SCIENCE ADVICE FOR POLICY
BY EUROPEAN ACADEMIES

A scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society

The best available evidence suggests that microplastics and nanoplastics do not pose a widespread risk to humans or the environment, except in small pockets. But that evidence is limited, and the situation could change if pollution continues at the current rate.

This is the verdict of SAPEA’s Evidence Review Report on micro- and nanoplastic pollution, published in January 2019. The report is written by a group of world-leading experts nominated by academies across Europe, and informs Scientific Opinion 6 from the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors.

The report comprehensively examines the best available evidence from the natural sciences and computer modelling, as well as social, political and behavioural sciences.

Its key conclusions are:

Recommendations from the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors

Working group members

Professor
University of Wageningen
Personal profile

Associate Professor
University of Plymouth
Personal profile

Professor
University of Gothenburg
Personal profile

Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Coimbra
Personal profile

Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Groningen
Personal profile

Water and Marine Advisory Unit, Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Ireland
Personal profile

Professor
University of Exeter
Personal profile

Visiting Professor
Newcastle University

Senior Lecturer
Brunel University
Personal profile

Assistant Professor
University of Ljubljana
Personal profile

Professor
King’s College London
Personal profile

Research Fellow
Stockholm University
Personal profile

Professor
University of Tirana
Personal profile

Professor
Cardiff University
Personal profile

Professor
Freie University Berlin
Personal profile

Associate Professor
Utrecht University
Personal profile

Professor
University of Groningen
Personal profile

Professor Emeritus
Czech Technical University Prague
Personal profile

Research Associate
Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies
Personal profile

Associate Professor
Roskilde University
Personal profile

Professor
University of Plymouth
Personal profile

Associate Professor
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Personal profile

Professor
KWR Watercycle Research Institute; Utrecht University
Personal profile

Research Associate
King’s College London
Personal profile

Lecturer
University of Surrey
Personal profile

Policy impact

Events

Communicating microplastics risk: Balancing sensation and reflection
SAPEA will organise a workshop at The Future of Science Communication Conference, taking place on 24 and 25 June.
Read more
Erasmus Maris days
SAPEA report will be presented and discussed at an academic conference in Spain. The event takes place on 16 and 17 April 2020.
Read more
SAPEA microplastics event in Finland
At an event on 14 November 2019 in Helsinki, the SAPEA report will be a starting point for the discussion on risks of microplastics to human and the environment, the relationship between research, scientific data and legislation, and the presence of microplastics in Finnish waters.
Read more
The science of microplastics in the world ocean
The SAPEA report was presented at this international workshop to formulate next steps in understanding the fate, distribution, impacts, and technology development necessary to push the science.
Read more
A scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society in Slovenia
SAPEA, the Slovenian Academy of Engineering and the University of Ljubljana will host an event on microplastics. The one day meeting “A scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society including plastic recycling and bio polymers in advanced technologies of the future” will take place on 4.10.2019 in Ljubljana.
Read more
Albanian forum on microplastics
On 11 June 2019, the Albanian Academy of Sciences together with SAPEA organised the scientific forum “Perspectives on microplastics in nature and society”. The event aimed at raising awareness about microplastics pollution, its impact on the environment and the steps that should be taken to improve the situation.
Read more
UN World Oceans Day
In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly decided that, as of 2009, 8 June would be designated by the United Nations as World Oceans Day. A large number of events are organised around the world on this date. In 2019, we discussed microplastics with the public at a city science fair in Sopot, Poland, and ran a custom-made escape room game to communicate key microplastics messages.
Read more
European Maritime Day
The European Maritime Day is the annual EU meeting point on maritime affairs and blue growth. It targets maritime professionals, entrepreneurs and ocean leaders from businesses, governments, public institutions, NGOs and academia. Our Food from the Oceans report was exhibited as part of the 2019 iteration of the conference which took place on 16/17 May 2019 in Lisbon.
Read more
Microplastics debate ‘shows how the public can drive scientific conversations’
SAPEA hosted a lively discussion on microplastics pollution between scientists, policymakers and environmental campaigners in Switzerland.
Read more
ALLEA General Assembly
The ALLEA General Assembly convenes Academies of Sciences and Humanities from 40 countries across the Council of Europe region. SAPEA used the impact of the microplastics report as a springboard to discuss the interaction of science and society.
Read more
G7 Scientific Advice Cooperation on Microplastics Pollution Roundtable
On 20 September 2018, science advisors from the G7 countries, convened by the European Commission and the Chief Science Advisor of Canada, met in Washington DC to discuss the SAPEA report and future cooperation in advising world governments on microplastics.
Read more

