Zeef met microplastics

Additional solutions are urgently needed to limit emissions of microplastics into the environment. Growing quantities of microplastics (particles of 5 mm or less) are entering our living environment every day. Despite ongoing extensive research into microplastics, we still know too little about their specific harmful effects on the environment. RIVM and scientific experts are therefore calling for additional and more targeted research into the effects of microplastics in the short term. Such research will enable policymakers to take the most effective measures. RIVM's ‘Microplastics Knowledge Agenda’ presents knowledge gaps to be addressed. 

Experiments in laboratory settings have shown that microplastics can have harmful effects on plants and animals. However, we do not know if these effects also occur in nature. This is partly because the shape, size and composition of materials vary widely. Information that is currently lacking for a proper environmental risk assessment includes how quickly microplastics break down in soil and water, and the differences per source in this regard. There is also insufficient data about the particle size and quantity at which microplastics are harmful. 

Knowledge agenda: research to devise solutions 

The knowledge agenda outlines the types of research needed to fill gaps in current knowledge. This will give us a more detailed picture of the effects of microplastics and potential solutions. Aside from research into policy-based measures, another key focus area is how behavioural changes and innovation can reduce the quantity of microplastics that wind up in the environment. Alternatives to microplastics and other plastics must furthermore be environmentally friendly and safe. 

Overview of knowledge gaps

RIVM compiled this knowledge agenda on the basis of a literature review and expert interviews and workshops. Previously, in 2020, ZonMw prepared a knowledge agenda for investigating the risks that microplastics pose to human health. Together, these agendas provide a good overview of areas in which our knowledge about microplastics falls short.