Call for funding research in the area of Microplastics The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM) invite researchers to apply for projects related to microplastics. svenska Share Contact Listen The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM) invite researchers to apply for projects related to microplastics in the order of up to 5 million SEK (including overhead costs) for a maximum of a 3-year period (2019-2021). Several projects may be granted with a total budget of approximately 25 million SEK. With this call the Swedish EPA and SwAM are seeking to fund microplastics research including sources, dispersal pathways, ecological effects and consequences, and measures helping to reduce them. This knowledge will be used at the Swedish EPA and SwAM in relevant activities to prevent and reduce microplastics release and distribution in the environment. The closing date for applications is September 13, 2018. Environmental challenges in this area In June 2017, the Swedish EPA reported the results of a government assignment including a survey of important sources of microplastics emissions to sea and inland waters in Sweden (1,2). The report highlights knowledge gaps that are of fundamental nature and concern sampling, analytical methods and characterization of particles. In addition, the European Commission's strategy A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy (3), describes knowledge gaps as sources, pathways and effects on human health. Even though much research is ongoing, validated methods of sampling and analysis are still lacking (4). Consequently, it is difficult to compare results, and the sources of error and uncertainties are large. For the Swedish EPA and SwAM it is important to know which methods to use for environmental monitoring and assessment on a larger scale. The Swedish government in their budget proposal has suggested a number of efforts to counteract contamination of plastics. This shows that the issue has a high priority and that it is important that the measures proposed by the Swedish EPA will be based on scientific facts. The research is relevant to the Swedish Environmental Quality Objectives: A balanced marine environment, Flourishing coastal areas and Archipelagos, Flourishing lakes and streams, and A Non-Toxic Environment as well as the implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Research shows that microplastics can be ingested by many organisms and transferred between trophic levels. Impacts from ingestion and accumulation of microplastics have been demonstrated for a wide range of invertebrates, fish, mammals and birds (5, 6, 7). The knowledge about concentrations of microplastics which may cause negative environmental effects is limited. Even publications on ecological consequences and effects on population levels are limited. Nanoparticles have been shown to be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. Research is needed to connect the potentially harmful effects of the particles with the properties of particles like plastic type, size, shape (eg, grain, flake or fiber). Biological effects can also be caused through leakage or uptake of additives such as plasticisers and flame retardants used to provide certain properties to the plastic (6). In addition, chemicals from the surrounding environment, such as persistent organic pollutants often with high affinity to plastic, can be adsorbed to the particle surface. There is a need for studying whether the particle itself causes adverse effects or added or adsorbed chemicals cause the effects. Stormwater is a significant dispersal path for microplastics, where road wear, abrasion of tires, and artificial turf are identified as the largest sources. There is a need for further mapping of stormwater as a dispersal pathway, and to measure and characterize microparticles in order to quantify potentially important sources, and verify the measurements and calculations made so far. More knowledge is needed about the efficiency of current water treatment methods and when and where the technology is best suited to remove microplastics. This includes both sewage and stormwater treatment as well as various measures to reduce fibers shed e.g. during laundering (8). It is also important to develop new cost-effective treatment methods and to verify their effectiveness. Likewise, it is important that the developed treatment methods also address possible problems with other environmental contaminants at the same time. It is likely that the entire water distribution network as diffuse sources, and sewage treatment plants as point sources, will be important pathways for microplastics even though the government assignment indicates that these are significantly smaller sources in comparison with stormwater. Wastewater treatment plants are effectively removing particles, so the degree of removal of microplastics is high even though the treatment plants were not designed for removal of microplastics. Still very fine particles are more likely to end up in the recipient than the larger microplastics. As most of the microplastics are removed in wastewater treatment plants, the amount that passes through the treatment system untreated due to overflow is an important part of the microplastics pollution. Refined measurement techniques could further clarify which microplastics are released from wastewater treatment plants. The removal of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants results in microplastics appearing in the sludge where anaerobic digestion is applied. It is not yet known if the anaerobic digestion or any other sludge treatment method have effect on the content of microplastics in sludge and therefore further research is needed for a better understanding. There are few studies on what happens to microplastics in terrestrial environments and their effects, as well as if and how microplastics may travel to the sea. More research is needed in this area. Washing of synthetic textile products is a source of microplastics upstream of sewage treatment plants. In Sweden, the knowledge about the amount of textile’s synthetic fiber release from laundering is limited. Several studies have measured the proportion of synthetic fibers released when washing, as a source of microplastic particles (8-11). It is often difficult to compare the results of different studies as the analysis methods differ. Existing research