Plastic waste disintegrates into nanoparticles

There is a considerable risk that plastic waste in the environment releases nano-sized particles known as nanoplastics, according to a new study from Lund University. NanoLund researchers studied what happened when takeaway coffee cup lids, for example, were subjected to mechanical breakdown, in an effort to mimic the degradation that happens to plastic in the ocean.

“We have been able to show that the mechanical effect on the plastic causes the disintegration of plastic down to nano-sized plastic fragments,” says Tommy Cedervall, chemistry researcher at Lund University.

Read the article “Nanoplastics formed during the mechanical breakdown of daily-use polystyrene products” by MT Ekvall, M Lundqvist, E Kelpsiene, E Šileikis, SB Gunnarsson and T Cedervall in Nanoscale Advances (DOI: 10.1039/C8NA00210J) or the press release from Lund University (in Swedish or in English) or in industripress.se (in Swedish), phys.org (in English), My Green Pod (in English), Sydsvenskan (in Swedish), kurera (in Swedish), forskning.se (in Swedish), Miljö&Utveckling (in Swedish), Edaportalen (in Swedish).

That microplastics are a prioritized area of research is underlined by the December 17th announcement from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency that a total of 25 MSEK are granted to research projects designed to shine light on the sources, pathways, spreading, and consequences of microplastic. One of the recipients is, with 5 MSEK, Tommy Cedervall who will develop methods to track nanoplastic in waste water and natural waterways. Read more here (in Swedish).