Development of a new microplastic monitoring methodology
To achieve the SDGs14.1 goal “by 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds...”, we must tackle marine debris, particularly plastic debris that threatens marine ecosystems. Plastic debris in the sea cannot be decomposed by any living organisms and will remain there for centuries or even millennia. Plastic debris in the sea disintegrates over time and eventually converts into smaller pieces, termed microplastics. While these tiny microplastics release additives which contain substances that can be toxic to animals in the water, they absorb legacy harmful chemicals, such as DDT and PCBs, very well as in a sponge. They are then eaten by small marine animals such as zooplankton and sardines, sneaking into food webs and eventually returning to become our meal. To achieve the SDGs 14.1 goal, it is essential to fully and rapidly understand how many and what type of plastics and microplastics are entering the sea, where they are moving, and how are they transported and accumulated. In a response, JAMSTEC is developing an autonomous system for detecting and identifying microplastics in the sea and an efficient method for extracting microplastics from marine sediments with the support of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Ministry of the Environment, respectively.