points to a clear connection between the amount of synthetic fibers that are released from laundering and the design of the product such as how fiber and materials are constructed as well as the production processes used to manufacture the textiles. In addition, the amount of microplastic release varies depending on the washing temperature, the amount of laundry as well as the synthetic materials such as polyester, polyamide, elastane, acrylic. There is a need to develop harmonized definitions and standard measurement and analysis methods for microplastics. It is important that this is collaborated on internationally in the light of possible future reporting requirements. Priorities This call refers to plastic particles less than 5 mm in diameter which include micro and nanoparticles. We have identified the following priorities for the research on microplastics. One or more sub-topic among the following areas can be considered in the application. Water treatment technologies and prevention measures How does the treatment processes work and where in the treatment processes could microplastics most effectively be removed from stormwater, drinking water and wastewater? Development of new treatment techniques What is the faith of microplastics in sewage sludge and what is the effect of different sludge treatment methods? What measures could be taken at the source where microplastics are generated? Sampling and analysis Development, validation and standardization of methods for sampling and analysis of microplastics Dispersal pathways Dispersal routes from terrestrial environments to the sea Mapping stormwater as dispersal pathway of microplastics Textiles What role do fiber and material design and construction, as well as different spin, weave and knitting methods have, on the amount of synthetic fibers released when using and washing textiles? Development of methods for measuring amount/weight of synthetic fibers that shed during laundry both in households and in commercial laundries Measures to be taken to reduce the spread of microplastics from both manufacturing and use of textile Effects on human health and the environment Links between health risks and the properties of the particles such as the plastic type, size, shape (e.g. grain, flake or fiber) and additive content such as plasticisers and flame retardants. Biological effects of additive chemicals and organic pollutants adsorbed to the microplastic surface. What are the major exposure pathways for microplastics (including airborne) and what are the consequences for human health? Which are the ecological impacts of microplastics? Instructions We welcome both subject specific and interdisciplinary projects and encourage researchers from different scientific disciplines to cooperate. We encourage interdisciplinary work. It is important that the relevance for the Swedish EPA and SwAM is clearly stated and described in the application. The main applicant must hold a PhD and conduct research at universities, colleges, research institutes, or government agencies carrying out research as part of their mandate. The main applicant should be affiliated with a Swedish organization with a Swedish corporate identity number (“organisationsnummer”). The applications are reviewed by international experts and the application should be written in English. The application is made electronically via the Swedish EPA's application portal. Granted researchers are expected to participate in the Swedish EPA's annual research conference, annual project meetings, and to allocate resources for communication with the Swedish EPA and with other stakeholders. For more information, see "Instructions for Applicants, Research" Information meeting about the call On June 13th, 2018, at 9:30 to 13:30, the Swedish EPA invites interested researchers to an information meeting about the call, at the EPA premises in Stockholm. The meeting aims to help the applicants finding links between their project ideas and the needs of the Swedish EPA and SwAM. Register by email to Neda Farahbakhshazad: firstname.lastname@example.org no later than June 1st, 2018. Email: email@example.com Important dates June 13, 2018: Information meeting about the call September 13, 2018: Deadline for applications December 2018: Funding decision January 2019: Projects start How to apply Instruction for applicants Application portal Contact information Neda Farahbakhshazad, Phone: 010-698 12 50 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Karin Hansen, Phone: 010-698 13 28 Email: email@example.com References (1) Mikroplaster, Redovisning av regeringsuppdrag om källor till mikroplaster och förslag på åtgärder för minskade utsläpp i Sverige. Rapport 6772, juni 2017. (in Swedish) (2) Magnusson K. et al. Swedish sources and pathways for microplastics to the marine environment, A review of existing data, IVL Report C183, 2016. (3) Microplastics, Report from an IWA Sweden conference and workshop in Malmö, November 8-9, 2017, VA-Teknik Södra, Rapport no 8, 2017. (4) A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. European Commission, Brussels, January 16, 2018. (5) Wright S.L., Thompson R.C. and Galloway T.S. The physical impacts of microplastics on marine organisms: a review. Environ Pollut, 178 (2013), pp. 483–492. (6) Moore C.J., Moore S.L., Leecaster M.K. Weisberg S.B. (2001). A comparison of plastic and plankton in the north pacific central gyre. Mar Pollut Bull 42:1297-1300. (7) Revel M. et al. 2018. Micro(nano)plastics: A threat to human health? Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health. Volume 1. 2018. (8) Brismar A. 2018. Omvärldsbevakning av pågående initiativ inom området mikroplaster kopplat till textil. Green Strategy på uppdrag av Naturvårdsverket, 2018. (in Swedish) (9) Folkö, A. 2015. Quantification and characterization of fibers emitted from common synthetic materials during washing. Thesis work. Stockholm University. (10) Napper I. E. and Thompson R. C. Release of synthetic microplastic fibers from domestic washing machines: Effects of fabric type and washing conditions. Marine Pollution Bulletin 112 (2016) 39–45. (11) Roos S., Levenstam Arturin O., Hanning A.C. Mistra Future Fashion report. Report number: 2017:1. (12) Alkhagen M, Hanning A. C., Landin R. Swerea-IVF Rapport: Investigation of the occurance of the microplastics from the wastewater at five different textile production facilities in Sweden.