We are pleased to share with you the Lanzarote Declaration: From May 25-27, the MICRO 2016 international conference on microplastics was held in the UNESCO Biosphere reserve of Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain. Rooted in the MICRO 2014 international workshop in Plouzané, France and the MICRO 2015 seminar in Piran, Slovenia, MICRO 2016 provided an opportunity to share available knowledge, fill in gaps, identify new questions and engage the scientific community through the work presented and the Lanzarote Declaration.
With this declaration, we recognize our responsibility as individuals to change our behaviours related to plastic production and consumption, and to inform others of the social, economic and environmental implications highlighted by the research shared at MICRO 2016.
We recognize that the Lanzarote Declaration stems from previous regional, national, and international efforts such as: The London Convention (1972); the Barcelona Convention (1976); the MARPOL Convention (1978); the East Asian Seas Action Plan (1981); the Abidjan Convention (1984); the Cartagena Convention (1986); Bâle Convention (1989); the OSPAR Convention (1992/1998/2002/2005/2006/2007); the Northwest Pacific Action Plan (1994); the Nairobi Convention (1996); EU Water Framework Directive (2000); the Teheran Convention (2003); EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008); the Honolulu Commitment (2011); the Manila Declaration (2012); the Mediterranean Regional Plan on Marine Litter (2014); and the G7 Leaders’ Declaration (2015).
Nearly all aspects of our daily lives involve plastics. Plastics are versatile, light, durable, inexpensive and can be shaped to almost any form imaginable. While these are valuable traits, the “disposable” use of plastics in recent decades is now clearly visible in the majority of Earth's ecosystems. Plastics have been found in the atmosphere, soils, fresh water, oceans, seas, and polar regions. They are even recognized as new habitat for organisms, called the Plastisphere. As they become increasingly prevalent in ecosystems, concerns about plastics are mounting due to their unknown effects at the organismal level and potential consequences for ecosystem functioning. Most plastics are considered persistent material and accumulate in the environment since they cannot be mineralized. Over time we find increasing numbers of fragments of decreasing size.
Microplastics are generally defined as any plastic particles less than 5 mm and they come from two sources: (i) primary microplastics, which include industrial abrasives, exfoliants, cosmetics and pre-production plastic pellets; and (ii) secondary microplastics, which come from the degradation of larger processed plastic items.
While the presence of microplastics in ecosystems has been reported in the scientific literature since the 1970’s, many pressing questions regarding their impacts remain unresolved. We, the 46 members of the Scientific Committee, sign the Lanzarote Declaration on behalf of 632 researchers whose work comprised over 200 presentations at the MICRO 2016 conference. Drawing from the shared scientific and technical material, in this declaration we summarize the highlights from MICRO 2016 and mark the first milestone of the Road to MICRO 2018 collaborative process.
Highlights from the MICRO 2016 conference:
- This declaration covers any type of microplastic.
- There is a need to maintain and improve the link between ongoing research and policy efforts at national and international levels such as the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, OSPAR, NOWPAP, MEDPOL, etc.
- Microplastics are found nearly everywhere that has been investigated in the world's oceans and coastal areas, including the most remote parts of the earth. Though less studied, they are also found in fresh water bodies and terrestrial environments.
- The widespread occurrence of microplastics and their impacts have been demonstrated by more than 50 studies worldwide.
- As demonstrated by several studies, microplastics may be ingested by many species, and the risk of transfer to humans has been shown for some commercial species such as fish, mollusks and crustaceans. Seaweed has also been shown as a vector for microplastics.
- Studies show the overlap of aquatic biota feeding grounds and waters with high levels of microplastic pollution. This has particularly been demonstrated for: fin whales in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea, marine mammals stranded in Ireland, turtles in Northern Cyprus, turtles in the Canary Current, and seabirds.
- Runoff has been robustly demonstrated as a significant microplastic vector, particularly road runoff in populated areas. Several studies confirm sewage sludge as a vector of microplastic pollution, highlighting the need for further studies and actions focused on sewage treatment plants and the urban water cycle.
- From previous studies finding microbial communities on plastic surfaces, new results confirm plastisphere microbial communities and provide site-specific insight into these communities and their successional changes over time.
- Modeling is clearly a fundamental and complementary tool for identifying microplastic sources, distribution paths and potential sinks.
- Recent studies have confirmed that large plastic items and microplastics can be further degraded into nano-sized plastic particles, which may impact the biosphere. The largely unstudied field of nanoplastic pollution will potentially be of significant importance in years to come.
- In order to integrate data across various studies and ongoing projects, we must: (i) standardize the identification and quantification of microplastics, and (ii) explicitly describe the techniques and methods currently used in ongoing, non-standardized studies. There is also a clear need to standardize and harmonize approaches for professional and citizen science efforts, keeping in mind the importance of documenting the co-benefits of citizen science and the need for standardized databases and interfaces to share the results of citizen science work.
- Citizen science contributes to microplastics sampling and monitoring. Outreach and education efforts to raise awareness about microplastics in marine environments and increase ocean and plastic literacy help connect the general public with the issue of microplastics. Perceptions and representations can be changed through science communication.
- Working to prevent and mitigate microplastic pollution provides co- benefits beyond pollution reduction and environmental integrity, such as improving human health and well being.
- Technological solutions such as improving recycling processes and developing non-harmful material degradability are needed, along with replacement by natural biodegradable materials.
- With growing evidence of environmental consequences and potential threats to human health, we must consider industry's level of responsibility for the impacts of plastics.
- Immediate actions are needed and possible.
Given these findings and the material shared at MICRO 2016 (see Appendix I for full programme), we declare:
There is profound concern on the part of the scientific community about microplastics, which are clearly impacting the biosphere.
In recognition of the fact that microplastics continue accumulating and increasing, we must address the questions raised through the research presented here and continue expanding our knowledge horizons. This requires collaboration and cooperation, at all scales, from local to global, spanning sectors and disciplines, to improve knowledge, education and outreach efforts. This should not delay action.
With this declaration, we recognize our responsibility as individuals to change our behaviors related to plastic production and consumption, and to inform others of the social, economic and environmental implications highlighted by the research shared at MICRO 2016.
As representatives of the scientific community, we urgently call upon society, the private sector and policymakers to move from knowledge to action.
This declaration marks the first milestone of the Road to MICRO 2018 collaborative process.
About the conference: Micro 2016: First circular