Project: Impacts of MicroPlastics in AgroSystems and Stream Environments

Acronym IMPASSE (Reference Number: WaterJPI-JC-2016_11)
Duration 01/04/2017 - 31/03/2020
Project Topic We estimate the microplastic (MP) input to agricultural lands from wastewater and sewage sludge reuse in Europe and North America to be comprehensivel between 107,000 and 730,000 tonnes/year making the farm environment one of the major receptors and, possibly, environmental reservoirs of MPs. While it is widely acknowledged that microplastics in the ocean are a serious environmental problem, the alarming threats posed by MPs and associated contaminants accumulating in agricultural soils are almost entirely unknown. According to recent reports a large fraction of the MPs generated and used in industrialized countries may end up in municipal wastewater and sewage sludge. A sizeable fraction of wastewater and sewage sludge is reused in these countries in agricultural lands with no technology in place to remove MPs. This is especially alarming given the high concentrations of toxic compounds and endocrine disrupting substances that can be found in MPs. Effectively, wastewater reuse and sewage sludge application may be causing persistent, pernicious and so far unacknowledged contamination of agricultural land. In IMPASSE, we propose to develop and communicate the new understanding of MP behaviour, toxicology and impacts in agrosystems. Highlights from the project are: •Development of monitoring schemes to track the fluxes and impacts of MP in agrosystems from reuse of wastewater and sewage sludge, including: i) assessment of MPs inputs, loads and fate in 3 catchment case studies, and ii) ecotoxicology of MPs in agrosystems (i.e. accumulation in soil and freshwater organisms, implication for bioaccumulation of substances contained in MPs). •Analysis of risks posed to human health from the reuse of wastewater and sewage sludge in agriculture Specifically, the implications for enrichment of MP-derived contaminants and metabolites in crop and milk from farmlands treated with sludge and wastewater. •Interactive stakeholder engagement (including risk communication and participatory definition of management and modelling scenarios) •Development of decision support tools (including catchment modelling of MP transport and analysis of economic and environmental implications of various mitigation scenarios). This part will focus on analysis of economic and environmental co-benefits and trade-offs associated with, e.g., introduction of new technology for wastewater/sludge processing, irrigation and drainage management, and soil amendment practices that minimize exposure to MPs. •Dissemination of scenario assessment results to farmers, stakeholder groups, scientists and regulators. IMPASSE will develop awareness about a new and potentially serious threat for farms and natural ecosystems. Alarmingly, this threat has passed, so far, unobserved. Our ultimate goal is to find solutions that safeguard agricultural sustainability, human and animal health, and circular economy goals.
Network WaterWorks2015
Call 2016 JOINT CALL: Sustainable management of water resources in agriculture, forestry and freshwater aquaculture sectors

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
1 Norwegian Institute for Water Research Coordinator Norway
2 Trent University Partner Canada
3 IMDEA Partner Spain
4 VU University Amsterdam Partner The Netherlands
5 Swedish University of Agriculture Partner Sweden