School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

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Improving our understanding of how microplastics enter the oceans

University receives Government funding to analyse impact of tyres and textiles on the marine environment

Dr. Geoff Abbott from Newcastle University has received Government funding (DEFRA) to launch a new research project analysing the impact of tyres and clothing on the marine environment.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey has pledged £200,000 to explore how tiny plastic particles from tyres, synthetic materials like polyester, and fishing gear – such as nets, ropes and lines – enter our waterways and oceans, and the impact they have on marine life. The project is led by Plymouth University and £30,000 is going to Dr. Geoff Abbott (SNES) to use mass spectrometry to detect these particles in water samples.

Following the government’s ban on microbeads, this comprehensive research will be used to improve our scientific understanding of how microplastics from other sources enter the oceans – whether through fibres released into waste water during a washing cycle, or car tyre friction on roads creating a dust of particles that make their way into the seas through sewers.

The 11-month project will build on research already underway, with some scientists estimating tyres contribute 270,000 tonnes of plastics per year while a study by Plymouth University has shown a single wash load of acrylic clothing could release over 700,000 microfibres into the ocean.

published on: 27 June 2018