The most beautiful sea has become the third most polluted with plastic: Here’s what you can do to save the Adriatic

18. February 2021. VeeMee

The most beautiful sea has become the third most polluted with plastic

Almost 88 million tonnes of food end up as waste in the EU every year. Of the 8,300 million tons of plastic, only 9% is recycled. Find out how we can all change that in the exclusive NET ZERO special.

Dajana Kučić Grgić, docentica Fakulteta kemijskog inženjerstva i tehnologije i članica znanstvenog tima koji istražuje utjecaj mikroplastike
Dajana Kučić Grgić, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology and a member of the scientific team researching the impact of microplastics

Sustainable development creates economic growth. Up to 90% of the investments needed to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement will return to us in the form of new business, growth in value and saving of existing resources. But in order to achieve them, the key role is played by the application of the latest technologies, concluded the research of the Boston Consulting Group. By joining the UN Global Compact A1 initiative, Croatia recognizes the opportunities in dealing with climate change and wants to show that companies can also be drivers of positive change. It has therefore committed itself to achieving full carbon independence by 2030. A1 Croatia as a technological leader wants to encourage green changes in Croatia and therefore declares NET ZERO ERU.

The world has so far produced 8,300 million tons of new plastic, of which as many as 6,300 million tons have already ended up as waste. As much as 79 percent of that plastic is disposed of in landfills. Only 9 percent was recycled and 12 percent burned. Disposable plastics today make up more than half of the waste in the seas around the planet and it is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in them than fish. But the biggest problem is no longer recognizable pieces of plastic on the bottom or surface, but tiny plastic particles, less than 5 millimeters, which make the Adriatic Sea one of the most polluted in Europe.

“Microplastics are ubiquitous in the environment, both in the seas and oceans and in rivers, lakes, wastewater, sediment and soil. Currently, most research is related to the presence of microplastics in the seas and oceans. Plastics and microplastics are as much as 60 to 80 percent of marine litter. in some areas up to 95 percent, ”explains Dr. Sc. Dajana Kučić Grgić, assistant professor at the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology in Zagreb and a member of the scientific team that researches the impact of microplastics on environmental organisms and works on its removal from the environment.

The most beautiful sea has become the third most polluted with plastic

Each of us produces more than 400 pounds of waste per year. And a significant source of microplastic pollution are products used daily for personal care. Toothpaste, shampoos and soaps contain a significant proportion of microplastics. Last year’s research showed that 1,500 tons of microplastics from personal care products end up in nature every year, through wastewater. Due to the fact that a large amount of treated and untreated wastewater is discharged globally, and only 60% of municipal wastewater is treated, a large amount of microplastics enters the environment during the discharge of municipal wastewater.

According to research from the DeFishGear project, the Adriatic Sea is, according to the amount and presence of plastic waste, the most polluted in Europe, after the northeastern part of the Mediterranean and Celtic Seas. Previous tests have shown that high concentrations of microplastics are present in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea, with an average value of 406,000 particles per square kilometer.

“Studies have shown that 160 marine and 39 freshwater organisms can ingest microplastics into the digestive system, after which the particles reach other tissues and organs. Over time, microplastics release various additives that are added to pure plastic materials to modify properties during processing and improve properties of finished plastic products, such as phthalates, formaldehyde and bisphenol A, which have been shown to have a detrimental effect on human health, as well as various harmful substances such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals and heavy metals, which are found in both water and soil effect, and ultimately harmful substances can be desorbed in the body and have reproductively toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic effects. Microplastics pose a danger to the entire ecosystem, “warns doc. dr. sc. Kucic Grgic.

Plankton will eat a particle of microplastic, a smaller fish will eat plankton, a larger one will eat a smaller one and then end up on the plate of a person who is extremely happy because he thinks he is eating healthy. Research has already shown how microplastics have reached the human digestive system. A recent study, published in January this year, revealed the discovery of microplastic particles even in a woman’s reproductive system. Particles the size of 5 to 10 micrometers were located in the placenta of the uterus, where they could potentially harm the development of the embryo.

