Proyecto Mares Circulares

El proyecto Mares Circulares es un ambicioso proyecto que tuvo su inicio en 2018 gracias al apoyo de The Coca Cola Foundation (Atlanta) y Coca Cola Europacific Partners Iberia y el trabajo de Asociación Chelonia, Fundación Ecomar, Liga para a Protecção da Natureza y Asociación Vertidos Cero, junto a más de 600 entidades públicas y privadas colaborando en los distintos escenarios costeros. Asociación Vertidos Cero coordina las acciones relacionadas con la retirada de basuras marinas por el sector pesquero. Para ello cuenta con la ayuda de Asociación Paisaje Limpio, Asociación Hombre y Territorio, Observatorio do Mar dos Açores y Cruz Roja de las Islas Baleares, que, junto con las cofradías, asociaciones de pescadores y lonjas en diecisiete puertos de España y Portugal, extraen las basuras marinas de difícil acceso, principalmente del fondo marino y flotantes.

Durante 2022, más de 500 pescadores voluntarios trabajaron para recuperar los residuos plásticos de los fondos marinos que quedaban atrapados en sus redes. Gracias a una tecnología puntera, se han podido fabricar bancos, de plástico 100% reciclado, que contienen entre un 30-50% de plástico no PET (bolsas y redes principalmente), recolectado por los pescadores de los más de cien barcos que participan desinteresadamente en el proyecto. Los barcos depositan en el puerto la basura marina, Vertidos Cero separa y caracteriza los residuos con la aplcacaión MARNOBA y envía los plásticos no-PET a AIMPLAS (Instituto Tecnológico del Plástico) para que realice las pruebas y ensayos que permitan llegar a un contenido entre el 30-50% de plástico marino en la composición del banco. Finalmente Plàstic Preciós La Safor ha diseñado el banco y produce las unidades que se situarán en los quince puertos colaboradores de Mares Circulares.

Un proyecto en red: Mares Circulares es un proyecto en red en el que participa la Asociación Vertidos Cero que se lanzo en 2018 con un triple objetivo: limpiar costas, espacios protegidos y fondos marinos de España y Portugal, fomentar el reciclaje e impulsar la economía circular. Con este proyecto se pretende limpiar nuestros entornos acuáticos sin dejar de lado la importancia de concienciar sobre el reciclaje. El proyecto apoyando estudios e iniciativas que buscan soluciones para reducir la contaminación marina.

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Risk assessment of microplastics in freshwater sediments

Determining the risks of microplastics is difficult because data is of variable quality and cannot be compared. Although sediments are important sinks for microplastics, no holistic risk assessment framework is available for this compartment. Here we assess the risks of microplastics in freshwater sediments worldwide, using strict quality criteria and alignment methods. Published exposure data were screened for quality using new criteria for microplastics in sediment and were rescaled to the standard 1–5000 µm microplastic size range. Threshold effect data were also screened for quality and were aligned to account for the polydispersity of environmental microplastics and for their bioaccessible fraction. Risks were characterized for effects triggered by food dilution or translocation, using ingested particle volume and surface area as ecologically relevant metrics, respectively.

For all locations considered, exposure concentrations were either below or in the margin of uncertainty of hazardous concentrations for 5% of the species. We could conclude that risks from microplastics to benthic communities cannot be excluded at current concentrations in sediments worldwide.

Statement: Pollution with microplastics is a pressing environmental and social problem, with adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems noted worldwide. Here we introduce a holistic risk assessment framework for freshwater sediment, a compartment for which no framework was yet available. We provide a new tool to assess the quality of exposure data from the literature, as well as new methods to resolve the mismatch between exposure and laboratory effect data. We show that risks from microplastics to benthic communities cannot be excluded in some locations. This work has been published in Journal journal of Hazardous Materials as Risk assessment of microplastics in freshwater sediments guided by strict quality criteria and data alignment methods

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Recycled wastewater as a potential source of of microplastics in irrigated soils fron an arid-insular territory

Microplastics appear in agricultural soils due to the massive amount of plastic used in conventional farming, for example, plastic film mulching, packaging, plastic films for greenhouse shedding, water pipes, fertilizers coatings, and substrate aeration-improving materials which eventually degrade on the field and transform into small fragments. However, the largest contribution comes from the application of sewage sludge as fertilizer. Besides, irrigation water, particularly when using recycled wastewater can be a significant contribution to plastic pollution in agricultural soils.

In this work, the occurrence of microplastics (MPs) in irrigation recycled wastewaters and a desalinated brackish water from the arid territory of Fuerteventura (Canary Islands, Spain) was studied. Besides, the presence of MPs in two types of soils (sandy-loam and clay-loamy; with no mulch film or fertilization with sewage sludge applied) irrigated with both water qualities was addressed. The results showed the prevalence presence of cellulosic and polyester microfibers (between 84.4 and 100%) in water samples ranging from 2.0 ± 2.0 items/L up to 40.0 ± 19.0 items/L. The concentration of microplastics in the soil top layer (0–5 cm) was three times higher in soil irrigated with recycled wastewater compared to irrigation with desalinated brackish water (159 ± 338 vs. 46 ± 92 items/kg, respectively).

