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PETHUNT: Novel method for identification and quantification of PET microfibres in marine environments

This research project aims to solve a problem in the microplastics field: how to target, identify and quantify polyethylene terephthalate (PET) microfibres and filaments in environmental samples.

Research has shown that millions of tonnes of textile fibres in the form of mono-filaments are being emitted from our households via wastewater and can end up in rivers, oceans, sediments and biota. Although the public discussion about synthetic microfibres in the ocean has grown, much is yet unknown about these mono-filaments’ in terms of form, amount, distribution, fate and long term effects on all life. Because these fibres and filaments are so tiny and thin, they are difficult to extract and identify with FTIR and Raman. This project takes a different approach using mass spectrometry.

The project team aims to understand the problems with current PET materials to inform the development and design of new commercially produced materials for packaging and textiles.

The PETHUNT project is a public-private collaboration between Avantium Chemicals Ltd, the Van ‘t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) of the University of Amsterdam and the Department of Environment and Health of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The project is funded by an Innovation Fund for Chemistry (LIFT) grant provided Dutch Research Council (NWO). The project runs for 4 years starting in 2018.

Contact at the VU Department of Environment and Health: Dr. Heather Leslie