Note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, Dr. Liboiron will not be appearing at #ZWC19.
Did your last fish dinner come with a side of microplastics?
Now that plastic particles are being detected in waters all over the world, it’s a concern we all need to take seriously.
And for remote northern communities that rely on fishing, collecting good data on plastic in seafood can be a major challenge. One researcher is making global microplastics monitoring equitable and accessible for all – and her work does not end there.
The 2019 Zero Waste Conference is pleased to welcome Dr. Max Liboiron, a microplastics researcher from Newfoundland, whose work is rooted in respect for the land, for animals and for one another, in recognition of the interconnected relations that support all life on earth.
Why Measure Microplastics in Seafood?
When plastic enters a body of water, it quickly gets shredded into tiny bits. Microplastics are also released directly in the form of microbeads in facewash, sparkles in toothpaste, or fibres broken off from synthetic clothing in a washing machine.
Although the health effects of ingesting microplastics remain largely unknown, we do know this: plastics often contain toxic components like Bisphenol A and phthalates, and tiny plastic particles act like sponges for oily chemicals such as PCBs, methylmercury and flame retardants.
Microplastics in the ocean may be mistaken for food by zooplankton and fish, and when animals ingest those particles, chemicals accumulate in their tissues, reaching increasingly high concentrations as they move up the food chain.
This plastic poses a real threat to maritime communities where wild-caught seafood is the cornerstone of traditional and modern diets.
Citizen Science in Action
Dr. Max Liboiron, Associate VP of Indigenous Research & Assistant Professor of Geography at Memorial University, is the Director of the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), in St. John’s Newfoundland. The lab specializes in community-based and citizen science monitoring of plastic pollution, particularly of plastics in food webs.
Scientists at CLEAR examine the innards of fish and other seafood caught around Newfoundland to track the amount and type of plastics inside.
Equitable Marine Plastics Measurement Tools
To help remote communities grasp the scope of the problem, Dr. Liboiron’s team at CLEAR designed two DIY scientific trawl instruments that measure marine plastics.
Both are simple, inexpensive and effective. These tools, dubbed Babylegs and LADI (Low-Tech Aquatic Debris Instrument), are geared toward researchers who can’t rely on grants, institutions or reliable electricity. One costs $12, the other costs $500 – far more accessible than the standard device, which costs $3,500.
Watch The Atlantic’s recent profile of Dr. Liboiron and her team to learn more about the values underpinning CLEAR’s work.
#ZWC19 Plastics Responding Panel
Join us at the 2019 Zero Waste Conference to hear from some of the leading voices in the global fight against microplastics. Presented in collaboration with the National Zero Waste Council, the conference is your guide to the people, ideas and actions that are having the biggest impact.
2019 Zero Waste Conference:
Mobilizing for Success in the Circular Economy
October 30 – 31, 2019
Vancouver Convention Centre (999 Canada Place)