The presence and accumulation of plastic debris in the marine environment has seen a substantial increase, with global production of plastics having grown exponentially in the last 60 years, from 1.5 million tons of plastics around 1950 to more than 300 million tons annually in 2014. In 2010 alone, estimates show that between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic litter entered the marine environment (UNEP and GRID-Arendal, 2016. Marine Litter Vital Graphics. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya). The executive director of the Water Institute, Roy Brouwer, is part of a newly funded project that aims to test new marine litter reduction technologies on ships, in wastewater treatment plants and at river mouths, and resource recovery as part of the circular economy vision developed by the European Commission.
CLAIM (Cleaning marine Litter by developing and Applying Innovative Methods) is a European Horizon 2020 project with 19 partners from 13 EU countries led by the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Athens, that builds upon a legacy of previous European research projects supporting the implementation of the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) by focusing on marine litter and debris
Brouwer, professor in the Department of Economics, was asked to lead the social science component in the project. Brouwer has many years of experience in this area before joining the Water Institute through his participation in the European research project CLEANSEA, which developed a Roadmap to Good Environmental Status for European seas in 2020. Specifically, he estimated the social costs of marine litter and their impacts on ecosystem services, tourism, fisheries, and shipping.
The project’s kick-off meeting took place on November 14-16, in Crete, Greece, where Brouwer presented and discussed the integration of the social sciences research with the marine scientists and engineers.
“My work package will collaborate closely with the developers of the new marine reduction technologies in case studies across the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea to assess their cost-effectiveness, develop new business models, identify institutional-economic challenges and barriers to their adoption and upscaling,” said Brouwer.
In the latter case, Roy is specifically interested in exploring opportunities for transferring the knowledge and experience from Europe to the Great Lakes and Canada’s coastal zones.
“The project is a good example of the international interdisciplinary work in the Water Institute on the role of water technology innovation in the blue economy.”