Environment consequences of natural

plastics aging (under construction)


The influence of the aging and the presence of organic and inorganic contaminants on ecotoxicity of microplastics (2017/27/N/NZ8/01517) (Preludium, NCN) (PI - mgr Aleksandra Bogusz, supervisor Patryk Oleszczuk)

The project in co-operation with the Institute of Environmental Protection (Facebook)

The primary objective of the research undertaken is the definition of interactions and of the mechanisms of binding of organic and inorganic contaminants by degraded plastics. The necessary information will be acquired on the basis of assays of adsorption of ions of selected heavy metals and of selected polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (the selection of a specific compound will be made after screening studies) from water solutions. The studies conducted within the framework of the project will permit the estimation of the effect of ageing and of the various factors causing the degradation of plastics (e.g. temperature, time of ageing, light) on their adsorption capacity in relation to the substances studied and on the force of interactions between contaminants and degraded plastics.

The constantly growing consumption of plastics and intensified emission of PAHs and heavy metals to the environment raise more and more concerns. Out of the 25.8 million tons of waste polymer plastics as much as 30.8% is stored in dumps (legal or uncontrolled) where they undergo slow processes of degradation and can be transported by winds beyond the area of the dumps causing the contamination of ecosystems. Intensified transport of waste plastics may also be the effect of violent weather phenomena. Studies conducted in California waters indicate that the amount of plastic wastes with diameters < 4.75 mm increased drastically from 10 particles of plastics /m3 to 60 particles of plastics /m3 after a storm [1]. In that manner increasing amounts of waste plastics migrate to natural waters where they undergo further degradation and enter into interactions with chemical substances present in a given reservoir. It is worth emphasising the fact that waste plastics, contaminants and aquatic organisms occur in the same trophic zones, the pelagic zone and the benthic zone. Therefore, the occurrence of interactions between them is unavoidable. From the viewpoint of environmental protection it is, therefore, necessary with what strength microplastics bind organic and inorganic contaminants, and thus whether the process in irreversible, precluding secondary contamination of ecosystems or liberation of those contaminants to living organisms. In the course of the studies the following hypotheses will be verified:

  1. Punktor As a result of degradation of plastics, under diversified environmental conditions, microplastics are formed which a capable of accumulation of contaminants. The strength of binding the contaminants will vary in relation to the conditions of degradation of plastics,

  2. Punktor Various processes of degradation plastics will have a varied effect on various materials, and thus the binding of contaminants will proceed at various intensity.

  3. Punktor Contaminants adsorbed on plastics will display a greater toxic effect towards aquatic organisms than that of “pure” polymers.

The research realized within the scope of this project will also contribute to the acquisition of necessary knowledge on the role of microplasticsin the transport of organic and inorganic contaminants. Studies conducted so far have been largely limited to the identification of the kinds of substances bound with the surface of plastics. The expansion on the current knowledge by adding the aspect of bioavailability of those substances and of the potential possibility of their migration into living organisms, accumulation in tissues, and thus inclusion in the food chain constitutes a measurable effect of the planned project.

Selected references:

  1. (1)A. Bogusz, P. Oleszczuk, Microplastics in the environment: characteristic, identification and potential risk, Annal. UMCS Chemia 71 (2016) 97-114 (link).