The state of knowledge on microplastic pollution in Australia: sources, sinks and future directions

June 7th, 2024

Presentation by Dr Scott Wilson (AUSMap)

Microplastics (<5mm) are now recognised as ubiquitous around the world with for example 170 trillion pieces of microplastics estimated to be in our oceans. In Australia, the amount of data on microplastics in the environment is patchy both spatially and temporally. Added to this most of the data is from aquatic systems or associated biota. Information relating to terrestrial and atmospheric environments however remains sparse. While studies on sources and sinks have rightly focused on urban landscapes as the main area of concern, there are distinct gaps in knowledge from rural, agricultural and traditionally managed lands. Another area requiring attention is determining the ecological risks associated with microplastic exposure. There is clear evidence on the uptake of microplastics in a wide range of organisms but limited data determining their potential harms and thresholds. 

To accurately manage this growing pollution problem and address these shortfalls a more comprehensive and systematic approach to monitoring and assessment is required. This talk will explain these pressing issues and delve into the role that science and civil societies can play in helping understand the problem to enable more effective and targeted solutions.