The world’s microplastic problem is an intensifying issue that must be acted on now. In a new webinar for the Ocean Plastic Webinars series, Audrey Hasson brought on Dr. Denise M. Mitrano, an analytical chemist with concentrations in environmental chemistry and anthropogenic materials in environmental systems. Previously, Dr. Mitrano was a group leader for the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. Currently, she is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Systems Science at ETH Zurich, working as an environmental analytical chemist. Dr. Mitrano studies the environmental hazards produced by microplastics, as well as how regulations are essential to incentivizing innovation and environmental safety.
Research shows that microplastic regulations have the ability to incentivize both industrial innovation and environmental safety. Scientists and industries can work together to make more informed decisions about how we can use plastic more sustainably. This is important because our plastic appetite generates considerable environmental damage. Carbon emissions and energy use are required to source and produce plastic, a material that is polluting our waterways in the form of macro- and microplastics. On top of this, plastic production has been constantly increasing over the past 50 years, demonstrating the need for further regulations ([Denise Mitrano] Microplastic regulation 2021).
In order to answer the questions that we still have regarding microplastics, it is important to first assess microplastic research, regulation, and material design. We have to start with evaluating their inputs and implications in the environment. Then, we can develop regulations to curtail unnecessary and negative impacts. After this, we can work to design more sustainable and environmentally conscious materials that will function well in our everyday life. The most important goods to design are textiles, consumer products, and packaging, which have the shortest life spans of plastic waste and are often mismanaged.
More specifically, in order to create the most efficient regulations, there are certain approaches that must be taken. These include becoming educated in how polymers work and their functionality, understanding the specific uses of solid plastic in order to identify environmental pollution and health risk issues, identifying the social and corporate drivers that prompt information norms and formal regulations, evaluating the strategies and effectiveness of regulations, and analyzing prior cases to determine where regulations can focus in order to boost innovation and environmental protection accurately ([Denise Mitrano] Microplastic regulation 2021).
Overall, microplastic regulations are becoming increasingly important to combat plastic pollution and generate innovation. Policy developments and industrial practices are largely influenced by consumer behavior, which is greatly impacted by regulations. The fight against microplastic began with the emergence of microplastic regulations due to the opposition of microbeads in facial products ([Denise Mitrano] Microplastic regulation 2021). Without implementing regulations on certain materials, technologies, and additives, as well as setting long-term sustainability goals, industries are surely going to pursue short-term endeavors and implement superficial changes. Ideally, these regulations would be measurable and enforceable and make room for advanced developments in sustainability.
[Denise Mitrano] Microplastic regulation should be more precise to incentivize both innovation and e [Video file]. (2021, May 04). Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TZeckIwfSE
Mitrano, D., & Wohlleben, W. (2021). Microplastic regulation should be more precise to incentivize both innovation and environmental safety. Nature Communication. doi:10.5194/egusphere-egu21-12732