In addition to microplastics, an additional challenge is nanoplastics, which apply to particles smaller than 1 micrometer. “It is often difficult to figure out whether only microplastics are present in a sample of water, soil and sediment, or nanoplastics make up one part. However, we can say with certainty that microplastics will surely turn into nanoplastics if we do not take care of it in the meantime,” explains doc. dr. sc. Kučić Grgić adds that the main challenge when it comes to nanoplastics is precisely its more toxic effect on organisms compared to microplastics.

Her team’s latest research has focused on determining the ecotoxicity of different types of microplastics on bacteria, yeasts, freshwater algae and zebrafish. The first results of the four-year project, which began at the end of 2019, have already been sent to internationally recognized journals and presented at national and international congresses.

“We found that the higher the particle size and the higher the concentration of microplastics, the higher the toxicity. In addition, high concentrations of algae have a shading effect, which means lower permeability to sunlight. Therefore, impaired permeability of algae cannot perform normally. photosynthesis, as a result of which water is depleted of oxygen, and the quality of the environment is endangered “, points out doc. dr. sc. Kučić Grgić also notes that they have already started the second phase of the research.

In this phase of research, their goal is to accelerate the biodegradation of microplastics by biostimulation and bioaugmentation of indigenous microorganisms into an aqueous medium.

“We isolated and identified microorganisms from three environmental media that we knew contained microplastics: Kupa river sediment, activated sludge from Vrgorac municipal water treatment plant and compost obtained by composting activated sludge and biowaste in our Institute. Each experiment lasts at least 45 days , which is the period within which we are sure that biodegradation occurs. The question that remains is how we can further accelerate these processes, for example by a combination of physico-chemical processes, which is the goal of the third phase of research, “explains doc. dr. sc. Kučić Grgić, whose team at the Department of Industrial Ecology is working on the project in parallel with two other teams at the Faculty. More than 20 scientists from Croatia, Austria and the Czech Republic are participating in the project. Their aim is to develop analytical methods for monitoring microplastics, to determine its ecotoxicity and to examine environmentally friendly processes by which it can be removed from the environment.

Recycling and reducing plastic waste is a priority in the EU: by 2025, members must halve the use of plastic cutlery and plastic beverage cups and collect 90 percent of plastic drinking bottles separately. In Croatia, a deposit system of a return fee of HRK 0.50 has been operating for more than 12 years. Analyzes have shown that such a system gives the best results with a high collection rate, but also quality raw materials that can be further used in production. One of the best examples is Zlarin, which is being transformed into the first Croatian island without disposable plastic. The initiative, launched by Ana Robb, Natasa Kandijas and Ivana Kordic, was supported by the local community.

The World Economic Forum estimates that the circular economy represents a business potential of $ 4.5 trillion, but only 9 percent of the global economy is circular. Smart use of resources and business models that do not depend on the extraction of natural capital represent a large untapped area for new growth models. New business models like renting products instead of buying, hence the sharing economy, have already experienced great success.

“For a complete packaging waste management system, it is necessary to encourage innovation and the use of new technologies that facilitate the recycling and recovery of plastics and create value from it after the initial use,” says doc. dr. sc. Kucic Grgic.

Illustration 1


A discarded plastic bottle in nature is a record holder with more than 400 years needed to decompose. The can will decompose within 200 years, and the metal can or glass made of styrofoam in 50 years. It takes up to five years to decompose a cigarette filter in nature, cardboard decomposes in two months, and tissue paper in up to a month. That is why more and more fans of the Zero Waste movement, whose principles are:

1. refuse to buy products with unnecessary or non-recyclable packaging

2. Reduce / reduce the purchase of everything you don’t really need

3. reuse / reuse anything that can be repaired, repurposed or can be used by someone after us

4. rot / compost all biological waste that can serve as fertilizer

5. Recycle what is left after fulfilling the first four principles.

The most beautiful sea has become the third most polluted with plastic - innovations
Illustration 2


1. Your own coffee cup is the best choice for those who buy coffee on vending machines or order it on the go, to get all the disposable plastic and paper cups out of their everyday lives.