News

14 October 2019: Lively discussion on microplastics in Slovenia
SAPEA’s microplastic report, along with issues related to recycling of plastics and future technologies, were discussed on 4 October 2019 in Ljubljana. The one-day event was organised by SAPEA, the Slovenian Academy of Engineering and the University of Ljubljana.  
Read more
22 August 2019: SAPEA evidence review helps shape new WHO microplastics report
Today’s report on microplastics in drinking water by the World Health Organisation draws prominently on SAPEA's evidence review report from earlier this year.
Read more
03 June 2019: Science advice under the spotlight in Lisbon
SAPEA participated in two major scientific events last week in Lisbon, Portugal, bringing together scientists, policymakers, industry and the public.
Read more
06 May 2019: Scientific Opinion on microplastics handed over to Commissioners
EU policy should be broadened to address airborne, freshwater and soil-based microplastic pollution, according to the Scientific Opinion of the European Commission’s Chief Scientific Advisors. The opinion also discusses how to ensure that measures are politically and socioeconomically feasible, and highlights the need for global cooperation and high-quality scientific exchange on microplastic pollution.
Read more
14 February 2019: SAPEA report on microplastics discussed by the G7 Chief Science Advisors
What meaningful and robust scientific advice to government is possible on microplastic pollution based on the current scientific evidence base?
Read more
10 January 2019: Evidence on microplastics does not yet point to widespread risk, say Europe’s top scientists
The best available evidence suggests that microplastics and nanoplastics do not pose a widespread risk to humans or the environment, except in small pockets. But that evidence is limited, and the situation could change if pollution continues at the current rate.
Read more

Academic impact

Depledge, M.H.; White, M.P.; Maycock, B.; Fleming, L.E. (2019), Time and tide., British Medical Journal 366:l4671.
van Sebille, E., Aliani, S., Law, K. L., Maximenko, N., Alsina, J., Bagaev, A., Bergmann, M., Chapron, B., Chubarenko, I., Cózar, A., Delandmeter, P., Egger, M., Fox-Kemper, B., Garaba, S. P., Goddijn-Murphy, L., Hardesty, D., Hoffman, M. J., Isobe, A., Jongedijk, C., … Wichmann, D. (2020), The physical oceanography of the transport of floating marine debris, Environmental Research Letters.
Verburg, C.; van Everdingen, J.; van Donk, E.; Poolen, D.; Buiter, R. (2019), Plastic: van zegen tot vloek., Den Haag: Stichting Biowetenschappen en Maatschappij.

