Research at the University of Plymouth was the first to demonstrate the widespread occurrence of microscopic particles of plastic debris in the environment.
Work led by Professor Thompson showed that particles which he described as ‘microplastic’ had accumulated in the oceans since the 1960s and were now widespread.
His team have since showed that marine organisms ingest and retain this material and that upon ingestion microplastics have the potential to release chemical contaminants.
This research has directly contributed to EU policy as part of Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and on-going work on microplastics, funded by Defra, aims to establish the potential for this material to cause harm in the environment.
More broadly our work has also informed strategies to reduce the quantity of plastic in the environment and to seek more sustainable solutions to the production, use and disposal of plastic.