2. Once you’ve consumed it, don’t go back to plastic and unsustainable products in the kitchen. Replace sponges with dishwashing brushes that are long lasting and healthier. Replace the plastic and aluminum foil with a wax wrapper. Replace plastic food bags with glass boxes or reusable zippered bags. Discard paper towels and use only kitchen towels or cloth towels. Forget baking paper and try silicone baking pads.

3. Do the same in the bathroom. The next comb or hairbrush, as well as the toothbrush, should be made of bamboo, which is biodegradable. You can replace the toilet brush in the same way. Replace wipes for personal hygiene and cleaning with cloth towels. And, perhaps most importantly, whenever you can, buy soap, shampoo and conditioner in solid form or cubes without packaging.

4. Cross disposable straws forever. Numerous alternatives are available, from reusable metal straws to those made of bamboo. And always remember to emphasize in cafes, bars and restaurants that you don’t want a straw in your drink.

5. Replace disposable paper products that you cannot completely dispose of, such as toilet paper, with recycled ones.

6. Tea bags cannot, unfortunately, be recycled, so choose tea in bulk. Anyone who likes to drink coffee from capsule machines can easily replace disposable ones with reusable capsules. More and more brands have made this transition easier for customers, so they offer packs of ground coffee to refill reusable capsules.

7. You can find reusable bags for fresh produce in the vegetable and fruit department stores. Take the packaging and keep those bags in a canvas bag you put next to the entrance or in your bag and forget about lettuce, tomatoes, apples and oranges in plastic bags forever.

The most beautiful sea has become the third most polluted with plastic - innovation
Illustration 3


The World Economic Forum predicts that ten areas of technological progress will enable the transformation of the circular economy.

1. Infrastructure: investment and construction of more durable and high-quality infrastructure, both physical and digital, is a necessary foundation for a sustainable and circular economy.

2. Digital communications: will play a major role in creating a secure infrastructure for citizens and organizations transitioning to new business models of the circular economy.

3. The future of mobility: the world is already at an early stage of a complete transformation of mobility, which will become smarter, cleaner and more inclusive.

4. The digital economy and creating new value: 70% of the new value that will emerge in the next decade will be based on business models of digital platforms.

5. Advanced production: the next stage of production is the creation of complete services, not products, which will make new and innovative approaches and production systems that include discoveries in computing, sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, mobile connectivity and advanced materials more important role.

6. Aviation: Experts predict an increasing integration of drones, which use energy from renewable sources, in the air transport of people and goods and in surveillance, from agriculture to scientific research.

7. The fourth industrial revolution: the merging of the physical, digital and biological represents a time of re-examining the success so far, but also the failures, and never finding an easier solution.

8. The Internet of Things: connected smart devices are the basis for process optimization in all parts of the economy, from public services to home comfort and innovation.

9. Artificial intelligence: design of circular products, components and materials and the provision of a structure for dynamic pricing, service sharing systems such as car-sharing and detection of potential for greater efficiency.

10. The future of computing: from large warehouses and rooms in basements, computers have passed into the hands of people sitting for coffee, walking down the street or traveling by train, and with the development of quantum computing and artificial neurons computers have the opportunity to become an almost invisible and even more efficient part of our daily lives.

The most beautiful sea has become the third most polluted - artificial intelligence
Illustration 4


1. Clothes that grow with children

Former aeronautical engineer Ryan Mario Yasin, founder of the Petit Pli brand, which produces clothes that grow along with children, wants to make a complete transformation in the fashion industry. All clothing they produce is made from recycled fabrics and monofilament construction, which are responsible for the growth and narrowing of clothing according to the size of the child and allow easy recycling at the end of use. One T-shirt or pair of pants captures a range of seven traditional sizes that children go through during the first two years of life. Petit Pli has won numerous global awards and recognitions, such as the Global Change Award and Red Dot.

