Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Young people encouraged to tackle the threat of microplastics ahead of Earth Day 2018

A project raising awareness of the impact of microplastics on the Irish coastline was launched in Dublin.

IMPACT: The Microplastics Awareness Project – led by scientists from Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) and funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under the Discover Programme Call 2017 – will host interactive science workshops on the beach and in the classroom to encourage children and young people to tackle the threat of microplastics and plastic waste in their local communities.

Ireland is the top producer of plastic waste in Europe, with an average of 61kg per person every year – almost double what the UK produce annually. That is the equivalent of nearly 2,000 water bottles, or 5,550 disposal coffee cups, per person. Plastic is not biodegradable so over time litter like bottles and bags are broken down into smaller pieces called microplastics that can harm marine life and even make it into the human food supply.

Speaking at today’s launch, Professor Gordon Chambers, Professor of Physics in DIT and Coordinator of The Microplastics Awareness Project, said: “Ireland is meeting all EU targets for recovery and recycling of packaging waste, but there is still a long way to go. Many people aren’t aware of the damage single-use plastics and tiny microbeads in toiletries are doing to our environment and our coast. For example, 83 per cent of Dublin Bay Prawns have ingested microplastics, and by 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish.

“Education and awareness is an important part of tackling the threat of microplastics on our coast which is why we’re launching The Microplastics Awareness Project today. Even simple changes like a school policy on using refillable bottles for lunch drinks or shopping smart when it comes to plastic packaging or microplastic ingredients can make a difference to slow the flow of plastic into the environment.”

Bringing Science into the Community

The project is an initiative of Dublin Institute of Technology and will be piloted in coastal communities in Dublin this year. The pilot will be led by a team of experienced scientists from the School of Physics and Clinical & Optometric Sciences: Dr Siobhan Daly, Professor Gordon Chambers and Dr Michelle Giltrap from the School of Food Science and Environmental Health.

At today’s launch, Dr Siobhan Daly, Assistant Head at DIT School of Physics and Clinical & Optometric Sciences said, “Our team of scientists are passionate about bringing science to life and raising awareness of the significant threats that plastics pose to our environment. The workshops will be engaging and fun with a strong scientific foundation. We believe the workshops will give young people the knowledge and skills to be the agents of change within their families and communities.

“We find that children and young people come to explore questions such as these with an open mind and therefore, can explore the threat of microplastics in the widest sense and bring this openness to others that make decisions – families, communities, industry, and government – to prompt them to make change happen.”

Marking Earth Day

To mark Earth Day 2018: End Plastic Pollution this Sunday, 22nd April, The Microplastics Awareness Project is encouraging parents to track their use of single-use plastics over a week with their children, explore their plastic dependence together as a family and start to identify areas for change.

The Microplastics Awareness Project is funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) under the Discover Programme Call 2017. The Discover Programme seeks to promote the awareness and engagement of the Irish public with science, technology, engineering and maths.