Plastic pollution is no longer just a problem for populated coastal areas. Today, ocean currents have distributed plastic waste to even the most remote corners of our planet. To address this threat, Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) has partnered with the Scientific Center of Monaco (CMS) to assess the potential environmental risks that derive from plastic pollution.
While the pervasiveness of large marine debris is an obvious problem for sea life, microplastics present an environmental hazard of growing concern. Microplastics are the tiny, plastic particles that come from larger degrading plastics, and can be so small that they are completely invisible to the naked eye.
“Microplastics are added to personal care products in the form of microbeads, such as body scrub and toothpaste, or added as microfibers to synthetic clothes”, shares CMS researcher, Dr. Vanessa Bednarz. “A single washing machine can release up to 10,000,000 microfibers into the environment, per wash”.
These microscopic plastics, now found in almost all marine life, contain and accumulate chemical toxins that present risks to our marine ecosystems. Still, the ramifications of plastic pollution on the environment are not well understood; and knowledge gaps must be addressed.
From March 11 until March 29, 2019, PICRC and CMS researchers will be working side by side to launch this study. During these three weeks, a total of six sites will be monitored: two on the east coast, two on the west coast, and two in the Rock Island Southern Lagoon (RISL). Surveys will continue periodically over the next two years to provide a detailed account of microplastic build-up over time.
Funding for this project comes from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation as well as the Scientific Center of Monaco.