Microplastics abound on the west coast of Jutland

On 6 beaches in Western Jutland, scientists have been scouring several areas for microplastic. In total 176 samples along the coast has been collected. The result was concerning as it showed that microplastic was found in 136 of those samples. In average there was found 28 pieces of plastic between 1,8 and 5 mm, pr. 5L sand.

In a cooperation with actors from the private industry and several knowledge institutions, Danish Materials Network, DMN, has in the fall of 2019 performed the, to date, most comprehensive scientific study of the occurrence of microplastic on the Danish Westcoast.

The amount of plastic found on the surface of a half m2 beach at Hvide Sande.

The results are overwhelming
“Just because we can´t see it at first glance, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there” says Bente Nedergaard Christensen, project manager from DMN in Esbjerg. It is among others, The Fisheries and Maritime Museum in Esbjerg, that has contributed to collecting and testing samples from the selected beaches. Here, Biologist Melanie Brauckhoff has been busy examining sand from Fanø, Blåvand and Hvide Sande. “The results are completely overwhelming” It has turned out, that there was microplastic in 77 % of all the samples, we have collected during the fall”.

Where is it coming from?
Surprisingly enough, it has turned out that a big part of the microplastic that was found in the study, is raw material, used by the plastic industry in the production of plastic items, the so called “pellets”. A large number of these small pellets are washing up on the Danish west coast, but where are they coming from?

The waste of pellets typically happens during production, storage, loading, transportation and conversion into plastic products, but unfortunately there is “no sender on the waste packages”, and therefor it is considered as ownerless waste, with no one to hold accountable, Bente Nedergaard Christensen says. The waste can have occurred in Denmark as well as abroad.

We are worried
In addition to the work in the field, DHI has performed a collection of knowledge regarding the toxicity of microplastic. It shows, that persistent organic pollutants can be bound to the surface of microplastic, which can then be released again later.

Machine to remove the microplastic
Furthermore, the project aspires to develop a machine, that can help remove the microplastic from the beaches.

In a cooperation with the participating companies, Søren Pedersen and Nikolaj Madsen from Fredericia maskinmesterskole (Fredericia school of Technology Management and Marine Engineering) have worked with developing and designing the idea behind the Clean Beach collecting machine. According to Søren Pedersen, it is challenging that the machine has to collect microplastic, and at the same time, sort out sand and shells which has to stay on the beach, but tests shows, that the proposed concept works.

In 2020 the development and optimization of Clean Beach test version 01 will continue, and there will be carried out final field-testing sessions with the Clean Beach version 02 collecting machine.

Are you interested in the results of the project?
The results of the project will be presented at an event at The Fisheries and Maritime Museum in the beginning of June 2020. The event is for everyone with an interest in hearing about the results of the study.

Some of the participants in the project: From left Tyge Kjær from Roskilde University, Palle Hannemann from Hannemann Engineering, Niels Larsen from Ocean Plastic Forum, Jens Jørgensen and Julie Müller from Strandet and Søren Pedersen from Fredericia Mechanical School. Photo: Bente Nedergaard Christensen

The project is a collaborative under Danish Material Network, DMN, which is a national innovation network with 175 members, located in Esbjerg. The project was proposed by Ocean Plastic Forum in a cooperation with the Technology Management and Marine Engineering Union, and is financed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.

Project manager and Polymer Specialist, Bente Nedergaard Christensen, Mobile: +45 60 35 19 93 · E-mail: bnc@dmn-net.com

Project partners:
The Technology Management and Marine Engineering Union
Ocean Plastic Forum
Pure Oceans
Hannemann Engineering
Hvide Sande ShipYard Steel Service
KIMO, an international environmental organization for local authorities.
FMS, Fredericia school of Technology Management and Marine Engineering
SDU, Southern University Denmark
RUC, Roskilde University
DHI, Danish Hydraulic Institute
FIMUS, The Fisheries and Maritime Museum

A full version of the article is available in Danish here >

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