MOL Tests First Technology to Capture Microplastics in Ballast Water
Microplastics, the residue of plastic in the ocean, is one of the challenges which environmentalists are looking to confront. In a first of its kind demonstration project, Japan’s Mitsui O.S.K. Lines in collaboration with the Miura Company have developed and tested a water filtration device to capture the plastics.
Microplastics, which measure five millimeters or less in size, result from discarded plastic in the ocean that is broken down by ultraviolet rays and wave action. Scientific research has shown that this residue remains suspended in the water for an extended period of time.
Working together, the Japanese companies jointly developed a microplastics collection device that has been installed on one of MOL’s newly built dry bulk wood chip carried. The companies carried out the first demonstration test of the device on October 27.
The microplastics collection device is activated during the operation of the ballast water treatment system typically during the cargo handling operations in a port. Using a filter with a backwashing function for the ballast water treatment, the device efficiently collects microplastics trapped in the filter before the treated water is discharged overboard.
Schematic of the microplastic collection device added to ballast water treatment - courtesy of Mitsui O.S.K. Lines
Based on the results of the first test, the project team is continuing to improve the device. MOL says that they are examining ways to make it easier for crewmembers to use and increase microplastics collection capacity.
In announcing this demonstration, MOL said that its initiative on ocean plastic pollution started with its participation in the "Plastic Smart" forum hosted by Japan's Ministry of the Environment. Since then. MOL has been expanding its activities, including marine plastic pollution-related scientific research with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC). Miura has been marketing ballast water treatment systems since 2014, along with microplastics collection devices.
Together the two companies believe they have developed an innovative technology through which the shipping industry during its regular operations can contribute to enhancing the environment.