Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has provided a global estimate for microplastics on the seafloor, revealing that there could be 14 million tonnes of plastic pieces less than 5mm wide sitting at the bottom of the ocean*. The amount of microplastics recorded was 25 times higher than previous deep-sea studies.
IEEE member, Krista Beardy, discusses the issue of microplastics on the seafloor and how technology can be used to help monitor and understand how plastic is negatively affecting our waters we used daily:
"To rectify the problem of marine based plastic pollution, we must first understand and identify all facets of the situation we are currently facing. From the chemistry behind polymer science, to the effects on marine wildlife, to how ocean currents distribute and concentrate plastic pollution, all of these questions have yet to be answered in full.
"The problem is that plastic is very rarely just plastic. These plastic products are enriched with a variety of additives that are designed to improve performance, to reduce costs and to enhance those final properties.”
With drones, robotics and AI technology helping researchers understand and monitor oceans and waterways to ensure that all living organisms have a clean environment, Beardy explains that there are a lot of innovative ideas being explored to help society in reduction, reuse and recycle programmes:
“Ideas have emerged, such as using plastic surplus for roadways, bricks and other building materials, to the use of plastic-to-fuel pyrolysis technology. Research is also ongoing on developing polymers and polymer substitutes that possess the capacity for accelerated degradation.”