Media coverage

16 May 2022: Wikiwand
Microplastics
Read More
09 May 2022: Ecostandard
Tiny but deadly – time for the EU to tackle microplastic pollution
Read More
29 March 2022: Wikipedia
Microplastics
Read More
24 February 2022: Conversable Economist
Global Plastics
Read More
21 February 2022: Waterstones
Influence of Microplastics on Environmental and Human Health: Key Considerations and Future Perspectives
Read More
10 February 2022: European Environment Agency
Microplastics from textiles: towards a circular economy for textiles in Europe
Read More
01 February 2022: Blog BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care
Microplastics; are they the next largest chronic health concern?
Read More
21 January 2022: Mind Over Metal
Moving Toward an Agenda on Ocean Health and Human Health in Europe
Read More
14 January 2022: Naše Bio&Eko
Praní a mikroplasty: jak omezit jejich vznik?
Read More
17 December 2021: Havet.nu
Hur skadliga är mikroplaster?
Read More
16 December 2021: Textile Technology
Towards a new standard on fiber shedding
Read More
15 December 2021: United Nations Environment Programme
How a source-to-sea approach can curb the threat of plastic pollution
Read More
10 December 2021: READYTOBEAD
Plasticos en la industria textil
Read More
06 December 2021: Environmental Pollution
Negative food dilution and positive biofilm carrier effects of microplastic ingestion by D. magna cause tipping points at the population level
Read More
04 December 2021: Textile Technology
Chemical Fibers International
Read More
03 December 2021: Environmental Science: Process & Impacts
Micro- and nanoplastic transfer in freezing saltwater: implications for their fate in polar waters
Read More
03 December 2021: Frontiers in Environmental Science
eterogeneity and Contribution of Microplastics From Industrial and Domestic Sources in a Wastewater Treatment Plant in Xiamen, China
Read More
21 October 2021: United Nations Environment Programme
From Pollution to Solution: a global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution
Read More
25 March 2021: Jornal de sacordo
Rios, Mares e Oceanos
Read More
24 March 2021: Radio 2
Een filter voor microplastics, hoe goed werkt dat?
Read More
22 February 2021: The Source Magazine
Filling the microplastics knowledge gap
Read More
23 January 2021: Onet
Nawet nie wiemy, ile zjadamy codziennie plastiku. Ani czy nam to szkodzi
Read More
30 September 2020: Textile World
Microplastics & The Textile Industry
Read More
23 September 2020: Naše Bio&Eko
Praní a mikroplasty: jak omezit jejich vznik?
Read More
07 August 2020: 15min
Pasaulis dūsta nuo plastiko: kuo aš čia dėtas?
Read More
01 July 2020: Spray TM
Understanding Microplastics
Read More
26 June 2020: Astroaventura
Las consecuencias de la incorrecta eliminación de millones de mascarillas
Read More
25 June 2020: The Conversation
Las consecuencias de la incorrecta eliminación de millones de mascarillas
Read More
08 June 2020: Anadolu Agency
Covid-19 : Les masques de protection et les gants en latex commencent à polluer les mers
Read More
01 April 2020: MM
Makroplasty versus mikroplasty
Read More
06 March 2020: Oceanrep
A Scientific Perspective on Microplastics in Nature and Society
Read More
25 February 2020: Safety & Health Practitioner
Environmental ‘Legislation’ 2020 update and how to comply from a business perspective
Read More
21 February 2020: Innovagro
Efectos microplásticos y nanoplásticos en la biodiversidad solo visibles después de un año por wur, países bajos
Read More
20 February 2020: GYVENIMAS
Mikroplastikas yra arčiau mūsų nei galvojame: šie paprasti sprendimai padės sumažinti jo kiekį kasdienybėje
Read More
11 February 2020: Smart Water Magazine
Effects microplastics and nanoplastics on biodiversity only visible after a year
Read More
08 February 2020: Bio Station Store
Effecten van micro- en nanoplastics op biodiversiteit pas na dik jaar te zien
Read More
03 February 2020: https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/plastic-crisis-microplastics/80125/
Effecten van micro- en nanoplastics op biodiversiteit pas na dik jaar te zien
Read More
06 January 2020: Open Access Government
The plastic crisis: What’s the big deal with microplastics?
Read More
01 January 2020: PopFlock Radio
Microplastics
Read More
17 December 2019: Brunel University
Europe's plastics damage will show in a century, research warns
Read More
17 December 2019: Radio Plymouth News
Europe-wide research project examines fate of microplastics in rivers and lakes
Read More
04 December 2019: New Scientist
We constantly eat microplastics. What does that mean for our health?
Read More
25 October 2019: Slovenian Academy of Engineering
SAPEA in Euro-CASE poročata o naši konferenci
Read More
13 October 2019: SCAN-TV
Plastika në trupin tonë/ Dëmet e rënda që i shkakton shëndetit tonë lënda aq shumë e përhapur në glob
Read More
01 October 2019: One World
Wij leven in een micro-plasticsoep, is dat erg?
Read More
01 October 2019: Ecocosas
Microplásticos, qué son, problemas y soluciones
Read More
02 September 2019: Dagens Nyheter
Mikroplast i dricksvatten ingen hälsofara
Read More
23 August 2019: Mreža za izgradnju mira
Mora zasićena plastikom
Read More
19 August 2019: Bilten
Mora zasićena plastikom
Read More
16 August 2019: ZME Science
Microplastics are now snowing over the Arctic
Read More
01 August 2019: Health Unveiled with Dr. Dan
Microplastics—A Lurking Danger No One is Talking About
Read More
