Visible plastics in the world’s oceans and waterways represent only a fraction of all plastic in the environment. Visible debris breaks down into microplastics, particles of less than 1 mm that are invisible to the naked eye. These particles attract pollutants in the water (such as PCBs, DDT and flame retardants) and are then ingested by animals. Little is known about the volume and distribution of microplastics in the water because no measurement solution currently exists.
Draper is developing the world’s first underwater real-time microplastic sensing system for ocean, river and watershed measurement in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which will ultimately be made widely available via open-sourcing. This work has been funded to-date by the Wallace Research Foundation, with a supplement from Patagonia. Draper and the EPA have also collaborated on a microplastics FAQ to provide a resource of established facts for both the public and policymakers. You can also learn more from the experts who spoke at our forum: Microplastics: A Path Forward to Action.
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