2. Smart panels like the lungs of the city

The key to a circular and sustainable economy is innovation, which turns waste into raw material. NUOTWO is a Croatian startup and the winner of the acceleration program for entrepreneurs Startup Factory from 2019. The founders of the startup, Iva Soža and Marko Brkljačić, designed smart panels that convert carbon dioxide and methane, the two most abundant greenhouse gases in the air, into biomass and fresh air. They are intended to be placed on the interior walls of buildings to primarily filter the air in interior spaces such as commercial or commercial buildings. Biomass produced as a by-product can be used as a dietary supplement, animal feed and fuel.

3. Digital platforms for monitoring food sources

Nearly 88 million tonnes of food ends up as waste in the European Union each year, and globally it is estimated that at least a third of all food produced in the world does not reach consumers. Therefore, great hope is placed in digital technological solutions that can identify the main steps in which we lose large amounts of food, and also confirm where they really come from. An example of such a solution is the Croatian platform VeeMee of the eponymous startup founded by Marko Kozjak and Nikola Vida. Their platform offers users an easy overview of basic product information in the store by scanning the QR code on the packaging. To date, they have saved 750 tons of food from being thrown away.

The most beautiful sea has become the third most polluted - sustainability
Illustration 5


The world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative

1. Lush, a leader in sustainable packaging according to the 2020 Sustainability Awards

A brand that has built its global story from the beginning on the values ​​of sustainable and environmentally conscious business. The business principles that Lush is guided by are the fight against animal testing, ethical buying, 100% vegetarian products, handmade products and the sale of packaged products only if otherwise not feasible. To encourage its customers and create a recycling habit, Lush encourages customers with gift products to return used packaging, increasing the share of recycled packaging by 17% annually.

Key goals: 100% recycled paper, 100% reusable and biodegradable packaging, constant packaging innovation.

2. IBM, one of the most ethical companies according to the Ethisphere Institute

For two years in a row, the Ethisphere Institute has named IBM one of the most ethical companies in the world. During 2019, IBM implemented 1,660 energy projects in more than 200 locations around the world to achieve annual savings of 136,000 megawatts. In the same year, the company participated in the launch of the Climate Leadership Council with the mission of realizing the carbon tax as the most politically and economically effective solution in the fight against climate change.

Key goals: reduction of CO₂ emissions by 40% by 2025, 55% of energy from renewable sources by 2025.

3. A1 Croatia, member of the UN Global Compact initiative

At the end of last year, the leading technology leader and provider of the best mobile network in Croatia signed the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, which includes more than 12,000 companies from more than 160 countries around the world.

Key goals: full carbon neutrality by 2030, development of smart solutions to achieve a green economy, digitization and education of children and parents on Internet security.

In accordance with the European Green Plan, A1 Croatia invests in environmentally friendly technologies and encourages innovation. This year, the company is also switching to green energy with the goal of reducing its carbon footprint to complete neutrality in 2023. Among its users, A1 Croatia promotes the circular economy and encourages them to reduce their impact on the environment, enabling them to responsibly dispose of their old mobile devices in any of its branches. He has established cooperation with companies that take over such waste and recycle it. This way, users can be sure that the phone, which has been in their drawer for years and they did not know what to take care of with it, will also help to preserve the environment. Exactly in 2021, A1 Croatia plans to dedicate even more to raising awareness on this topic.

Find out more!

The sponsored contribution was made in accordance with the highest professional standards in the production of Native Ad Studio Hanza Media and A1 Croatia, in cooperation with the agency for premium content and technology 01 Content & Technology – C3 Croatia.

Sources: National Geographic, How People Make Only a Jar of Trash a Year, 2018; WEF Intelligence, 2020; Sun et al, Incidence of microplastics in personal care products: An appreciable part of plastic pollution, 2020; WEF, The world’s economy is only 9% circular. We must be bolder about saving resources, 2019; Kraak et al., Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends , 2012; Geyer et al., Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made, 2017; Bule et al., Mikroplastika u morskom okolišu Jadrana, 2020; Ragusa et al., Plasticenta: First evidence of microplastics in human placenta, 2021


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