Stockholm, 29 August 2016 – New forms of pollution are affecting the quality of freshwater worldwide. One of the causes, microplastics, still receives little attention. UNESCO considers microplastics in inland waterways to be a growing problem with huge harmful consequences. A report compiled by the Plastic Soup Foundation and commissioned by UNESCO was presented on camera in Stockholm during the World Water Week. The case study is part of the UNESCO Project on Emerging Pollutants in Water and Wastewater. Watch the program here.
Microplastics, smaller than 5 mm, are found everywhere in inland waterways. The report describes the main sources and proposes possible solutions. One major objective is to move the problem of microplastics up the political agenda worldwide. In principle, national governments are responsible for water quality.
Author of the report, Michiel Roscam Abbing, says “Much more attention is being paid to plastic pollution in the oceans than in the rivers and lakes, but the evidence does not justify this. Expectations are that our use of plastic and in particular the far-reaching fragmentation of large pieces of plastic will hugely increase the quantity of microplastics in the water. The smaller the pieces, the greater the chance they will enter the food chain and penetrate ecosystems. And once they get into the water they can no longer be removed.” The study is expected to be published within a few months.
Internationally, Sweden plays a key role when it comes to improving water quality. The World Water Week is organized every year by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). The UNESCO research program into “Emerging Pollutants” is financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Earlier this year the Swedish environment minister called for a ban on microplastics in cosmetics.