Microplastics are a global environmental problem. The tiny plastic particles find their way into rivers and oceans via drains, sewer systems, and also sewage plants. In 2016, some 335 million tonnes of plastic were produced worldwide. Based on estimates of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), around 9.5 million tonnes – or three percent – of this makes its way into the oceans each year. When discussing microplastics, i.e. plastic particles less than five millimeters in size, we differentiate between those of primary and secondary origin. Primary microplastics for example include abrasives used in body care and cleaning products, while secondary microplastics are classed as all particles produced by degradation and abrasion of plastic, such as synthetic fibers released when washing textiles or tire abrasion caused by road use. According to the German Federal Environmental Agency, up to 500 tonnes from cosmetic and body care products, up to 400 tonnes of chemical fibers from synthetic textiles, and 111,000 tonnes of tire abrasion materials are produced each year in Germany alone. Daniel Venghaus is engaged in research at the TU Berlin in the field of urban water management, where he works on avoidance strategies to prevent microplastics from entering aquatic systems. In a discussion, he explains the objectives and details some initial successes.
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