Session Title: Enhancing the Sustainability of the Marine Environment
Time: 6:30 – 7:00pm
Session Type: tba
The usage and production of the plastics are increasing throughout the years because of their beneficial properties. Microplastics (<5 mm) are causing major impacts on the biodiversity, the ecosystems, and the ocean because of their toxic effects. These microplastics are constantly released into the marine environment where they accumulate because of their improper management.
The life cycle assessment (LCA), is a tool that studies the environmental impacts of a product or service through their entire life cycle stages. Current LCA treats microplastics as mismanaged waste instead of pollutants which is why it is important to integrate them.
This project is part of a new working group named MARILCA (MARine impacts in LCA) under the UN Environment Life Cycle Assessment and FSLCI (Forum for Sustainability through Life Cycle Innovation). Microplastics cannot be treated as the chemical substances because of their microspecific properties that influence their fate in the marine environment, such as their solubility, surface reactivity, etc. Thus, the aim of this project is to establish a new framework for the assessment of the fate of the microplastics in the marine environment. Based on the USEtox framework and the multimedia modelling approaches that are used in the life cycle impact assessment, the new framework developed involves the compartments in which the microplastics are emitted and those to which they are transferred. The main environmental mechanisms are introduced within each compartment along with the different factors that influence their fate such as the winds, waves, vertical mixing, and surface currents. In addition to that, the physical characteristics of the microplastics influencing their behaviour such as the shape, weight, density, type, and the size are also covered within the framework.
The different mechanisms are divided into three categories: the mechanisms of formation from the degradation of larger macroplastics, the mechanisms of removal through the degradation into nanoplastics, dissolution, and sedimentation, and the mechanisms of transport by floatation, suspension, advection, and aggregation. All of these mechanisms are influenced by the different characteristics and the environmental conditions in the marine environment.
The next step will be the development of algorithms for the quantification of each environmental mechanism and thus, the quantification of the environmental fate of the microplastics in the marine environment.
 J. R. Jambeck et al., “Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean,” Science, vol. 347, no. 6223, pp. 768-771, 2015.
 J. Boucher, C. Dubois, A. Kounina, and P. Puydarrieux, “Review of plastic footprint methodologies,” IUCN, 2831719909, 2019.
 P. Fantke et al., “USEtox® 2.0 Documentation (Version 1.00),” 2017.
 H. Zhang, “Transport of microplastics in coastal seas,” Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, vol. 199, pp. 74-86, 2017.
 H. S. Auta, C. U. Emenike, and S. H. Fauziah, “Distribution and importance of microplastics in the marine environment: A review of the sources, fate, effects, and potential solutions,” Environment International, vol. 102, pp. 165-176, 2017/05/01/ 2017, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2017.02.013.
Plastic litter is a hot topic in media recently since the accumulation of such polymers in the oceans worries the public. There was therefore a global call to action and many jurisdictions have banned single use plastics. Yet, no clear scientific data can confirm that the shift in material use would really bring overall environmental benefits. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a useful method for answering such questions. By evaluating the potential impacts of products on a comprehensive scale, LCA could be used to assess the effects of plastic litter relative to other impacts. However, the main limitation the LCA practitioners are facing is the lack of proper methodologies to address the marine impacts of plastic litter. Micro- (MP) and nano- (NP) plastics have the ability to affect a wide range of species and they can thus damage the ecosystem quality. As a part of the work that MariLCA (Marine Impacts in Life Cycle Assessment) is doing, the development of an effect factor (EF) to account for the impacts of MP and NP on marine biota has been realized. Ecotoxicity data concerning MPs and NPs was extracted from the academic litterature. Extrapolation factors were then used to adapt the data to USEtox requirements which suggest the use of EC50s (Effect Concentration where 50% of tests organisms are affected) allowing for the calculation of an HC50EC50 (Hazardous Concentration where 50% of the species tested are affected above their EC50) as needed to generate the EF. Statistical analysis of the data points concerning the species Daphnia magna was then performed. No statistical differences in toxicity was observed for the different sub-categories of polymer tested. A single Species Sensivity Distribution was constructed with all data points (111) included allowing for a quick visualization of the data. In the same way, a single EF is proposed and recommended. This EF only accounts for the physical toxic effect of MPs and NPs for the moment. The potential ability of these polymers to adsorb and transfer pollutants in the ecosystem, which has been highlighted as a potentially important ecotoxicity pathway, represents the next steps for future EF development.
Scientific research on marine plastic shows that plastics in the sea potentially release micro or nano-plastic particles and chemical substances in their surrounding environment, which may be transferred or bio-accumulated into marine organisms. Although the transfer and the effects of these components across the marine trophic chain need to be more studied to be better understood, they are considered as a potential source of concern (a) (b).
