On Our Ocean Conference, taking place in Panama, the European Investment Bank released a new report on ‘Microplastics and micropollutants in Water”. The paper describes the adverse impacts of microplastics and micropollutants on human and animal life, as well as recent policy developments to address these problems. It outlines costs and benefits of investments needed to mitigate these adverse impacts and highlights what is the EIB doing to help reduce the release of micropollutants and microplastics in water.

EIB microplastics and micropollutants

The IEB was represented at Our Ocean by Ricardo Mourinho Félix, EIB Vice-President overseeing blue economy. He participated in a panel focusing on marine pollution and discussed how public policies and scientific innovation can help to tackle ocean contamination.

“New report published by the EIB highlight the threats posed to human and animal life by microplastics and other pollutants in our soils, rivers, lakes and oceans. The EIB, as the EU’s Climate Bank, recognises the need for investment to support a truly global blue economy. Through our Blue Sustainable Ocean Strategy, the Clean Oceans Initiative, and the Blue Mediterranean Partnership we aim to reduce pollution in water and preserve the oceans, together with our partners.”

EIB Vice-President Ricardo Mourinho Félix

The EIB report on microplastics and micropollutants stresses that most of it end up in the water bodies, directly threatening aquatic life that ingest the particles, and indirectly organisms that eat aquatic life — including humans. About 1.5 million tonnes of microplastics enter the oceans every year, of which about 10% originates from the EU.

According to a recent estimate, a person who eats seafood will swallow, on average, 11 000 pieces of microplastics every year. It’s with not surprise that the majority of EU citizens are concerned about the impact of plastic products on their health (89%) and on the environment (88%).

The report recommends continuing to invest in new and expanded conventional wastewater treatment plants and stormwater management systems to further reduce microplastics pollution within the EU, as envisaged by the revised  Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, once adopted.

To reduce micropollutants, which are almost invisible elements coming from products such as industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetic products, pesticides and hormones, the report highlights the necessity to invest in additional treatment known as “quaternary treatment”. The investment cost to establish quaternary treatment is estimated at €2.6 billion per year in the EU.

The report concludes on the need to involve the public sector to mitigate the potentially adverse impacts of microplastics and micropollutants, both through regulation and through the provision of sustainable and affordable financing, part of which may be provided by the EIB.

To help reduce macroplastic and microplastics pollution worldwide, the EIB established with its partners the Clean Oceans Initiative, which intends to provide €4 billion in lending until 2025. These funds will be utilised to help the public and private sectors implement sustainable projects that collect plastic and other waste and remove microplastics by collecting and cleaning wastewater before it reaches the oceans.

The initiative already reached 65% of its €4 billion funding target, with €2.6 billion invested in projects that will benefit more than 20 million people living in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.

Ahead of the conference, the EIB introduced the Blue Mediterranean Partnership as a new commitment to Our Ocean. Launched at COP27, the partnership aims to bring together international donors, beneficiary countries, interested financial institutions and philanthropies to support policy reforms, attract donor funding and mobilise public and private financing for projects initially in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

The EIB report – Microplastics and Micropollutants in Water – is available here.

Source: EIB