NYK has donated a Raman microscope capable of analyzing ultra-fine microplastics* to the Chiba Institute of Technology, which has been jointly conducting surveys of microplastics in oceans since 2020. A ceremony recognizing the gift was held on January 24.
The Raman microscope will enable the world’s most advanced research toward fundamental solutions to the problem of microplastics.
As much as 8 million tons of microplastics is dumped into our oceans every year, and as it becomes finer, it can have a negative impact on ecosystems, including the oceans.
The international community has agreed to establish a legally binding international treaty to stop environmental pollution caused by plastics, and intergovernmental negotiations have already begun. However, since actual measurement data to determine the status of microplastic pollution in the ocean is scarce, surveys targeting ultra-fine microplastics will be necessary in the future.
Since 2020, NYK and CIT have been engaged in oceanographic surveys covering the entire ocean to determine the distribution of marine plastics, mainly microplastics smaller than 5 millimeters.
Samples of microplastics taken by NYK operated vessels have so far been collected at over 150 locations and analyzed by the Kameda Lab at CIT. The data has subsequently been used to create a worldwide microplastic map, which has been made public on the lab’s website.
At the same time, the Kameda Lab has established the world’s first automated analysis method for ultra-fine microplastics using the Raman microscope.
Purpose of Donation
A Raman microscope can be used to irradiate a sample with a laser to examine the type and state of a substance from the generated scattered light. This is known as Raman spectroscopy and can determine the chemical structure of a substance from the wavelength of that light.
The introduction of the Raman microscope is essential for the analysis of ultrafine microplastics. NYK aims to be the first in the world to publish the actual measurement data obtained through research performed using the Raman microscope.
Microplastics seen through the Raman microscope
NYK will continue to use its vessels for microplastic sampling, expand the survey area, and work to establish a survey method that targets even ultra-fine microplastics. NYK will also contribute to the international community by providing the results as measured data that will directly lead to fundamental solutions to the problem of microplastics.
On February 3, 2021, NYK released the NYK Group ESG Story, which aims to further integrate ESG into the company’s management strategy and promotes activities that contribute to the achievement of the SDGs through business activities. On March 24, 2022, NYK released the updated NYK Group ESG Story 2022, which introduces initiatives for integrating ESG into the Group’s management strategies set forth in the “NYK Group ESG Story” and provides a partial explanation of the Group’s sustainable growth strategy from a long-term perspective.
We believe that addressing marine plastic pollution is an issue that we should tackle as a way of giving back to our oceans. The NYK Group will continue to embody its corporate philosophy of contributing to the realization of a better global society by proactively addressing social issues as a good corporate citizen.
* Ultra-fine microplastics
Microplastics smaller than about 20 micrometers (20 micrometers = 0.02 millimeters)