The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Professor Juliet Gerrard explains the importance of evidence in order for the government to make informed decisions around policy and laws to help solve the plastic problem. However, when evidence is lacking, research needs to be carried out to fill in the gaps. Dr Olga Pantos from ESR outlines her role to collect better evidence and data about microplastics in New Zealand.
Professor Juliet Gerrard
Part of my role is to make sure that policy is informed by the evidence, and that might be simple numbers from a recycling plant but it might also be much higher-tech evidence – so evidence base for new materials, whether they really do compost, whether they provide new solutions to present new solutions for packaging, that we could change the whole way packaging is done in New Zealand. That would be on a much longer timeframe to simple things like recycling, but whatever we do, we need an evidence base to make sure that, when we change, we know we’re changing in the right direction.
Dr Olga Pantos
End of last year, we received a 5-year grant from the government to look at the impacts of microplastics on New Zealand’s ecosystems. The project is aiming to look at the plastics around New Zealand, how much there are, what sorts there are and their effects on the environments and the animals and plants that live within the environments as well. In the marine systems, we’ll be looking for what settles on the different types of plastic, so depending on what settles, the plastic may have a different level of risk that might affect our fisheries industry.
Video excerpt from Science and the Plastics Problem, directed by Shirley Horrocks and produced by Point of View Productions. The full documentary can be viewed here.