Plastic flux for innovation and business opportunities in Flanders (PLUXIN)

, Devriese Lisa, Toorman Erik, Janssen Colin, Asselman Jana, Sterckx Sindy, Knaeps Els, Teunkens Bert, Van Damme Stefan, Everaert Gert.

Plastics are globally dispersed and reported at increasing concentrations in marine ecosystems. Due to their persistence in aquatic environments the global plastic problem will last for decennia. Removal of plastic at the source prior to reaching the marine environment is instrumental. Hence, plastic detection methods and plastic remediation measures are urgently needed and may become obligatory in the future. A first prerequisite to take effective plastic remediation measures is to know where and when action should be taken. However, to date there is a critical knowledge gap about the whereabouts of plastics and about their flux towards the marine environment. This information is crucial to fast track cost-efficient plastic remediation measures. A central objective in the Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) via the Blue Cluster funded project PLUXIN is to develop a two dimensional-horizontal (2DH) plastic dispersal model of the estuarine and harbor environments in Flanders. The model will be calibrated and validated with vertical movement experiments and field sampling data. Plastics will be identified from remote sensing reflectance data through image recognition algorithms (‘Machine Learning'), hence resulting in an automated plastic detection method. This information in combination with in situ sampling will validate the 2DH-model. Flanders is a top region in terms of hydrologic and hydraulic expertise, and hosts key international companies active in offshore and coastal engineering and the circular economy. Flemish knowledge institutes are internationally recognized for their plastics-related expertise. This holistic project will integrate this knowhow and take essential steps to further our expertise. Based on the transdisciplinary PLUXIN research initiative a comprehensive and systematic picture of distribution of plastic in the aquatic environment will be obtained. Remote sensing and in-situ observations in combination with numerical models will contribute to our understanding of the sources, circulation patterns and fate of plastic in the aquatic environment.

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