Canadian Municipal Water eBulletin

IJC seeks Input on Bi-National Approach to Address Microplastic Pollution

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The International Joint Commission (IJC) announced, October 12, 2016, the commission seeks input on a binational approach to address microplastic pollution entering the Great Lakes. 

Microplastics are small plastic particles in the environment that are generally smaller than 1 mm (0.039 in) down to the micrometre range.[1] They can come from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes. Two classifications of microplastics currently exist: primary microplastics are manufactured and are a direct result of human material and product use, and secondary microplastics are microscopic plastic fragments derived from the breakdown of larger plastic debris like the macroscopic parts that make up the bulk of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.[2] Both types are recognized to persist in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems. Because plastics do not break down for many years, they can be ingested and incorporated into and accumulated in the bodies and tissues of many organisms.[3] The entire cycle and movement of microplastics in the environment is not yet known, but research is currently underway to investigate this issue.

The IJC recently recommended a series of initiatives resulting from an expert workshop which it convened in April 2016. The IJC recommendations include:
  • establishing a binational prevention plan to deal with microplastics pollution;
  • developing science-based, standardized, binational monitoring and research into product lifecycles, human and ecological health impacts, and best prevention practices;
  • encouraging governments to examine, promote, and support pollution reduction and prevention programs that are existing and effective; and
  • funding support for local education and outreach programs.


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