TSU scientists will enter a microplastics hazard research project

11 April 2019

The TSU Bio-Clim-Land Center of Excellence, at the invitation of the international program MOSAiC, will join microplastics research under the QIMAIYA project (Quantification of Microplastics in the Arctic Food Web). This is the first systematic project devoted to pollution of the seas and oceans. The migration path of microplastics must be traced because the transfer of pollutants is carried out primarily by rivers. One of the largest rivers in the world, the Ob and its tributaries will be studied by TSU scientists as a model object.

- Every year the environment around us is becoming more and more saturated with microplastic,- says Sergey Kirpotin, director of the Bio-Clim-Land Center. - The danger lies in the fact that this is not obvious. Estimating the concentration of large plastic is easy because it can be collected. With a microplastics, whose dimensions are thousands of times smaller, everything is different, you can only see it with the help of special equipment, and it is almost impossible to assemble it. It causes significant damage to the ecosystems of water bodies, especially when it enters the organisms of animals, because microplastic is a powerful sorbent that is able to accumulate heavy metals and harmful compounds.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, waste in the oceans is 80% plastic. Every year, about eight million tons of synthetic material are released into the oceans, which is equivalent to the volume of a garbage truck per minute.

The choice of the Ob and its tributaries as an object of study is connected with its significant impact on the global ecosystem. The TSU network of research stations runs along the river, so it was decided to use its infrastructure for an international project.

- This problem is very acute for the northern regions, because low temperatures and short summers make the process of self-cleaning of ecosystems difficult there,- explains Sergey Kirpotin. So we want to dedicate a separate unit to studying the process of plastic decomposition under permafrost conditions.

During the study, scientists will work with different types of plastic - plastic wrap, plastic bottles, and others. After three freezings, they will find out how synthetic materials are subject to cryodestruction.