter. One of the decisive factors here was that there are already around 140 million tons of plastic waste in the world's oceans.
At the first UN conference on the protection of the oceans in New York in early June 2017 , plastic waste in the oceans was one of the main topics; the final declaration signed by all 193 UN member states includes a call to avoid plastic waste.
The campaign of the UN Environment Program for World Environment Day , which is celebrated annually on June 5th, also focuses on the fight against microplastics under the hashtag #BeatPlasticPollution .
The EU Commission is considering restricting the use of microplastic particles in products. It commissioned the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to carry out the necessary clarifications by January 2019. ECHA concluded that such a restriction was appropriate.
In 2015, the US Congress passed a ban on solid plastic particles with a diameter of less than 5 mm in cosmetics and toothpaste, which has been in force since July 1, 2017 for manufacture and since July 1, 2018 for placing on the market .
Previously, some US states had considered or adopted bans. After the US, Canada and New Zealand , the UK is the first European legislator to ban microplastics in shower gel and toothpaste . Also on July 1, 2018, Sweden's red-green government issued a ban on the sale of cosmetic products containing microplastics; In addition, it provides an additional 17 million crowns (1.75 million euros) annually for the west Swedish coastal region of Bohuslän , where a lot of garbage is washed up from the North Atlantic due to the ocean currents .
In Switzerland, the Federal Council has so far relied on the individual responsibility and voluntary measures of the industry, despite numerous advances in parliament.
In France, the ban on the placing on the market of rinsing cosmetics for exfoliation or cleaning that contain plastic particles in solid form came into force on January 1, 2018, in Italy a legislative proposal was considered by the councils. In Belgium, an industry agreement was drawn up to promote the substitution of microplastics in consumer goods.
Confrontation in art
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