Modelling microplastics in aquatic environments

This project aimed to develop a general-purpose open-source modeling platform to synthesize knowledge and understanding of the fate of microplastics in the environment.

Organized by Cefic

Researchers / Institutional Affiliations

Principal Investigator

  • Matthew MacLeod
    Stockholm University


  • Dr. Antonia Praetorius
    University of Amsterdam
    (The Netherlands)
  • Dr. Prado Domercq
    Stockholm University
  • Dr. Sam Harrison
    Lancaster Environment Centre


October 2021 to September 2024

Additional Information

The UTOPIA project set out to develop a global, open-source multimedia modeling platform to synthesize information on the environmental fate of microplastics. The platform is intended to:

  • Describe fate processes for microplastic with reference equations, including:
    • Movement between air, freshwater rivers and lakes and their underlying sediment, coastal marine areas and urban, agricultural and background soils
    • Fragmentation into smaller plastic particles
    • Association of microplastic and organic matter due to biofouling and aggregation
    • Chemical degradation into small organic molecules that do not have characteristics of plastics and can be biodegraded
  • Offer a user-friendly interface to allow non-experts to extract data on items of interest
  • Include a generic database of microplastic properties (such as size, density and shape), enabling the model’s use for scenario analysis
  • Have a modular design so that expert users can further develop and update the model
  • Provide a reference modeling platform for screening-level risk assessment, calculation of hazard indicators, and identification of knowledge gaps and drivers of uncertainty. This will support hypothesis generation for environmental monitoring and process studies

More detail is available here.

Professional Presentations

del Prado Domercq M, MacLeod M, Praetorius A, Harrison S. UTOPIA: Advancing Microplastic Understanding Through-Based Mass-Balance Modeling. SETAC Europe 2024. Available May 2024.

Published Papers

MacLeod M, Domercq P, Harrison S, Praetorius A. Computational models to confront the complex pollution footprint of plastic in the environment. Nature Computational Science, 2023, 3, 486-494. DOI: 10.1038/s43588-023-00445-y. Available May 2024.