'Vitally important' work on impact of microplastics in Lyttelton Harbour underway

An investigation is underway in Lyttelton Harbour into the impact microplastics are having on the marine environment.

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ESR scientist, Dr Olga Pantos says the study is “vitally important”. Source: 1 NEWS

The pilot scheme will run for three months, with scientists sampling polyethylene and nylon in the water and monitoring them closely for distinct changes.

ESR scientist, Dr Olga Pantos, predicts the first thing they’ll notice is bacteria and fungus forming on the surfaces and then over time they’ll see invertebrates, animals and algae settling on them as well.

With an estimated 15 trillion pieces of microplastic debris in the world’s oceans, Dr Olga Pantos sees this Canterbury study as "vitally important".

"We need to understand the potential risk. There may be nothing from some plastics, but we currently don’t know anything at all," she said.

The Lyttelton Port Company is proud to be a part of the project. Kim Kelleher, the port's environment planning manager say it aligns with their environmental goals.

"We’re really focused on managing all environmental risk. Plastic pollution is one of the things our staff really care about so having this on our doorstep is an amazing way to raise awareness and got us thinking about ways we can prevent this pollution," she said.

The next step is a year long study that will include Auckland and Nelson.