NEW! First round of Microplastics Interlaboratory Study launched March 2019


Microplastics are emerging environmental contaminants that pose growing concerns for the environment and potentially also human health. There is an urgent need to measure plastic particles of all sizes (nano to micro) for research purposes, and to provide high quality data on spatial and temporal trends of plastic particles in a wide range of sample matrices. However the environmental contaminant analysis community is challenged to provide such data. For example, the current lack of sufficient quality assurance and quality control (QAQC) tools such as interlaboratory studies and reference materials hinders comparable results between laboratories. The Dept. of Environment and Health of the Vrije Universiteit has recognized the need for an open interlaboratory study on plastic particles in a variety of sample matrices and teamed up with interlaboratory study provider QUASIMEME, NIVA and the NORMAN network to meet this need.

What are Microplastics?

Environmental Microdebris: Identification and quantification of plastic materials
Microplastics is a catch-all term for plastic particles <5 mm in size which originate from the set of over 5000 different plastic material grades on the past and present markets. Microbeads, nurdles and fragments of plastic materials make their way to the environment, the food chain, indoor air and presumably also human bodies as the unintended plastic microdebris of the global plastics production and consumption system. The plastic materials are themselves mixtures of any number of polymers, copolymers, chemical additives, non-intentionally added substances (NIAS), fillers and residual monomers. The size range of plastic particles of interest covers 6 orders of magnitude. Plastic particles in the nm to low micron range pose great analytical challenges.

International workshop kicked off a new QAQC initiative for microplastics

This initiative kicked off with an international workshop in the English language open to all interested technical experts from around the world, held in Amsterdam 27-28 November 2018. The intention of the workshop was to review analytical issues surrounding microplastics analysis and to gather input from the expert analytical community who are up for the analytical challenge that plastic particles present for the design of an interlaboratory study starting in 2019.

Microplastics Interlaboratory Study registration open from 14 March 2019 to 30 April 2019

For whom?
Academic, research, government and commercial analytical laboratories worldwide wishing to demonstrate their microplastic analysis proficiency and join an international network of laboratories with common goals. Laboratories measuring plastic particles in both the nano and micro size ranges using a range of sample preparation and analytical techniques are accommodated in this initiative.

Why participate?
Participation in interlaboratory studies is an important way that analytical laboratories can help assure the quality of their measurements. The approach taken here is to organize workshops to discuss study results among participants and learn how to improve performance throughout a series of analysis rounds of increasing complexity. Participation helps laboratories detect potential biases in their analytical results, uncertainties and sources of error.

Interlaboratory studies help labs demonstrate their proficiency and competence. For labs interested in (future) accreditation, proficiency testing is required. Participation in interlaboratory studies increase confidence in the data produced, both for the data producers and the data users. The consequences of errors in test results may be costly, especially compared to the low cost of participation in an interlaboratory study. Each participating laboratory is confidentially informed of their own results and receives a study report presenting the overall results among all the anonymized participating laboratories. Participants benefit from follow-up workshops in which the study results of the testing rounds are discussed in light of analytical performance of different methods used.

How to get involved?
Join our mailing list by sending an email to quasimeme@wur.nl. It is possible to register for the next round of the exercise.

Open and approachable community
If you have any questions, requests, suggestions for the exercises, or feedback please don’t hesitate to contact us! 

Additional information on what’s involved
Download information flyer Microplastics Interlaboratory study - first round
Email quasimeme@wur.nl


27-28 Nov 2018
First Workshop & Workshop Report
14 March 2019
Announcement and invitation first round
30 April  2019
Deadline for registration first round
21 May 2019
Dispatch of first round test materials to participating laboratories
15 August 2019
Deadline for returning results
30 Sept. 2019
Draft report first round
11 Nov. 2019
Final report first round and preparation of second round starts
June/Sept 2020
Second workshop expected, and 2 more rounds (dates TBA)


Date: 27 November 2018 (9:30-17:00) and 28 November 2018 (9:00 to 12:30)
Venue: Vrije Universiteit, O|2 Building, Auditorium, De Boelelaan 1108, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands O|2 building map and directions   
Download Analysis of Microplastics Workshop 2018 REPORT



Project coordinators at the VU:
Heather Leslie: heather.leslie@vu.nl
Louise van Mourik: l.m.van.mourik@vu.nl
Jacob de Boer: jacob.de.boer@vu.nl

QUASIMEME: quasimeme@wur.nl