Take home message: The results show that recycled wastewater constitute a potential source of microplastics in irrigated soils that should be considered among other pros and cons linked to the use of this water quality in agricultural arid lands. The work has been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment as Recycled wastewater as a potential source of microplastics in irrigated soils from an arid-insular territory (Fuerteventura, Spain).

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Investigadores del grupo EOMAR participan en el primer inventario y clasificación de basuras marinas de Aleganza

Alegranza es la isla más septentrional del archipiélago canario y, por lo tanto, el primer obstáculo con el que se encuentra la Corriente de Canarias, que deposita todos los residuos en la costa de orientación noreste. Además, al ser una isla deshabitada, todos los residuos son procedentes del mar, lo que la convierte en un observatorio privilegiado para estudiar las basuras marinas. En la realización de este inventario han colaborado las investigadoras del grupo de Ecofisiología de los Organismos Marinos (EOMAR) de la Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Alicia Herrera, Ico Martínez y May Gómez; junto a Alexis Rivera de WWF España y Teresa Moreno del Instituto de Formación Profesional Marítimo Pesquero de Canarias.

A lo largo de un total de seis expediciones lideradas por el grupo EOMAR del IU-ECOAQUA, se retiraron 3667 objetos con un peso total de 321 kilogramos, de los que el 97.7% eran plásticos, siendo los más abundantes las botellas PET de bebidas (960 ejemplares, casi una cuarta parte de los plásticos recolectados). En España se utilizan unos 9 millones de botellas de agua diariamente, una gran parte termina en vertederos y muchas llegan al mar arrastradas por el viento o a través de los ríos.

La actividad pesquera y el tráfico marítimo también fueron una fuente importante de desechos marinos (20.2%). En algunos casos las etiquetas legibles proporcionaron información acerca de su procedencia y en dos tercios de los casos el lugar de fabricación fdueron países asiáticos y su origen se atribuye al tráfico marítimo internacional en la zona.

Un caso curioso son las etiquetas de licencia de las trampas de langostas de la costa este de Estados Unidos y Canadá, fechadas entre 1999 y 2018, lo que evidencia que recorren que pueden llevar décadas flotando en el océano.

Publicación científica: Los resultados se han publicado en el artículo First inventory of marine debris on Alegranza, an uninhabited island in the Northeast Atlantic, publicado en la revista científica Marine Pollution Bulletin. La información obtenida debe contribuir a la identificación de las fuentes de residuos marinos más frecuentes en los mares y que, por tanto, deberían ser regulados por las leyes medioambientales.

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Microplastics in the composted organic fraction of municipal solid waste

Plastic debris enter the environment through different ways. Atmospheric dissemination has recently received attention as small airborne debris, mainly consisting of synthetic fibres, may travel long distances from their source. The role of wastewater treatment plants is also well-known. Domestic and industrial wastewaters contain a large number of fibres, microplastics used in personal care products, tyre wear debris and other plastic particles and fibres incompletely removed in treatment plants. The typical removal efficiency of current wastewater treatment process is over 90 % meaning that most MPs contained in raw wastewater accumulate in sludge. In fact, the use of wastewater sludge as soil amendment could be a contributor to the dissemination of micropalstics into soil, and from it to other environmental compartments. Besides, agricultural practices like mulching may result in involuntary dissemination of plastic debris to the environment. The information available on the sources, fate and effects of MPs in soil are scarce due to the reduced number of studies accomplished so far and because of the lack of acute effects on biota. Besides, MPs release dangerous additives, sorb other pollutants and their fragmentation is known to produce smaller and more concerning fragments including nanoplastics.

In this work, we selected and studied five composting facilities from which we took monthly samples over a five-month period. The results showed a concentration of plastic impurities in the 10-30 particles/g of dry compost range, dominated by smaller sizes. Microplastics were found in concentrations in the 5–20 items/g of dry weight in the composted organic fraction. Our results showed that smaller plants, with door-to-door collection produce compost with less plastic of all sizes. However, even following selective door-to-door collection, domestic wastes still contain a considerable amount of plastic debris. Our study suggests that changes are needed in the current patterns of plastic use to further reduce plastic impurities in compost from domestic biowastes.

What we learnt: The presence of plastic debris in compost obtained from OFMSW was studied by analysing samples of final compost taken over a five-month period from five different composting facilities representative of different collection systems, rates of impurities, and technology. From our study we concluded that: (1) The total concentration of plastic particles was in the 10-30 items/g of DW range; (2) The concentration of MPs was in the 5-20 items/g of DW; (3) Fibres were predominant and were mostly in the lower size range (25 % < 500 µm); (4) The plastic materials found were polyethylene, polystyrene, polyester, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, and acrylic polymers in that order of abundance; (5) Smaller plants, with door-to-door collection schemes produced compost with less plastic impurities; and (6) Compostable bioplastics are completely absent from compost even if there was evidence that they arrived to the composing plants at least as biodegradable plastic bags.

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