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Federal funding program aims to increase knowledge of plastic pollution

November 13, 2020  By Ground Water Canada

The Increasing Knowledge on Plastic Pollution Initiative is a funding program through the federal government to support scientific research projects that address some of the knowledge gaps identified in the Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution and the implementation of Canada’s Plastic Science Agenda by improving the information base for assessing the risk of plastic pollution.

In 2020, a total of $2,256,554 in funding was divided between 16 scientific research projects. Each project will be funded until March 31, 2022. The majority of this year’s projects focus on the impact of microplastic on human and animal health, a key knowledge gap identified in the Science Assessment.

The IKPP aims to increase scientific capacity, leverage collaborative partnerships, and generate knowledge specifically related to human health impacts and ecotoxicology of plastics in Canada. IKPP also supports Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda, which identifies priority research needs to inform Canada’s zero plastic waste agenda.


Approved projects

  • Concordia University Concordia University will study the distribution of microplastics and flame retardants in nearshore aquatic environments, and examine their combined toxicity for planktons and potential subsequent impacts on food chains. $158,292
  • University of Toronto The University of Toronto will measure the occurrence of microplastics in various drinking water sources in Canada and investigate the potential human health threats posed, looking particularly at how microplastics can alter the formation and composition of biofilms in drinking water infrastructure (i.e., multi-layered groups of micro-organisms that can, when found in drinking water pipes, negatively impact human health). $148,958
  • University of Toronto The University of Toronto will evaluate the how plastics additives may leach from microplastics in aquatic environments and will run laboratory and field experiments to quantify the effects of microplastics, additives, and the two combined to help tease apart the role of additives in microplastic toxicity in fish. $147,581
  • Université du Québec à Rimouski L’Université du Québec à Rimouski will look at how to artificially weather microplastics to ensure that those being used in experimental studies are representative of plastics found in the environment. They will also look at the ability of different types of microplastics to absorb toxic metals and act as vectors to expose mussels to these contaminants. $152,829
  • University of Alberta The University of Alberta in Edmonton will work on developing a model that could be used to predict interactions between plastics and organic contaminants that lead to co-contaminant transport and can potentially increase toxicity in exposed aquatic organisms. This study will look also look into cellular level biological effects in fish. $159,117
  • University of Regina The University of Regina and collaborators will develop baseline microplastics data for Saskatchewan, similar to what exits for the Great Lakes and their surrounding watersheds. They will also look at the effects caused by the combination of microplastics and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). $159,144
  • Carleton University Carleton University will generate experimental data on insect ingestion of microplastics to determine what levels of ingested plastics impair growth, survival and reproduction, and will develop new methods to determine how these effects are caused. $132,482
  • Carleton University Carleton University will study microplastics in agro-ecosystems. They will also focus on microplastics that enter soil ecosystems through municipal biosolids, the impacts on soil organisms, and how we can minimize transport of microplastics into aquatic ecosystems, via agricultural runoff. $152,391
  • McGill University McGill University will investigate the impact of nanoplastic fragments, derived from tire wear debris, on aquatic organisms. Their work will build on previous scientific findings by using new methods to investigate the degree to which nanoplastics and chemicals from tire wear impact organisms along an aquatic food chain. $164,631
  • Queens University Queens University will perform novel experiments to understand how microplastic pollution impacts the aquatic and terrestrial life stages of Canadian frogs, providing much needed information on how plastics may move between freshwater and terrestrial environments. $138,607
  • Ocean Wise The Ocean Wise Research Institute Plastics Lab will investigate the impacts of microplastic fibres on native zooplankton found on the coast of British Columbia, and will run a pilot experiment to compare their gathered data with existing field data to further determine how microplastic fibres can disturb ecosystems. $152,111
  • University of Windsor The University of Windsor will study what concentrations of microplastics in soil disrupt the delicate interactions between plant roots, soil, and soil microbes that can have important influence of agricultural crop yields. $164,126
  • University of Guelph The University of Guelph will assess whether different types, sizes, and mixtures of microplastics founds in Canada’s surface waters cause harm to the health of a variety of freshwater species. $148,345
  • Lakehead University Lakehead University will investigate the impacts of environmentally relevant microplastic types and concentrations and their chemical additives on the early development and survivability of egg and larval life stages of Lake Trout. $56,221
  • University of British-Colombia The University of British-Colombia will study microplastics in freshwater lakes in BC, as well as the impacts of microplastics on zooplankton health. In particular, the study will look at whether warming environments, impacted by climate change, can influence the toxicity of microplastics, and the resiliency of organisms. $64,162
  • Ryerson University Ryerson University will research how common consumer plastics degrade and transform in freshwater environments typical in Canada’s Great Lakes, and then investigate how some of the smallest microplastics interact with mammalian cells. $157,557

The Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution confirms that plastic pollution is everywhere in the environment, including on shorelines and in surface waters, sediment, soil, groundwater, indoor and outdoor air, drinking water, and food.

Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution

The Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution summarizes the available scientific information regarding the impact of plastic pollution on the environment and human health. It confirms that plastic pollution is everywhere in the environment, including on shorelines and in surface waters, sediment, soil, groundwater, indoor and outdoor air, drinking water, and food. It also shows that larger plastic items, such as plastic bags, can physically harm animals and negatively affect their habitat. The assessment also recommends additional research to address the knowledge gaps identified by the report. The government has therefore committed to further investments in research that will help expand our understanding of the impacts of plastic.

Following a public comment period, the federal government published the Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution on Oct. 7, 2020.

Canada Plastic Science Agenda

Canada Plastic Science Agenda highlights priority research areas to strengthen the evidence base for decisions and help build a circular plastics economy that protects the environment and human health. It is a reflection of discussions held with a wide range of partners, including science and policy experts from government and non-government organizations.

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