Source fate and transport
Microplastics have now been found in near-pristine areas, far from any obvious source. International concern is mounting regarding risks of microplastic accumulation, associated with long residence times, ubiquity and possibility of ingestion. The Canadian federal and provincial government have taken a lead in developing strategies to reduce plastic waste, including the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste, and an intention to include plastic pollution as an issue of concern to the 2020-2025 Canada-Ontario Great Lakes Agreement.
Any reduction in plastic waste however calls for an overhaul in the operation of the plastics industry across its entire lifecycle. This includes improvement of plastics design, a reduction in demand, and enhanced efficiency of disposal or cleanup. A key obstacle remains a vast knowledge gap regarding microplastics sources, transport and fate – making it difficult to identify and model responsibility for plastics already in the environment.
The Crossman Lab seeks to fill this gap through:
- Development of new techniques for ‘fingerprinting’ or tracking microplastics from their source to sink (in collaboration with the Mundle lab)
- Development of higher efficiency and lower cost methods of analysing microplastics
- Establishing zero-energy methods for removal of microplastics from biosolids
- Building an open-source microplastics surveillance network for air, soils and freshwater across Canada
- Using this knowledge to develop and advance process-based models for use in microplastics mitigation