Japanese shipping giant NYK has signed an agreement with the Chiba Institute of Technology (CIT) in Tokyo to start using its ships to collect and analyse microplastics in the world's oceans.
According to the World Economic Forum, 8m tonnes of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year, and it is predicted that the weight of marine plastic waste will exceed the weight of marine organisms by 2050.
When exposed to UV radiation and wave action, plastics can break down into microplastics – tiny plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter. They then sit on the sea surface or seabed and are ingested by a wide range of creatures, from plankton all the way up through the marine food chain.
However, as yet, very little data exist exists outlining the location, size, and type of microplastics in the oceans.
NYK will now collect microplastics during the voyages of its fleet of 750 vessels around the world.
CIT, meanwhile, will use advanced research techniques to analyze the samples and create a worldwide plastic waste map showing the size, distribution concentration, age, etc. of microplastics.
NYK says it is considering possible commercialized solutions, such as a microplastic waste collection ship with autonomous navigation technology using IoT.