New Danish research centre to prevent plastic pollution in the ocean

By State of Green, December 14, 2018

Four universities and the Danish National Museum will examine the plastic that ends up in the ocean and which environmental impact it has.

Since the 1950s, the global production of plastic has increased 200 times, resulting in a current annual production of 325 million tonnes of plastic. An estimated amount of 8-10 million tonnes ends up in the oceans, constituting around 80 per cent of the global ocean-waste.

Microplastic is an increasing challenge

With the prospect of a quadruplication of the production of plastic over the next 20 years, it is necessary to take action when it comes to plastic pollution, which is already a serious problem for the environment as degraded plastic accumulates as microplastic in marine animals and fish.

In the past few years, plastic pollution has been a prioritised problem internationally as well as in Denmark, where the government has formed an action plan for plastic.

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From February 2019 and the next four years, a brand new research centre called MarinePlastic – the Danish centre for research in marine plastic pollution will search for knowledge and solutions that can limit the problem of marine plastic pollution.

‘’We hope to contribute to clarifying the extent of the plastic pollution and point out the areas where action is needed to counteract the plastic problems’’, said the future Director of the research centre, Professor Jes Vollertsen from the Department of Civil Engineering at Aalborg University.

Collaboration across expertise

The costs of establishing the research centre is approx. EUR 3.5 million of which approx. EUR 2.7 million is funded by the Velux Foundations and the rest by the partners involved in the project: Aalborg University, Aarhus University, Roskilde University, the Danish Technical University and the Danish National Museum.

‘’If we are to understand the plastic pollution and stop it, a coordinated effort that can utilise the joined expertise is required. Therefore, we are glad to support the establishment of the research centre, which joins talented and skilled researchers in the development of new knowledge as well as new and co-created solutions’’, said Ane Hendriksen, Director of the Velux Foundation.

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A national project with an international perspective

The project is mainly focused on Denmark, but the results and recommendations can be used both nationally and internationally to develop new technologies, which can prevent pollution.

Internationally, it is estimated that more than 90 per cent of the plastic found in the ocean is derived from eight large rivers in Asia and two rivers in Africa.

Therefore, researchers are looking beyond country borders. This summer, a researcher from Aalborg University will travel with a German research-ship across the Atlantic from the South Pole to Europe to collect plastic. Other partners in developing countries conduct similar activities.

‘’The problem is much bigger in places where the ocean is used as a landfill due to missing waste management systems. We might have less pollution in Denmark because we do the right things. However, we cannot use that as an excuse not to examine the conditions’’, said Jes Vollertsen.

Sources: Ingeniøren and The Velux Foundations

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