IMPACT Project aims to identify micro-plastic hot-spots in the Maltese waters

Last Updated on Monday, 11 October, 2021 at 3:56 pm by Andre Camilleri

The Institute of Applied Sciences within MCAST, AquaBioTech Group and Żibel have teamed up together to work on IMPACT, an ambitious project aimed at identifying micro-plastic hot-spots in Maltese territorial waters.

The project involves collecting seawater samples from all around the Maltese Islands and analyzing the samples for micro-plastics. This is done in order to quantify and characterize micro-plastics in local waters. Subsequently, this will enable the compilation of a map earmarking micro-plastics hot-spots in the coastal waters around the Maltese Islands.

A significant portion of the plastics produced worldwide enters and persists in marine environment for several years. This occurs because of the plastic’s high durability and low degradation rates. When plastic debris starts to finally breakdown, problems still won’t vanish. On the contrary, the situation gets somewhat worse because whilst large plastic (macro-plastic) can easily be seen, smaller fragments of plastics such as micro-plastics are not visible to the naked eye and therefore difficult to study and control.

Due to these features, plastic is considered to be persistent since it will continue to exist over a prolonged period of time. Moreover, it is also ubiquitous, because it can be found practically anywhere in the world. The danger is that plastic can also be toxic due to the type of chemicals that are added to it or if other substances bind to it.

Moreover, the social and economic implications associated with micro-plastics is damming. Whilst plastic litter may bring about aesthetic issues, social implications associated with micro-plastics can involve potential threat to the public’s health and safety. Direct economic costs of marine debris can include the increase in cleaning costs, which would involve collection, transportation, and disposal, as well as damage to a number of economic sectors, such as tourism and fishing. The indirect costs include the deterioration of ecosystem services and reduction in quality of life.

The information obtained through IMPACT will serve to better understand the distribution of microplastics, and the implications of their presence in certain areas. Hence, its importance to the environment. Additionally, the development of a monitoring protocol will pave the way to a standardized monitoring technique which could be adopted by various stakeholders. Through the collaborative approach adopted in this project, key players in the field of research and education, and stakeholders are working together to promote the safeguarding of our natural environment. Since this field is relatively new especially within a local context, this project will be filling a vital knowledge gap with regards to the presence and characterization of micro-plastics and their possible implications.

Knowledge exchange carried out between the three partners will enhance the skills of existing MCAST students and build capacity of the AquaBioTech Group and Żibel team members to continue their  collection and monitoring work around the islands. The information collected will also be disseminated to different stakeholders, including the public. In fact, through the collaboration with Nature Trust – FEE Malta, a number of outreach sessions have already been carried out to increase awareness about micro-plastics. These sessions are vital to drive shifting mindsets on plastic use, supporting a more sustainable future for Malta.

IMPACT (GA: PRD 002) is supported under the PARADISE Call for Start-up Actions 2020-Malta Council for Science and Technology.

Further information can be obtained from our dedicated digital channels and website

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