21 July 2019: Footprint
Plastic inaction may pose real risk to human health
Read More
16 June 2019: Thomas Backhaus
Our Chemicalized World, episode 4: Microplastics in the environment II
Read More
12 June 2019: SeafoodSource
Asia top opportunity, plastic pollution biggest threat to UK shellfish sector
Read More
21 May 2019: Mare Centre
All the microplastics that, in a certain way, remind us marine animals
Read More
15 May 2019: This is Plastics
Microplastics: What Do We Know About Them?
Read More
08 May 2019: Sydney Now Magazine
The plastic in our bodies
Read More
08 May 2019: Chemical Watch
Chief scientists back broader EU policy to tackle microplastics pollution
Read More
05 May 2019: Politico Europe
The plastic in our bodies
Read More
02 May 2019: Horizon Magazine
We still don't know enough about the dangers of microplastics
Read More
15 April 2019: ZME Science
Microplastics can also travel by wind, new study shows
Read More
14 March 2019: British Sociological Association
Sociological perspectives on plastic pollution
Read More
14 March 2019: EuroScientist
Ecology of the Gulf of Finland and the Neva Bay: Plastic pollution of the marine environment
Read More
12 March 2019: One World
Wij leven in een micro-plasticsoep, is dat erg?
Read More
12 March 2019: University of Plymouth
University scientists contribute to international report on microplastic risk
Read More
28 February 2019: University of Gothenburg
Plastics in the environment
Read More
20 February 2019: Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research
Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research
Read More
19 February 2019: Government of Canada
G7 scientific advice cooperation on microplastics pollution roundtable
Read More
19 February 2019: havet.nu
Mikroplaster i samhället och miljön - ett vetenskapligt perspektiv
Read More
19 February 2019: Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development
Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development
Read More
19 February 2019: University of Gothenburg
Microplastics in the environment: a micro-issue, or reason for concern?
Read More
19 February 2019: The Fair Find
De problemen met plastic: hoe groot zijn ze en wat kunnen we eraan doen?
Read More
18 February 2019: Envi Web
Přítomnost mikroplastů v prostředí nepředstavuje pro člověka akutní hrozbu
Read More
18 February 2019: Prumyslova Ecologie
Přítomnost mikroplastů v prostředí nepředstavuje pro člověka akutní hrozbu
Read More
18 February 2019: Kosmetik- och hygienföretagen
Forskare menar att mikroplaster idag inte är något hot
Read More
11 February 2019: Envi Web
Vedecká perspektíva mikroplastov v prírode a spoločnosti
Read More
10 February 2019: Envi Web
AV ČR: Přítomnost mikroplastů v prostředí nepředstavuje pro člověka akutní hrozbu
Read More
07 February 2019: ChemicalWatch
Echa definition of microplastics ‘too broad’ – Cefic
Read More
07 February 2019: Human Biomonitoring for Europe
[LinkedIn post]
Read More
04 February 2019: Novaator
Nina Hobbhahn: teadlasi kuulatakse, kui nad omavahel koostööd teevad
Read More
04 February 2019: Chemical & Engineering News
The pervasiveness of microplastics
Read More
03 February 2019: Claudia Crivelli Barella blog
Interrogazione – Micro e nanoplastiche nell'acqua del rubinetto?
Read More
02 February 2019: The Fair Find
Plastic zit in ons voedsel en drinkwater, maar effecten op gezondheid nog onduidelijk
Read More
31 January 2019: NRC
Plastic bestrijden is makkelijker dan een vliegreis weigeren
Read More
29 January 2019: Drimble
Wetenschappelijke gegevens over microplastics wijzen nog niet op grootschalige risico's
Read More
29 January 2019: Friesch Dagblad
Opinie: Microplastics nog geen groot risico maar wel een probleem
Read More
27 January 2019: Nature Today
Microplastics vormen nog geen grote risico’s, volgens Europese topwetenschappers
Read More
23 January 2019: The Ecologist
Microplastics' threat to nature
Read More
22 January 2019: Croatian Academy of Sciences and Art
SAPEA objavila izvješće pod nazivom A scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society
Read More
22 January 2019: Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Данните относно микропластмасите все още не сочат широко разпространен риск, твърдят водещи европейски учени
Read More
22 January 2019: Hrvatska Akademija Znanosti i Umjetnosti
SAPEA objavila izvješće pod nazivom "A scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society"
Read More
22 January 2019: 21stoleti.cz
Mikroplasty prozatím nepředstavují akutní hrozbu pro člověka
Read More
22 January 2019: ChemicalWatch
'Widespread' risk if microplastics are not restricted – EU science group
Read More
21 January 2019: Irish Academy of Engineering
New report: evidence on microplastics says no widespread risk yet
Read More
21 January 2019: Czech Academy of Sciences
Presence of microplastics in the environment does not pose an imminent threat
Read More
21 January 2019: Parlamentní Listy
Akademie věd: Přítomnost mikroplastů v prostředí nepředstavuje pro člověka akutní hrozbu
Read More
18 January 2019: NRC Wetenschap supplement
Een zee van onzichtbaar plastic
Read More
18 January 2019: Aktuell Hallbarhet
Forskare: Mikroplaster inte något hot i dag
Read More
18 January 2019: One World
Klein, kleiner, kleinst: plastic deeltjes in het milieu
Read More
17 January 2019: Global Young Academy
GYA member contributes to evidence review on microplastics
Read More

subscribe
to our newsletter