Approximately 6,300 million tonnes (Mt) of plastic waste has been generated to date, 79% of which has been accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.
If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050. Land-derived plastics reach environmental compartments from multiple sources, where they fragment into increasingly smaller particles (<100 µm) with suspected increase potential for bioavailability and risk as particle size decreases. Since the fragmented small particles cannot be easily removed from ecosystems, prevention is better than cure. Strategies to prevent plastic entering the environment and research on aquatic biodegradable alternatives should be taken promptly
Principles of our work
The LABPLAS project is focused on understanding the sources, transport, distribution and impacts of plastic pollution in all environmental compartments (freshwater, marine, terrestrial, atmosphere and aquatic biota). LABPLAS will apply technological advances (sampling, analysis, quantification), promote biodegradable novel materials, develop innovative and up-scalable models (for assessing the fate, effects and risks of plastics), and present results to national and international authorities and industry for decision making.
LABPLAS will study the smaller fractions (micro and nanoplastics (SMNPs)), which are commonly not monitored in the environment, since they are more easily taken up by organisms. Plastics are not just polymer, and LABPLAS will additionally pay attention to chemicals added to plastic objects to enhance their physical properties, and assess their potential effect to metabolism.
LABPLAS will provide scientific evidence supporting decision making in regulatory efforts and inform consumers within the current legislative initiatives prompted by the EU Plastics Strategy and the Plastics Directive (EU 2019/904) by providing solid scientific evidence and novel technical developments rather than by misperceptions and false myths on plastic properties
The LABPLAS project is based on the following assumptions:
1. Most plastic pollution can be traced back to land-based sources of plastic waste;
2. The environmental impact of plastic particles is driven by their size, shape and composition (i.e., polymer properties, particle size, shape and chemical additives determine environmental fate and ecotoxicological effects).
Based on these assumptions, the main objectives of LABPLAS are