Marine litter study

How to form an attitude to prevent marine litter

Our shared concern for marine littering has resulted in a Norwegian pilot project sponsored by the industry to explore and analyse samples.

Norner cooperated with the local coastal municipalities and Naturnvernforbundet in an effort to:

  • Collect and systemise litter regularily on selected beaches
  • Product types were categorised
  • Norner analysed the types of plastic found
  • When possible we assessed the origin of the article
  • Norner organised analysis of the possible precense of hazardous chemichals
  • Norner organised chemical analysis
     

The pictures show some examples:

  • PE and PP pellets found on a beach location. Due to the colours and shapes, these probably have different origins. Such pellets are often refferred to as “nurdles” and a result of industrial activity.
  • A HDPE pot for catching octopussy in the north of Africa found at Jomfruland close to Kragerø. Analysis showed that the material had been in contact with DDT.
  • Ropes and fishing gear in PE and PP. Any fibres of other materials will sink.

Some key findings are:

  • Majority of plastic products are foam (EPS and PUR) as well as packaging, rigid parts and ropes made from PE and PP
  • Flame retardant additives was found in foam samples
  • The HDPE pot contained DDT
  • No other chemicals were found
  • Many samples showed significant degradation and disintegration
  • Our simulations of degradation and disintegration shows that PE packaging films need only a 1-5 years before the materials are brittle and cracks into small pieces of microplastic.

The study is financed by Plastretur, who organise plastic waste collection and recycling in Norway.

Marine litter- a global challenge

Marine litter is a fast growing and global environmental challenge. The most visible is plastic articles floating in the ocean and onto our beach areas. 

  • Marine litter is causing harm to marine wildlife, coastal communities and maritime activities. It is also an emerging concern for human health and safety. 
  • According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and OSPAR 2009, about 6,4 million ton of litter ends up in the ocean each year globally of which 15% ends up on beaches, 15% floats into the ocean and 70% sink.
  • When the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) met in Nairobi on December 6th 2017, a resolution was approved which concludes that waste minimization and environmentally sound solid waste management should be given the highest priority in efforts to address marine litter. 

It is good news that very many nations stand behind the resolution and intentions to develop sustainable solutions. Meanwhile there are a lot of activities ongoing to clean up beaches as well as research and investigations related to type and amounts of plastics in the oceans.

Plastics will gradually degrade when exposed to sun while floating in the sea. This makes it brittle and articles will fragment into smaller and smaller pieces. The result is an increasing amount of microplastics. Such small pieces of plastics also have many other sources.

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