What do plastic, visits, and cold water have in common?

February 1, 2019
By: 
Daryl McCartney

Currently on research leave from the University of Alberta, Dr. Daryl McCartney will be a Visiting Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University (RRU) from January to August 2019. Dr. McCartney’s general interests align well with those of RRU, namely, sustainability, environmental assessment, and waste management. 

During his visit, Dr. McCartney will develop a research collaboration with Dr. Matt Dodd.  Dr. McCartney became interested in collaborating with Dr. Dodd while serving as the External Examiner on a Master’s Thesis authored by Ms. Marika Smith, who is now the Sustainable Waste Management Specialist at the City of Victoria. Marika successfully defended her thesis and graduated with a Master of Science Degree in Environment and Management from RRU in 2017. Marika’s research investigated impact of microplastics in composting environments. This is an emerging issue in municipal solid waste management and RRU is one of the first institutions to be investigating this issue. Microplastics are plastic particles that are smaller than 5 mm and are further classified as primary or secondary particles. Primary particles are manufactured new material such as pellets and microbeads, while secondary particles are larger particles that have undergone mechanical, photo-oxidation, or biological degradation. Microplastics have been identified as significant environmental contaminants in aqueous environments; however, little work has been done to investigate microplastics in terrestrial systems.  The health risks include negative impacts on terrestrial organisms and the potential to enter the human food chain.

Drs. Dodd and McCartney will work together to develop a better understanding of the risks posed by microplastics within organic waste recycling programs in municipalities. The purpose of the project is to characterize the quantity and type of microplastic in compost products produced from the organic fraction municipal solid waste, excluding biosolids (sewage sludge), with a specific emphasis on compost products produced from yardwaste or source separated organic (kitchen scrap) material.

A personal goal of Dr. McCartney’s is to take his daughters to all the national parks of Canada and the United States during his lifetime. His daughters are in their late 20’s now and it is getting harder to coordinate the family time; however, they have managed to make it to almost sixty parks – the latest being a two-week rafting trip down the Firth River in Ivvavik National Park in the north of the Yukon Territory, Canada. The photo above shows one of his daughters above the Firth River Canyon on the foothills of the British Mountains. The Firth is Canada’s oldest river and they traveled 130 km from Margaret Lake to the Arctic Ocean. Dr. McCartney fondly remembers their swim in the Arctic Ocean that consisted of building a very large bonfire, peeling off their clothes down to their swimsuits, running into and out of the ocean rather quickly after a quick soap and rinse; and then warming by the raging fire.  An interesting fact about Ivvavik National Park is that it was the first Canadian national park created as a result of an aboriginal land claims agreement.