Topic 1: Validation and harmonization of analytical methods
Joint research project: Defining the baselines and standards for microplastics analyses in European waters (BASEMAN)
Since the middle of last century rapidly increasing global production of plastics has been accompanied by an accumulation of plastic litter in the marine environment. Dispersal by currents and winds does not diminish the persistence of plastic items which degrade and become fragmented over time. Together with micro-sized primary plastic litter from consumer products these degraded secondary micro-fragments lead to an increasing amount of small plastic particles (<5 mm), so called “microplastics”.
The ubiquitous presence and massive accumulation of MP in marine habitats and its uptake by various marine biota is now well recognized by scientists and authorities worldwide. Although awareness of the potential risks is emerging, the impact of plastic particles on aquatic ecosystems is far from understood.
A fundamental issue precluding assessment of the environmental risks arising from MP is the lack of Standard Operation Procedures for sampling and detection of microplastics. Consequently there is a lack of reliable data on microplastic concentrations and the composition of polymers within the marine environment. Comparability of data on microplastic concentrations is currently hampered by a huge variety of different methods, each generating data of extremely different quality and resolution.
Although microplastics are recognized as an emerging contaminantion the environment, currently neither sampling, extraction, purification nor identification approaches are standardized, making the increasing numbers of MP studies hardly - if at all - comparable. BASEMAN is an interdisciplinary and international collaborative research project of 24 partners that aims to overcome this problem, and address the JPI-Oceans pilot call "Ecological aspects of microplastics in the marine environment". BASEMAN teams experienced MP scientists (from different disciplines and countries) to undertake a profound and detailed comparison and evaluation of all approaches from sampling to identification of microplastics.