The main difference between nano- and microplastics is the respective size range. Microplastics are exclusively composed of polymers such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate), PP (polypropylene), PE (polyethylene) and comprise a group of larger particles up to 5 µm in size. An agreed definition of microplastics does not exist yet. Primary microplastics describe all industrially manufactured products e.g. for cosmetics, detergents or drug carriers in medicine. However, the majority is represented by secondary microplastics, which is created in the environment by the fragmentation of plastic waste. By further fragmentation eventually also nanoplastic is formed.
Microplastics is currently being discussed as having potential harmful effects on the environment. Various bodies at national and European level are intensively studying this issue. Studies have confirmed the formation of a nanoscale plastic fraction under environmental conditions but there are currently no studies on their possible negative effects on fauna and flora.
For nanomaterials on the other hand, a definition already exists. Their compositions are not restricted to plastic polymers, but also include metals or carbon-based materials. Thank to extensive research during the last year, knowledge on the possible effects of nanomaterials on humans and the environment has been generated.
Research Activities on the topic microplastics: