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NIST Research Bolsters Plastic Pollution Monitoring in the North Pacific Ocean

9/09/2022

Standards help keep plastics and other pollutants out of the water

Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and several other research organizations have identified key marine species to monitor for information on plastic pollution in the North Pacific Ocean. The study selects 12 marine species (out of 352 evaluated) as the best potential bioindicators for plastics in that area of the ocean, and provides a systematic framework for collecting data.

There are tremendous amounts of data on marine species ingesting plastic pollution, and variabilities in results from different organizations have hindered understanding on the extent of the issue, the impacts on wildlife, and the effectiveness of plastic reduction efforts. Through an extensive literature review, NIST scientists used statistical analysis on this data to identify marine wildlife species already known to ingest plastic pollution, with a favorable distribution throughout the ocean and adequate accessibility for analysis. The study also guides monitoring plans for the species, including how and how often to collect samples. Species selected as bioindicators include the green sea turtle, the Pacific oyster, and the long-nosed lancetfish.

With this system, researchers will be better able to study organisms as bioindicators to provide information on how much plastic exists in different ocean regions, and offer insights into the overall health of the marine environment. Systematizing the species studied and the methods for collecting samples is critical in gathering information useful to policymakers in ongoing efforts to mitigate plastic pollution.

Standards in the U.S. and internationally offer guidance and support in reducing pollution in many ways. CSA Z754, Guideline for Pollution Prevention, provides guidance to organizations of all types and sizes for the development and implementation of pollution prevention programs, including an overview of programs and the key elements and steps involved in establishing a program. It also examines the relationship between an organization’s Environmental Management System (EMS) and its pollution prevention program. This standard was developed by CSA America, a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Waste generated from commercial and public vessels in the water is another source of marine pollution. ASTM F2283-12, Standard Specification for Shipboard Oil Pollution Abatement System, developed by ANSI member and audited designator ASTM International, covers the design, manufacture, installation, performance, and operation of a shipboard oil pollution abatement system (OPAS) that collects, transfers, and processes all the oily waste generated from incidental operation of machinery spaces. This document is an American National Standard (ANS).

Recycling efforts have long been in place to counter the amount of plastic pollution. ISO/TR 23891, Plastics – Recycling and Recovery – Necessity of Standards is a technical report (TR) that gives a brief overview of plastic recycling systems, relevant existing standards, and different recycling techniques. The report identifies the necessity of standards in the plastics recycling system, and gives direction for the adoption of regional standards and/or the development of new and existing standards. This TR was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 61, Plastics, subcommittee (SC) 14, Environmental aspects. ASTM is the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator to both TC 61 and SC 14.

Learn more about the NIST meta-analysis and monitoring plans for marine species in the NIST article: Scientists Identify Potential Bioindicators for Monitoring Plastic Pollution in the North Pacific Ocean

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