QNLM from China Endeavors to Tackle Plastic Pollution
Src:QNLMCHINA     08:36:10 06/08/2018

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QNLM from China Endeavors to Tackle Plastic Pollution

Today nowhere on Earth can be free from plastic trash. From the depth of 11,000 meters in the Mariana Trench to the Davis Sea along the coast of Antarctica, plastic has been discovered in the deepest point of the world. Statistics show that more than 8 million tons of plastic waste is poured into the oceans every year, accounting for 80% of the global marine debris and causing serious impact on marine environment.

Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology (QNLM), the first national laboratory in China with official approval for pilot run has long been noticing the impact of plastic trash to marine environment. Since its establishment, QNLM scientists aboard research vessels have carried out scientific expeditions on the source, distribution and hazard of plastic waste. According to Dr. SUN Xiaoxia, Research Professor of Laboratory for Marine Ecology and Environmental Science of QNLM, the plastic trash comes from three main respects. A large amount of them originates from the sources on land. Used agricultural films, packaging plastic bags and disposable plastic tableware are thrown away and flown into the rivers, ultimately entering the ocean. Another main source is ocean vessels. The plastic waste generated from the maritime shipping, fishery production and research activities inevitably come into the ocean due to improper disposal. Moreover, plastic bags flying in the air are blown into the sea by wind and currents.


Plastic sample collection

Ocean plastic has turned up literally everywhere and moved to the deep sea in various ways. Some denser plastic sink to seabed directly, while the less dense ones mix with muddy sand or move with complex currents, and gradually reach the bottom. Some are eaten by marine organisms, going deep in the form of excrement and others are adhere to marine organisms, falling to the deep sea as they move vertically in the water.

“Known as the ‘white pollution’, plastic trash may cause severe damage to the deep-sea ecosystems,” Sun said. Plastic waste hardly degrades in the sea water; it continuously releases toxic chemicals to the surrounding waters and absorbs heavy metal ions and persistent organic pollutants. At the same time, it has negative impact on deep-sea bio-community. As it can be easily attached to the deep-sea creatures or be mistakenly eaten, it not only causes damage to their bodies, but also interferes with the predation process, threatening the growth, reproduction or even survival of deep-sea lives. What’s worse, compared to other sea areas where plastic products can be gradually broken up due to photochemical reactions and physical effects such as wind, waves, and currents, the deep sea provides unfavorable conditions for the degradation of plastic waste. In the deep sea, there is no light and seawater flow is weak, it takes more time for breaking up plastic products, therefore the degradation process is much longer. In addition, deep sea environment is special as it features faint light, low temperature and high pressure, thus, deep-sea biological community is relatively simple and the ecological system is fragile. The potential damage of plastic trash to deep-sea ecosystems may be even worse than thought.

In recent years, with emphasis on the construction of ecological civilization and ecological environmental protection, China has put forward a series of polices and measures to deal with “white pollution”. QNLM has been playing an active role in this field contributing to establishing a community with a shared future for mankind. As the World Oceans Day is approaching, QNLM responds actively to the calls of beating plastic pollution and scientific and technological methods are applied to identify the source, distribution and damage of plastic trash. QNLM also takes the initiative to find effective solutions to plastic waste. At the meantime, QNLM endeavors to arouse the public awareness on the impact of plastic pollution to the marine environment through all channels available and advocates environmentally-friendly behaviors. QNLM pledges to take actions to beat plastic pollution and contribute to the protection of our blue planet!

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