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Media opportunity: New plastic recycling plant produces a vast amount of microplastics that splinter, seep into water sources and drift through the air: research study

Posted by Communications and Marketing on May 11, 2023 in News

Recycling has long been touted as a way to deal with the abundance of plastic in our waste stream, even though it's widely accepted that much of what we put in our blue bags ends up in landfills, incinerators or drifting around the environment.

Now, new research out of Dalhousie University and Scotland's University of Strathclyde has found that even a state-of-the-art recycling facility releases millions of microplastic particles per cubic meter of wash water.

Researchers, who published their findings in a new paper, tested the water inside a new recycling plant, collecting samples at several points along the process and the final output into a river. They found that upward of 0.4 million particles -- most smaller than 1/4 the width of a human hair -- were being released into the water even after new filters were installed.

In total, six per cent of the plastic within the facility was being emitted into the environment, suggesting there is potentially two million tonnes being created and emitted by recycling plants globally per year assuming a recycling rate of nine per cent.

The authors, including Dr. Steve Allen of the Ocean Frontier Institute at Dalhousie and Erin Brown of Strathclyde, contend that more needs to be done to develop effective solutions in addressing the proliferation of plastic since recycling has yet to achieve more than nine per cent of global plastic production and, as this study suggests, may exacerbate the problem of microplastic pollution.

Dr. Allen is available to discuss the research and how, with upwards of 10 million tons of plastic waste ending up in our oceans every year, it highlights the urgent need for a global plastics treaty as policymakers continue discussions on the issue this month.


Media contact:

Alison Auld
Senior Research Reporter
Communications, Marketing and Creative Services
Dalhousie University
Cell: 1-902-220-0491


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