• Period | 2016 - 2018
  • Country |
  • Market | Environmental engineering
  • Project Manager | Hans Peter Arp
  • Partner | UFZ, Stockholm University, IKTS Dresden, KUL

R&D program | WEATHER-MIC - microplastics in the marine environment

WEATHER-MIC is one of four approved projects following the 2014 JPI-Oceans Pilot Call on ecological effects of microplastics (MP). The focus is on how microplastic weathering changes its transport, fate and toxicity in the marine environment.
Lab-scale column experiments simulating weathering on diverse microplastics s in water

Characterize the changes in microplastics aggregates

Influence of weathering and sedimentation

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Five partners from four European countries form the WEATHER-MIC consortium:

  • Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ (lead)
  • Stockholm University
  • NGI - Norwegian Geotechnical Institute
  • Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (IKTS Dresden)
  • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

WEATHER-MIC is structured in seven scientific and one administrative work packages (WP). NGI is responsible for WP 2 and 5:

  1. Artificial aging and fingerprinting of MP debris
  2. The influence of weathering on MP aggregation and settling
  3. Effects of biofilm formation on the vertical distribution of plastics in situ and trophic transfer
  4. Modelling extension to real world environments
  5. Model validation and field evaluation
  6. Toxicological assessment of MP particles and leachates
  7. Estimation of environmental risk posed by virgin and weathered MP, and the leachates
  8. Project management, dissemination, communication and outreach

NGI's work-packages are described under "Sub-Projects" (link under Picture above). Links to descriptions of WEATHER-MIC can be found under "Project Management". See also an article about a masters degree student who had her internship at NGI's Laboratory working on the WEATHER-MIC Project.

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The WEATHER-MIC project assembles a multidisciplinary consortium of European experts from five institutes and four countries (UFZ Germany, ACES Sweden, NGI Norway, Fraunhofer IKTS Germany and KUL Belgium) that together will develop novel tools to tackle the complex implications of weathering of microplastics in a holistic manner. The toolbox of analytical and (eco)toxicological methods, models, and new knowledge that WEATHER-MIC seeks to establish and validate in case studies for the Baltic Sea and Oslo Harbor will consist of:

  •  "fingerprinting" methods to track microplastic weathering (ACES),
  • mechanisms of chemical release from microplastics (ACES, UFZ, NGI),
  • advanced particle imaging methods to investigate size distribution and morphological changes with weathering (IKTS),
  • improved understanding of ecological information on the biofilm that accumulates on microplastics and its trophic transfer (ACES),
  • hydrodynamic models to account for changes in sedimentation and transport with microplastic fragmentation-aggregation (KUL, NGI),
  • toxicity profiles for weathered microplastics (UFZ).

A general description of the WEATHER-MIC Project description of the Work Packages can be found here:

NGI is also contributing to the Race For Water initiative:

The scientific products of WEATHER-MIC will provide a basis to integrate weathering of microplastics into risk assessments of marine plastic debris, considering both exposure and effects. We have identified local stakeholders from our respective countries and will identify additional ones from the regulatory, educational, environmental and industry sectors.

The communication with these stakeholders will involve education on that the implications of complex microplastic weathering need to be approached by research and informed Public policymaking, such as the development of proper tools. The tools we seek to develop in WEATHER-MIC will open avenues to improved guidelines for plastic handling, safeguards that can minimize the hazards of microplastic pollution, and public education that aims to reduce the levels of plastic litter in the marine environment of Europe and globally.

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