Cefic-lri Programme | European Chemical Industry Council

ECO57 : μPLANET – microPlastic Long-range transport Assessment aNd Estimation Tools

Principal Investigator

Dr. Antonia Praetorius
Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Science Park 904
1098 XH Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel : +31 (0)20 525 1279


Todd Gouin, TG Environmental Research, UK, todd.gouin@environresearch.com

Mick Whelan, University of Leicester, UK, mjw72@le.ac.uk


Recent research has highlighted the apparent ubiquity of plastic debris, including Microplastic Particles (MPs), across the planet and particularly in the oceans. The release of MPs to the environment represents a particular concern given their resistance to degradation. The continuous release of MPs to the environment combined with their environmental persistence may represent environmental and human health risks in the future. It has been further observed that the density, size and shape of some MPs make them susceptible to long-range environmental transport (LRET) in either air or water. However, the extent to which MPs detected in remote regions reflect LRET or are simply the product of local emissions remains highly uncertain. Lastly, plastic materials are known to contain a range of chemical additives at varying inclusion levels. In addition to the primary polymers used in their manufacture, along with unreacted monomers, chemical plasticizers, anti-oxidants, flame retardants and UV stabilizers are often incorporated. The concern that MPs may be subject to LRET has, therefore, resulted in suggestions that this could facilitate the particle-bound mobility (and LRET) of plastic additive chemicals (PACs) to remote regions.

Overarching Aim: The aim of the μPLANET project is the development of a robust modelling framework for assessing plastic-facilitated LRET of PACs. This framework will utilise state-of-the art advances in multimedia environmental fate modelling of MPs, integrate current (and future) knowledge on the fate and transport of both MPs and naturally occurring particles with similar properties and strengthen our understanding of the key processes that influence their LRET.

Objectives: μPLANET has four specific objectives: (1) Refined parameterization of the coast to open-ocean mass transfer of MPs within the microBETR Global model, recently adapted for MPs under LRI ECO 48; (2) Development and application of riverine to ocean transport models aimed at supporting an improved evaluation of the relative strength of terrestrial MP sources of MPs and their transport to the ocean along with incorporation into microBETR; (3) Development of LRET metrics for screening and prioritizing the properties of MPs and a set of environmental scenarios needed to facilitate the evaluation of their LRET; and (4) integration of project outputs into a flexible tool that can be seamlessly incorporated into the modelling framework developed under LRI ECO 56.

Timeline: October 2021 > September 2023

LRI funding: 298 975€

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