Microplastics in inland waters – but not in the sea

Microplastics in inland waters – but not in the sea

07.09.2020

The BKV is participating in the joint project "MicBin – Microplastics in Inland Waters" within the BMBF research program "Plastics in the Environment – Sources, Sinks, Solutions". One of the work packages in the MicBin joint project has now been concluded. It deals with the plastic waste that, even though it enters inland waters, does not get into the sea but is removed at weirs, barrages and hydroelectric power plants.

The main area of research of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) covers a total of 18 joint projects that are being funded to the tune of around 35 million euros in the period from 2017 to 2021. The goal is to develop and establish scientific processes, methods, tools and terms for studying plastics in the environment.
The general target of MicBin is to document for the first time the macro-, meso- and microplastic discharged into the catchment area of a large inland waterway. The discharge pathways of the plastics and where they remain in the aquatic system are the key questions to be answered in order to be in a position to plan countermeasures. For the study, the Bavarian Danube region was selected as a typical example. The task jointly tackled by the project partners is divided up into several work packages. One of them, package 4.1, has just been concluded by the BKV in cooperation with Conversio GmbH and the Bavarian Environment Agency (LfU). The study examines plastic litter that collects at barrages and hydroelectric power plants and is removed, which means it does not remain in the water, does not break down into smaller particles and finally does not end up in the sea.
The task of this work package was not only to analyze the type and quantity of plastic waste but also to analyze the work practices of the hydroelectric power plant operators as to how they deal with overflows at barrages and weirs and with floating refuse in the water. The operators were asked questions on the "removal of plastic litter". The answers were subsequently evaluated and analyzed. Finally, the results were incorporated in an estimate of how much plastic is removed from surface waters through weirs. The result of the work package – a data model for the amount of macroplastic removed in the Bavarian Danube region – is therefore based on the one hand on empirically documented screenings at hydropower plants and, on the other, on the data provided by operators of such plants on waste volumes and their composition. Because these figures from the operators were often only estimates – especially in answer to the question of how high the plastic content in the collected waste might be – the resulting bandwidth of the quantity data was taken into account in the evaluation by creating three different scenarios. Thus, the quantity removed in the relevant region is between 80 and 290 t, depending on the scenario. For further calculations in the MicBin project, the authors propose to continue working with the middle scenario and thus to assume a removed quantity of macroplastic of 174 t. Their conclusion: It was possible with the study to show that hydroelectric power plants and barrages make a significant contribution to decreasing the content of plastics in internal waters.
More information: Bericht: Analyse von Wasserkraftwerken – MicBin-Verbundprojekt, Arbeitspaket 4.1 (for download)
Your contact for this topic is Stephanie Cieplik (stephanie.cieplik @ bkv-gmbh . de)
Sources:
    • BKV GmbH
    • Photo: © Tristan Schlafhai / Fotolia

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