“K” Line and Tokyo University to Research Microplastic Plastic Waste

research into microplastics in the the oceans and recovery
"K" Line operates a fleet of global car carriers (K Line)

Published Oct 4, 2021 8:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

Japan’s “K” Line (Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha) is launching a new joint research effort with the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (TUMSAT) on microplastic waste in the world’s oceans. The joint research will use “K” Line’s vessels to collect samples of plastic particles to further the study into the prevalence of microplastics (plastic particles 5 mm or less) floating in the world’s oceans.

The scientists working on the project estimate that approximately eight million tons of plastic waste is discharged globally from land into the oceans every year. This causes various problems, such as deterioration of ecosystems and the marine environment, deterioration of coastal functions, disruption of vessel navigation, and impacts on fisheries and tourism. It is said that more than 95 percent of marine plastic waste originates from land-based sources, and while efforts are underway on land to prevent the generation of plastic waste, there is no established, economical method of recovering marine plastic waste from the oceans.

In the first phase of the project, TUMSAT will be surveying the amount of marine plastic waste found in the oceans. The “K” LINE vessel will take samples from the seawater intake line with a strainer while the ship is running, and then TUMSAT will analyze the samples to determine the material, size, and other elements.

The joint research will evaluate how much plastic waste can be collected from seawater by ships on voyages under normal operations without installing any special equipment on the intakes and filtration of seawater. The project will lead to further research, exploring as the collection of microplastics in the open sea using ocean-going vessels and the establishment of a monitoring system for the density of microplastics in specific areas.