Sydney Morning Herald
October 07, 2021
By Liam Mannix.
“The Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science went to a nationwide program that revealed hidden microplastic hotspots at some of the nation’s beaches and waterways, such as the Barker Inlet wetlands in Adelaide, where citizen scientists measured concentrations of more than 750,000 microplastic particles per metre.
Microplastics, fragments of polymer only a few millimetres long, are the inevitable result of the modern world’s love affair with plastic.
“Our carpets are synthetic, our clothes are synthetic, we rely on plastic in everyday life,” says program director Dr Michelle Blewitt. “And every piece of plastic that has ever been created in this universe is still here in one form or another.
Over time, plastics break into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming airborne. The average Australian inhales almost 13,000 microplastic fibres a year and microplastics have been found crossing the human placenta, although research has not conclusively linked them to health problems.
The citizen science program, known as the Australian Microplastic Assessment Project, has trained 739 people to test for microplastics, sampled in more than 350 places, and helped remove more than 3 million microplastic particles.
The project leaders are now collaborating with councils around the nation to track the pollution back to the source and clean it up.”