With millions of tons of plastic litter dumped into marine environments, marine litter increased twenty-fold in the last 50 years, according to CLAIM. Now a widely known environmental issue, plastic litter has been detected worldwide in all major marine habitats, in sizes from microns to meters.
IVM is leading a work package in CLAIM with a focus on the social and economic implications of the new technologies being developed. This work package involves cost effectiveness analysis, legal and policy frameworks, stakeholder acceptance and public preferences, and novel business models. This research will culminate in an integrated assessment of environmental, social and economic impacts of CLAIM technologies. IVM has a team of five researchers working on CLAIM, two senior staff, two junior researchers and one PhD candidate.
CLAIM scientists explain that the two main points where litter enters the sea are at wastewater treatment plants and at river mouths. Overall, CLAIM will be developing the following five key technological innovations to tackle plastic pollution:
- An automated cleaning device that would be able to filter out micro-plastic and prevent microliter from entering marine areas.
- A photocatalytic device that would degrade common invisible nano-plastics (such as polypropylene and polyethylene) using the power of sunlight.
- The role of floating booms, installed at river mouths and equipped with cameras, would be to collect visible floating pieces before or as they enter the sea.
- An innovative small-scale thermal treatment device would use clean plasma technology to pyrolise floating plastic litter, which in turn would produce fuel and recoverable heat to be exploited on marine litter-collecting boats and at port facilities.
- A new filtering system will be developed which would detect micro-plastic in open seas by using ships of opportunity or FerryBoxes.
CLAIM, funded under Horizon 2020 Call BG-07-2017: Blue green innovation for clean coasts and seas began in November 2017 and will run over a period of 4 years, bringing together 19 European institutions. The ecosystem approach is at the heart of CLAIM’s research. CLAIM will not only develop innovative marine cleaning technologies, but will also highlight the importance of healthy oceans and seas for society’s well-being.
Dr Jan Brusselaers is leading IVM’s role in CLAIM.