Plastic has an almost infinite number of uses, and production and consumption of it are increasing worldwide. The material has a long life, and if it ends up astray, it can be spread by wind and water over great distances. Most of all plastic produced on land is still found, either in products or as waste. From various sources and in many shapes, poorly handled plastic waste, fragments, or small particles can find their way into the environment.
Plastic waste or plastic particles of various sizes are everywhere, in one form or another - even in the highest mountains of the Himalayas and in the coldest polar regions of Antarctica. We do not yet have a complete overview of the effects on species and ecosystems, but NIVA contributes to a better understanding of the situation by establishing harmonized methodologies, in the field and in the laboratory.
One of the UN's sustainability goals is to prevent and reduce all forms of ocean pollution by 2025. Norway is a leading country in the fight for cleaner seas and to meet the UN's sustainability goals. Since 2018, Norway has had an aid program against marine litter and microplastics. Through this programme, NIVA has contributed to capacity and competence building in many Asian countries. We have placed particular emphasis on building knowledge about the sources of plastic pollution and the importance of rivers as transport channels for stray plastic waste.
This is how NIVA can contribute
In 2022, the UN Environment Assembly decided that a legally binding, global plastic agreement should be drawn up to stop plastic littering. Based on our broad expertise in plastic pollution, NIVA provides the Norwegian and the Nordic governments with direct knowledge support in the process leading up to the global agreement. In addition, we contribute to a knowledge-based and inclusive agreement through international research networks and active dissemination of knowledge
NIVA has been researching the plastic problem for many years, especially when it comes to microplastics. Increasingly, we have also worked on many other issues related to plastic waste, including the ecological and socio-economic aspects of it. The first national monitoring program on microplastics is led by NIVA.
A fundamental move in the fight against plastic pollution is to develop standardized methods for sampling, analysis, and reporting, for use in monitoring and as a basis for setting regulations. With many different methods in use, it is difficult to compare results in time and space. An EU project led by NIVA (EUROQCHARM) will solve this challenge by putting in place standardized methods for monitoring and assessing macro-, micro-, and nano plastics in the environment.
Why does NIVA focus on plastic pollution?
Plastic pollution is a global environmental challenge. To solve it, we must implement measures at many levels of the society. The plastic that we put into circulation must be kept within the economy, but out of the environment. Society needs knowledge on a broad spectrum of the topic – on the causes of plastic pollution, on the ecological and social consequences of plastic pollution, on possible measures, on the many players in the value chain and on mechanisms to regulate and prevent pollution.
We see that international agreements are key for the world community to move in the same direction. An example is the EU's plastics directive, which came into force 2021, and the process towards the new global plastics agreement, to which NIVA is an important knowledge provider.
The necessary knowledge on plastic pollution is a result of targeted research and dissemination efforts. For NIVA, this is an important part of our social mission.
This is just some of what we work with within plastics - get in touch if you want to know what else we have to offer in this field.