Analyzing Microplastic Pollution in Norwegian Waters

The Plastic Problem

In 2013 plastic production reached 299 million tons per year. It is estimated that approximately 10% of produced plastic ends up in the oceans.

The Great Wave of Kanagawa. 

Plastic Ocean Project INC.

Microplastics are particles less than 5mm in size and can be formed by fragmentation of larger plastic items (secondary source) or by industrial ‘scrubbers’ used to blast clean surfaces, plastic powders used in moulding, micro-beads in cosmetics, and plastic nanoparticles used in a variety of industrial processes (primary sources).

 

The hazardous consequences of microplastic pollution in the marine environment are starting to be a cause of great concern. Microplastics have been shown to be ingested across the entire food web from marine invertebrates to mammals, with severe effects on the health of the organisms. Furthermore, pollutants can adhere to microplastic particles and leaching of toxins can occur.

Microplastics

Microplastics from 1L of sediment.

Baztan et al. Marine Pollution Bulletin (2014)

 
 

Aim of the project

The presence of microplastics in Norwegian coastal waters has never been measured. Our work will provide a baseline of this kind pollution. Specifically, the aims of this project are to:

 

  • Understand the distribution and extent of microplastic pollution in Norwegian coastal
    waters and sea sediment.
     

  • Identify and monitor hot- and cold- spots of pollution and assess the microplastic
    contents over time.
     

  • Assess whether microplastics has entered the food chain.

This project will be carried out in collaboration with divers from Project Baseline Oslo.

We will be collecting 1 liter of water samples from the surface of the sea and 1 liter volume of sediments from the bottom of the sea from selected areas with the help of local SCUBA divers.

Water samples will then be passed through special filters with pores small enough to capture the microplastic particles. We will then look for and count the particles through a microscope. Sediment samples will first be mixed in chemical solution with higher density to make the plastic particles, which are lighter float on the surface and so separated from the mud and sand. After that the samples will be processed the same way as water samples. 

How do we collect and analyse the samples?

Examples of microplastic particles from the Oslofjord area  

 

How you can help

This project is entirely volunteer-based. We put in a lot of time and money to collect the samples and analyze them. We would really appreciate if you could donate a small amount. 
 


If you are a certified SCUBA diver based in Norway you can also help us collect samples. We need divers around the country to collect a water sample from the surface and sediment from the seabed. Please contact us for more details and to sign up. 

 

If you have already signed up please download the collection instructions and the recording form below.

 

Here is a short video describing how to collect surface samples:

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