Plastics network
Plastics network seminar

Plastics Network Seminar

Finally, the Plastics Network got a chance to gather and for the first time connect their members face-to-face in a seminar 23 November.

Speakers of the seminar
Plastics network

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On a rainy November Tuesday morning, approximately 30 researchers, students and other interested professionals gathered at Scandic Bergen City in the first seminar of the Plastics Network. The aim of this event was to showcase the diversity of plastics research at UiB and give the members of the network an opportunity to meet each other and discuss topical plastics issues of common interest.

UiB Marine has recruited three prominent plastics researchers to Adjunct professorships. Tanja Kögel and Amy Lusher are associated to the Department of Biological Sciences, while Marte Haave is employed at the Department of Chemistry. They all study marine litter and microplastics from different, but also complementing, perspectives. Due to the pandemic, their inaugural lectures have been postponed, but now Tanja, Amy and Marte finally had the opportunity to present their current research.

In her talk, “The hazard of microplastic in seafood – methods we need for risk assessment”, Tanja Kögel emphasized the need for developing tools to conduct microplastic risk assessment . The Seafood industry is very important for Norwegian economy and monitoring of Norwegian seafood is a prerequisite for seafood export and trade. To be able to analyse the risks, we also need to know how microplastics finds its way into seafood and what the effects are.

Amy Lusher talked about “Microplastics from Local to Global Knowledge​. Method developments leading to monitoring and the global topic of harmonisation vs standardization”. Microplastic research is a growing field with a large number of new or improved analytical methods provided on a monthly basis. The international community has a lot of work to do to reach harmonization in microplastic identification and quantification​. We must acknowledge the many valuable methods are already developed and focus on comparing and validating their use​, and the recommendations must be subject to modifications and optimization as research progresses.

Marte Haave presented Norce-UiB collaboration projects and the recently established North Atlantic Microplastic Centre (NAMC). This research centre aims to improve analysis methods, map the scope and effects of microplastics to build a comprehensive knowledge base that can support Norwegian administration and business. Marte’s research is also featured in the new documentary Plasthavet shown at NRK.

The Plastics Network participated in the national beach cleaning week in September. “I am happy to be part of a student community that is so committed to such an important problem”, says sustainability pilot Ingeborg Rønning. The amount of plastic litter on the beach gave strong impressions to all participants. Read more about the cleaning in Stabbevika here.    

Plastic pollution is a problem both for the wildlife and us humans. Jutta Dierkes from the Department of Clinical Medicine talked about the intestinal fate of microplastic particles. Microplastic particles can be absorbed, and both size, shape and exposure appear to influence absorption. Research on if and how microplastics can affect human health is still in a very early phase.

Marine plastics is also a regulatory challenge. Sigrid Eskeland Schütz from the Faculty of Law presented the regulatory framework, with both horizontal and sectoral regulation. Marine litter is a cross-border problem with human consumerism as root cause.

Why plastic waste is found in certain places is no coincidence but can be explained with mathematical models. Guttorm Alendal from the Department of Mathematics showed plastic transport in marine waters and results from experiments on transport of tracers in Byfjorden in Bergen. The research project Fluxes and Fate of Microplastics in Northern European Waters creates new knowledge and understanding on the sources, transport, occurrence, and fate of small microplastics in the northern marine waters.

PhD student Linn Merethe Brekke Olsen talked about the occurrence of microplastics (down to 5 μm) in the water column in the Norwegian-Greenland sea. Microplastic concentrations were higher in the surface layer and decreased towards deeper depths. The types of plastic found in the samples (PP, PE and PET) are among the most common polymers used in today’s society.

Joint message from all speakers was that more research and information is needed. EU, Plastic policy and Horizon Europe give many opportunities for plastics research. Pollution (including plastic pollution) is also one of the topics in the EU Mission Restore our Ocean and Waters. If you want to know more about EU opportunities, please contact Charlotte Eide at UiB Brussels office.

The first meeting in the Plastics Network showed that the ongoing research at UiB and associated partner institutions covers a broad range of plastic related issues. Several collaborations among network members are also already established through ongoing research projects. However, the many knowledge gaps in plastic research and the interconnected pressing issues plastic pollution causes, call for new projects and cross disciplinary collaborations to solve. The Plastics Network aims to facilitate and support such initiatives.