Fionn Ferreira is a 19 year-old scientist and engineer who is passionate about finding a way to combat microplastics. He grew up in West Cork, Ireland, a very remote region surrounded by the stunning Irish landscape and scenery. When Fionn saw plastic pollution increase on the seashore, a determination was sparked within him to strive to come up with ways to combat it.
Fionn developed a non-harmful way to extract these microplastics from water using vegetable oil and rust powder, building his own equipment to measure results. Fionn was Grand prize global winner of the Google Science Fair 2019 and award winner at the Intel International Science and Engineering fair.
Fionn is currently working with a US-based engineering firm to build a prototype for his extraction equipment, which he is aiming to have implemented in wastewater treatment and shipping in the future.
Here's Why We're On The Case ...
I don't like eating my trash, and I would wager that none of the other species on Earth want to eat my trash either. It's going to get harder to avoid - it's widely reported that by 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish!
Why Microplastics Matter
What Are They?
The term ‘microplastics’ is widely used to describe plastic particles ranging from 1 nanometer to 5 millimeters in size. They come from a variety of sources, including extremely small plastic pieces used in household products (like microbeads in toothpaste), clothing fibers (like polyester), and large plastic pieces that degrade into smaller fragments (referred to as secondary microplastics).
Where Are They?
Microplastics end up in almost all water systems in the world - streams, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Microplastics can accumulate in fish, birds and other marine life. Because they do not break down, the amount in the sea and fish will continue to accumulate, making the problem worse over time, until we manage to reduce the amount of plastic in the sea.
Toxins On Plastic
Microplastics can introduce other contaminants to foods. Persistent organic pollutants and other toxins in water can also be attracted to these particles. Once consumed by plankton, these contaminants are passed through the food chain to small fish and eventually to humans. While their impact on human health is currently debated, high volumes of microplastics in rats have been found to cause cancer.
You Eat Them
You eat thousands of bits of plastic every year. A recent study in the journal "Environmental Science and Technology" says it's possible that humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year. With added estimates of how much microplastic might be inhaled, that number is more than 74,000. That amount is roughly translated into eating one plastic credit card per week.