Blog: International Workshop on Marine Debris and Microplastic Pollution: Assessment and Characterisation

By Andy Booth, Chief Scientist at SINTEF Ocean

14.08.2023 – The  International Workshop on Marine Debris and Microplastic Pollution took place in Thiruvananthapuram in the Indian state of Kerala. From 29th – 31st May 2023, over 50 PhD students, post-doctoral researchers, and scientists from across the whole of India travelled to Thiruvananthapuram to participate in the workshop, organised by the University of Kerala in association with the Suganthi Devadason Marine research Institute (SDMRI), and with support from the EU project ECOMARINE, showing how quickly this research field is developing in India.



I have been collaborating for a number of years with SDMRI in microplastic research and had the honour of being invited to present a number of keynote sessions on topics relating to microplastic pollution.



Tyre wear particles (TWP) to become major source of microplastic pollution

Over the course of the 3-day workshop, I presented on the topics of microplastic toxicity, environmental degradation, and plastic pollution monitoring. As part of these presentations, we looked at microplastic in general, a key pollutant group being studied within SOS-ZEROPOL2030, as well as specific types and sources of microplastic. This included car tyres, which are a source of tyre wear particles (TWPs) to the environment, and which are one of the case study pollutants in SOS-ZERPOL2030. With car ownership increasing significantly in the most populous country on Earth, TWPs have the potential to become a major source of environmental pollution in India.


World Café

On the final day of the workshop, I also hosted a World Café with all the participants. The session aimed to get the participants to think about the current state of microplastic pollution in India and to identify how researchers in India can lead efforts to combat microplastic pollution moving forward. In small groups, participants discussed what are currently the most pressing issues in marine litter and microplastic research, how researchers can collaborate with each other and with different stakeholder groups in India to reduce (micro)plastic emissions to the marine environment, and where the participants would like to see India in 30 years’ time.


International collaboration as a key foundation

During the trip, I had the opportunity to also meet with officials representing the southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In these discussions we talked about the ongoing research and mitigation initiatives the governments in these states have established and what could be done further moving forward. It was clear that everyone viewed international collaboration as a key foundation for knowledge generation and sharing towards reducing plastic and microplastic emissions and impacts. Importantly, public communication and engagement is seen as critical for meaningful change to be made.


The universities and research institutes in India are actively working with national and local government bodies to raise the issue of plastic pollution within the wider population and ensure that more people can make informed decisions about their plastic use and disposal. There is a long way to go to solve this complex societal challenge, but the issue of plastic pollution is high on the agenda in many countries, including India, and progress is definitely being made!

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