Marine aquaculture uses many equipment made of plastic material (c), such as farming nets, ropes or oyster spat collectors and bags. Seafood farmed close to these materials may be contaminated and potentially contaminate consumers. In this context any new plastic equipment designed to aquaculture, should be eco-designed in order to reduce any risk of hazardous transfer from the material. An eco-design methodology, included in a plastics circular economy, has been developed in this purpose. One part of which focuses on the polymer and its additives selection which should both: 1) maintain the polymer integrity and prevent its degradation into micro or nanoplastics during its marine use, 2) moderate any potential sanitary hazard for farmed seafood consumers hypothetically due to additives migration, 3) make the material recycling possible at the equipment end-of-life.
This methodology is based on the development of a set of specific indicators and the definition of the life cycle scenarios of the polymer additives including: 1) their potential fate within and outside the material (i.e. degradation, migration and transfer) 2) and their potential effects since their incorporation into the polymer until their potential ingestion by seafood consumers.
The whole methodology will be presented, and will be illustrated with the case study of the compliant for food contact phosphite-based antioxidant: tris (2,4 di-tert butylphenyl) phosphite.
(a) Eleonora Guzzetti, Antoni Sureda, Silvia Tejada, Caterina Faggio, 2018, Microplastic in marine organism: Environmental and toxicological effects, Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology 64 (2018) 164–171
(b) Bonanno, Giuseppe, and Martina Orlando-Bonaca. 2018. “Ten Inconvenient Questions about Plastics in the Sea.” Environmental Science & Policy 85 (July): 146–54.
(c) Lusher, A.L.; Hollman, P.C.H.; Mendoza-Hill, J.J. 2017, “Microplastics in fisheries and aquaculture: status of knowledge on their occurrence and implications for aquatic organisms and food safety. ”FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. No. 615. Rome, Italy
The mining industry requires vast water volumes for mineral processing. The management of water resources is an important challenge for companies as many issues are associated with improper water stewardship at mine sites, such as environmental risks and conflicts with local communities. To tackle this challenge, a predictive dynamic water balance management system (WBMS) can be introduced at mine sites. A WBMS was upscaled and piloted in the EIT Raw Materials SERENE project aiming at real time monitoring of water flows with remote sensing, data analytics, and Internet of Things.
In the context of SERENE, a sustainability assessment was performed with two objectives: (i) to establish a methodological framework for an integrated life cycle sustainability assessment in mine water balance management; (ii) to investigate values, risks, and impacts generated by a WBMS. The developed methodological framework includes different steps, starting with sustainability hotspot screening as input for life cycle modelling and assessment, life cycle costing, risk assessment, and value assessment. The methodology was validated by a case study on a WBMS in Nordic mining. Two life cycle models were created for the case study: (i) a site-specific model with primary data from the mining company and (ii) a generic copper mining model with secondary data from literature. The latter model was created to overcome the limitations of the site-specific study due to data availability. Sustainability of an improved water balance management was therefore investigated by comparing values, risks, and impacts at a given site (either specific or generic) with and without the implementation of a WBMS.
The study shows that introduction of a WBMS in mines is overall beneficial for the diverse sustainability dimensions. For instance, a WBMS can contribute to environmental risk management and to improvements in plant performance, energy, and chemicals consumption. However, to what extent these benefits can be achieved needs to be evaluated specifically for each site. Furthermore, it was found that an improved WBMS can positively affect factors influencing local communities´mining acceptance, such as environmental risk mitigation and regional development. From a methodological point of view, potentials and limitations of a combined assessment framework were analyzed, for instance why a full integration of methods was not always possible.
Demonstration and communication of values, costs, risks, and impacts of an improved water management at mine sites can be seen as a bridge-builder between different stakeholders, such as companies, communities, and technology providers.
Jartti, T., Litmanen, T., Lacey, J., Moffat, K., 2017. Finnish attitudes toward mining. Citizen survey – 2016 Results. University of Jyväskylä and CSIRO.
Norgate, T., Haque, N., 2010. Energy and greenhouse gas impacts of mining and mineral processing operations. J. Clean. Prod. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2009.09.020
Northey, S.A., Mudd, G.M., Saarivuori, E., Wessman-Jääskeläinen, H., Haque, N., 2016. Water footprinting and mining: Where are the limitations and opportunities? J. Clean. Prod. 135, 1098–1116.
Northey, S.A., Mudd, G.M., Werner, T.T., Jowitt, S.M., Haque, N., Yellishetty, M., Weng, Z., 2017. The exposure of global base metal resources to water criticality, scarcity and climate change. Glob. Environ. Chang. 44, 109–124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2017.04.004
Wessman, H., Salmi, O., Kohl, J., Kinnunen, P., Saarivuori, E., Mroueh, U.M., 2014. Water and society: Mutual challenges for eco-efficient and socially acceptable mining in Finland. J. Clean. Prod. 84, 289–298. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.04.026