KIMO Sweden has announced the winner of a SEK 10,000 scholarship for work on the impact of microplastic pollution on our seas.
Against tough competition, the judges awarded the prize to Evelina Norlin, a third-year Marine Science student from Gothenburg University.
Norlin applied for the scholarship while working on her bachelor thesis about the impact of nano- and microplastic pollution on marine vertebrate predators. She said: “I really enjoyed the work with my thesis and the scholarship offered a possibility to dive deeper and learn more about the issue with microplastics in the ocean”.
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic less than 5mm across. In some cases, they are so small they are invisible to the naked eye.
There are several ways microplastics enter our rivers and seas.
‘Primary microplastics’ are deliberately added to products, including cosmetics, paints and cleaning fluids.
‘Secondary microplastics’ enter the environment when other plastic materials wear down during their lifetimes, or after they are improperly discarded.
KIMO’s flagship ‘Fishing for Litter’ projects help to reduce the amount of microplastic getting into the sea by removing waste before it can break down any further.
Norlin will investigate secondary microplastics from synthetic textiles and write a report for KIMO as part of her scholarship.
Emmyly Bönfors, Deputy Mayor in Gothenburg and Chair of KIMO Sweden congratulated Norlin and stressed the important role that industry must play: “The Swedish textile industry is at the forefront of sustainability. This scholarship is an opportunity to shed light on the impact the textile industry has on the marine environment.”
A passion for the sea
Norlin first became passionate about the ocean and its inhabitants while spending time on sailing ships around the world. She has made two transatlantic crossings, experiences that she says helped her to reflect on our impact on the marine environment and which led her to studying marine science.
With more people are becoming aware of the problem of plastic pollution, Norlin believes that education is incredibly important: “Marine plastic pollution is an issue where we can really make a difference, both on individual and on a higher level in the society. If people are more informed about macro- and microplastics impact on the ocean, it will probably lead to a raised consciousness about plastics and hopefully change people’s habits of plastic use.”
What can local governments do?
There is a big role for local authorities, including KIMO’s members, to play, according to Norlin: “It is important that local municipalities make it easy for people to make the right choices, for example ban single use plastics, or if not possible, always offering a better alternative.”
“Another thing is to investigate the local environment and to track the sources of plastic litter. For example, how much plastics are being washed up at the shoreline, and how much microplastics are there in the water released from the sewage treatment plants? And how can the flow of plastics to the environment be minimized?”
These are all issues that KIMO members in Sweden and across Europe are working to address.
For now, Norlin hopes that her report on textiles will reach a wide audience and may engage more people to join the fight against microplastic pollution.
KIMO Sweden will be publish Norlin’s report in the autumn.
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