Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

Workshop on micro- and nanoplastics in marine debris

WRc organised and virtually hosted a workshop on behalf of APEC to facilitate the sharing of best practices on a range of micro- and nanoplastics topics and creation of a new community of experts across the economies.

Read and watch the outputs here




technical and plenary sessions


APEC economies represented


agreed the event was well organised

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a regional economic forum established in 1989 to leverage the growing interdependence of the Asia-Pacific. APEC's 21 members aim to create greater prosperity for the people of the region by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth and by accelerating regional economic integration.

APEC’s Oceans and Fisheries Working Group (OFWG) was formed in 2011. The OFWG works to facilitate free and open trade in the region and promotes the sustainable use of fisheries, aquaculture, and marine ecosystem resources and related goods and services. The OFWG promotes cooperation among its members, governments, academia, private industry, and regional and international organizations to advance this process.

The Challenge

As outlined in the APEC Roadmap on Marine Debris, “Marine debris, including plastic litter in the marine environment, is an increasing global challenge in need of a cooperative response.” Macroscale and microscale plastic debris and particles are found in the air, soil, rivers, streams, lakes and marine environments all over the Pacific region and the world. Most of the plastic waste enters the oceans through waste streams and rivers. In marine environments, macroscale plastic debris tends to gradually break down into smaller particles. While the scientific literature on the identification, characterization, and risk assessment of microscale (1 micrometer to 5 mm in size) plastic particles are being explored in recent years, these particles are inevitably destined to break down into even smaller, nanometer scale (1-1000 nm sized) particles. These particles are taken up by marine organisms through the food chain and end up in seafood, food, and water, resulting in human exposure. The potential ecotoxicity, longer-term effects on marine ecosystem, fate and transport, and human exposure to nanoplastics through air, water, and food is unknown.

To address emerging challenges of micro- and nano plastics across the APEC region there is a need to promote communication and cooperation among policy makers and scientists. The science on identification, characterisation, and risk assessment of micro- and nanoplastics is in its infancy, and co-ordination would avoid redundant efforts and accelerate the development of this critical area of marine debris science for the benefit of the entire APEC community.

This project was proposed by the United States to the Oceans and Fisheries Working Group/APEC consideration. It got a positive response and was co-sponsored by Chile, Chinese Taipei, Thailand and Korea. A steering group comprising representatives from a number of APEC economies had been formed, and the group sought support in organising the workshop and ensuring appropriate speakers and audience were able to attend from across all economies. The workshop was planned during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, creating a unique uncertainty on whether the event could take place in person - in Hawaii - or would need to be delivered virtually.

To be successful the workshop needed to take a multi-stakeholder approach with invited attendees including government officials, civil society, private sector, academia, international organisations, and others in identifying opportunities for international cooperation in nanoplastics mitigation.

The Solution

WRc worked closely with the steering group to develop a multi-session, multi-day programme of speakers and discussion sessions that covered a range of technical aspects associated with micro- and nanoplastics in marine debris. Topics included:

  • Best practices and research methods for the collection and characterization of micro- and nanoplastics from the environment
  • Environment and human exposure, potential effects and mixtures toxicology
  • Regulatory and regional perspectives
  • Terminology, nomenclature and harmonizing methods: efforts towards consensus
  • Strategies for micro- and nanoplastics mitigation, remediation, and recycling
  • Current and proposed regulations on intentionally used plastics
  • Approaches for nanoplastics

In conjunction with the steering group the WRc team were able to identify appropriate expertise on each topic to be invited to present their research, or to participate in the event. 46 speakers featured on the agenda, which had two parallel sessions running over 3 days, with plenary sessions bringing together the whole community.

Due to Covid-19 travel restrictions a decision was taken part-way through planning to switch the event to an all-virtual format. This meant co-ordination across all time zones, and with challenges to overcome through software security restrictions imposed by different participating economies. Pre-recorded presentations and abstracts were gathered from all speakers and published on the conference website and app prior to the event, so that short summaries and discussion could be held live. This allowed us to make the most of the limited time window which was socially acceptable for attendees across the APEC region to concurrently participate in.

The Benefits

The workshop met the objective of creating an APEC-wide community of researchers, policymakers and industry representatives by bringing together about 230 participants including 49 speakers from 19 APEC economies to share their understanding of the current challenges in the area and the opportunities and options for management of the issue. The participants came from a wide background including academics, government officials, non-government organizations and industry. The workshop successfully attracted all genders to participate with female and male representation as chairs, speakers and attendees.

Alongside the workshop was originally planned a guided field trip to a nearby beach and a laboratory, along with a classroom training session to demonstrate how nanoplastics are collected, isolated, and characterized. With the move to all virtual event, this was replaced by the production of a video which creates a legacy from the work available to future researchers as a capacity building resource.

All delegates responding to the post-event survey reported that the event was well organized. The online platform provided by WRc made best use of delegates availability to engage across time zones during the three-day workshop by providing pre-recorded presentations to view alongside the online delivery. It also allowed them to connect and share contact details with each other, share literature and documents to the community and interact during each of the sessions by posing questions.

Read and watch the outputs here.

As a speaker, I was impressed by your organization and support - well done!

APEC workshop speaker

WRc has undertaken this project with significant scope and have done exceedingly well, given the challenging circumstances. It met all objectives and exceeded expectations. The project team went above and beyond to help support the items, very accommodative, and responded quickly whenever a need arose

Project Overseer
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

WRc performed with utmost sincerity. This project resulted in a significant report which will be published on site and also on APEC OFWG site

Project Overseer
U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Congrats to everyone on all the hard work and for delivering the most valuable project I’ve had the pleasure of overseeing for State. Truly outstanding!

Project Overseer
U.S. State Department

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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