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Developing Marine Plastic Toxicology Knowledge with NORCE Researcher Marte Haave

Updated: May 18, 2023

Ogoori to produce a material safety data sheet describing the content of chemical contaminants with the help of NORCE researcher Marte Haave. She will also help establish a protocol for sampling and removal of environmental contaminants in the marine plastic processing stage.

Photo: Andreas R. Graven, NORCE.

Ogoori aims to influence plastic producers to become less dependent on virgin plastic and start reusing marine waste as a source that is already available. This would serve to prevent more plastic pollution on our planet today. In order to reuse marine plastic waste, understanding the potential risks of pollutants on them would be critical for the safety of the material we would offer to our partners.

Marte Haave is a NORCE researcher and ecotoxicologist, who studies microplastic and the effects of marine plastic. NORCE is one of Norway’s largest research institute, specialising in the field of energy, health care, climate, the environment, society and technology.

Since January 2021, Haave is commissioned by Ogoori to study the chemical contaminants in our Ogoori’s marine plastic. With the knowledge gained, this will then help to establish a protocol on sampling and removal of environmental contaminants in the process, serving to answer the questions, “Is the material safe to use? How can the material be used safely?” In partnership with Haave, Ogoori will produce a material safety data sheet describing the content of chemical contaminants.

Chemical Tests and Safety Measures

“What we know from toxicology is that contaminants that are not soluble in water will attach to the plastic. So many of these environmental contaminants, like persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and oil residues, will get in contact with the plastic while it is in the ocean. Plastics are everywhere and they have a high affinity for these contaminants. And therefore, the concentration of these contaminants may become high on the plastic. After a while in the environment, they may have collected a great deal of organic contaminants from the environment. And when you then collect them, they can contain contaminants that were not originally in the plastic,” says Haave. Therefore it is necessary to know the contaminant levels and to make sure that the recycled material is used in a safe way.

Haave further explains that old plastic may also contain banned chemical additives, added for flexibility, UV- stability, coating or colour which makes it even more important to run chemical toxicology tests to make sure that they are not there.

Photo: Andreas R. Graven, NORCE.

“From what I understand, Ogoori is selecting mainly polypropylene and polyethylene products that are not commonly known to have these banned contaminants, but we still need to check because these are plastic associated chemicals, and can also be attached to the plastic after some time in the environment. We just need to make sure just like one will test for antibiotics in food. You don't expect there to be any, but producers still have to verify that there isn’t. If it turns out they are never there, that is very good”

Knowledge of Microplastic Toxicity

There are still a lot of things we don’t know about the toxicity of microplastics, says Haave. “When I started learning about microplastic, I realized that in comparison to chemical pollutants, there is a whole lot of things we don't know about plastics in terms of toxicology. We really don't know how to analyse it well, how much there is, how it affects us, or how can you even see if it's affecting us. The effects may be subtle, but we haven't really identified how to measure harmful effects yet. And as a toxicologist, I would like to be able to say that plastic exerts its effects through these or those mechanisms, or that these are the safe levels and size classes of microplastics, or that this specific type of plastic should be avoided, but we can't do that at the moment.”

Marte Haave is also the centre leader for North Atlantic Microplastic Center (NAMC), which aims to mobilize leading researchers nationally and internationally to understand and quantify how much microplastic is in the environment and the risks it presents. The centre is led by NORCE.

On Ogoori’s concept and mission, Haave says, “It’s a great way of removing plastic from the environment. But also, the whole idea of the circular use is that you don't own them, so it doesn’t become waste. […] I think it's a very neat concept. Something that I believe will become more and more in fashion, I guess, because of the producer responsibility that is now being discussed everywhere that will hopefully make the producers more inclined to take back and reuse the resources in their products.”

Prevention of Plastic Litter Matters

Haave also believes that products should have better quality and higher value so that we can take care of them and not throw them away after a short time. Prevention of environmental littering of plastic, for Haave, matters.

“We have now discovered that microplastic is found in the fish flesh and in the coastal animals, so it is in the food web. I believe that we have to prevent environmental littering of plastic because this evidence that it does enter into the food web. And this is in fact new, and not understood. It's been shown that there is plastic in the intestines after ingestion, but not in the edible parts of fish, for example, muscle, so prevention of plastic in the environment really matters.”

Ogoori is also participating in a work group about microplastic, organised by NOSCA Clean Oceans, a cluster program with the purpose of using over 45 years of oil spill knowledge in the war against plastic in the oceans. We will keep learning about microplastics and marine plastic, and the effect on the environment with our partners.

Transparency is one of Ogoori's core values. By gaining more knowledge of marine plastic toxicity through Haave's research, Ogoori can share this with our customers to provide confidence and safety in the upcycling process.

Want to collaborate with us? Email Larissa Slottet, CEO at larissa@ogoori,eco

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