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New Danish research center will develop solutions to marine plastic pollution

Based at Aalborg University, Denmark and with funding from the Velux Foundation, the MarinePlastic research center unites Danish researchers from different institutions and academic disciplines to collaborate in the fight against one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges.

Marine plastic pollution increasingly threatens the environment and man’s health. This has inspired a team of researchers from five Danish research institutions to collaborate in increasing our understanding of the challenges of plastic waste in the marine environment in order to develop solutions. The collaboration is based at Aalborg University.

The research center, MarinePlastic, awarded 20 million Danish kroner by the Velux Foundation and officially launched 1 February 2019, is a partnership between Aalborg University, Technical University of Denmark, Roskilde University, Aarhus University and the National Museum of Denmark. Each partner brings its own research specialism to MarinePlastic and the center is headed and coordinated by Professor Jes Vollertsen from Aalborg University.

"Plastic pollution is a growing challenge that needs addressing urgently. To understand and tackle this challenge effectively, it is essential that we take a multi-disciplinary and cross-institutional approach to share and increase knowledge gained from our different research backgrounds and experiences", says MarinePlastic’s director, Jes Vollertsen, Institute for Building and Construction at Aalborg University.

The challenges of plastic pollution need to be solved in collaboration

MarinePlastic will consider plastic pollution from several angles. Researchers will investigate the types of plastics present, the causes of pollution, its distribution, breakdown causes and rates and effects on its surroundings. Research areas range from discarded fishing nets and household waste to microplastics and nanoplastics in marine environments.

"We need new knowledge, new technology and new policies if we are going to win the battle against plastic pollution before it causes an environmental disaster. Before proposing solutions, it is essential to have a deeper understanding of the challenges. The center’s purpose is to apply our research findings to the development of technological and political solutions", says Jes Vollertsen, Aalborg University.

In addition to being an academic research center, that will publish high quality, scientific articles, MarinePlastic also intends to develop proposals and solutions to plastic pollution in collaboration with policy makers.

Partners target their research on a single goal

While AAU directs the research center and coordinates the collaboration, each research group brings its own specialist areas to understand and solve the complex challenges of plastic pollution:

- Technical University of Denmark together with Roskilde University will investigate the influence of legal and societal actions on reducing plastic pollution and will also create new knowledge that describes the damaging effects of microplastics on the environment.

- Aalborg University will develop new analytical techniques that will subsequently be used by all researchers in the project, to examine plastic pollution. Aalborg University will also collaborate with Aarhus University to develop as yet unavailable techniques to qualify and quantify microplastics and nanoplastics in sea water.

- Aarhus University will direct the centers research into sources of plastic pollution and how it migrates and spreads in sea water.

- The National Museum of Denmark will investigate how plastics break down with time in coastal and marine environments e.g. why and how does a carrier bag form microplastics and what happens to the particles once formed.

- Roskilde University in collaboration with Technical University of Denmark will establish the effects plastic pollution has on the surrounding environment and on the food chain that comprises sea animals and plants and thereby increase our understanding of plastic’s impact on society.

The Velux Foundation that have funded MarinePlastic, are excited that highly experienced researchers are now united to tackle this complex challenge.

"If we are going to win the war against plastic pollution, we need to collaborate, share knowledge and expertise and focus on the issues in hand. We are proud to support the new research center that gives experienced researchers the opportunity to collaborate in developing new knowledge and new solutions", says Ane Hendriksen, Director of the Velux Foundation.

MarinePlastic facts

  • MarinePlastic – the Danish Centre for Research in Marine Plastic Pollution – is a collaboration between Aalborg University, Aarhus University, Technical University of Denmark, Aarhus University, National Museum of Denmark and Roskilde University and has its headquarters at Aalborg University in Aalborg.

  • MarinePlastic was officially launched 1 February 2019 and continues actively until 31 January 2023.

  • MarinePlastic has a total budget of 26 million Danish kroner, of which 20 million have been awarded by the Velux Foundation and the remainder supplied by the project partners.

Contact

Jes Vollertsen, Director for MarinePlastic and Professor at Aalborg University, jv@civil.aau.dk, mob: +45 28 95 91 95

Hiva Ahmadi, Communications officer at Aalborg University, hiah@adm.aau.dk, mob: +45 22 20 68 69

Kristian Syberg,Associate professor, Roskilde University, ksyberg@ruc.dk, mob: +45 46 74 37 76

Torkel Gissel Nielsen, Professor, DTU Aqua, tgin@aqua.dtu.dk, mob: +45 25 58 06 57 

Steffen Foss Hansen, Associate Professor, DTU Environment, sfha@env.dtu.dk, mob: +45 29 72 32 38.

Jakob Strand, Senior Research Scientist, Aarhus University, jak@bios.au.dk, mob: +45 87 15 86 54

Mikkel P. Tamsdorf, Head of Section, Aarhus University, mpt@bios.au.dk, mob: +45 41 91 56 66.

Tine Bonde Christensen, Communications Officer, National Museum of Denmark, tbc@natmus.dk, mob: +45 41 20 61 44

Mikkel Klougart, Head of Environmental Program, Velux Foundation, mk@veluxfoundations.dk, mob: +45 23 28 36 74

Published 6 February 2019.