Commenced in January 2007
Frequency: Monthly
Edition: International
Paper Count: 3

Microplastics Related Abstracts

3 Effects of Temperature and Mechanical Abrasion on Microplastics

Authors: N. Singh, G. K. Darbha


Since the last decade, a wave of research has begun to study the prevalence and impact of ever-increasing plastic pollution in the environment. The wide application and ubiquitous distribution of plastic have become a global concern due to its persistent nature. The disposal of plastics has emerged as one of the major challenges for waste management landfills. Microplastics (MPs) have found its existence in almost every environment, from the high altitude mountain lake to the deep sea sediments, polar icebergs, coral reefs, estuaries, beaches, and river, etc. Microplastics are fragments of plastics with size less than 5 mm. Microplastics can be classified as primary microplastics and secondary microplastics. Primary microplastics includes purposefully introduced microplastics into the end products for consumers (microbeads used in facial cleansers, personal care product, etc.), pellets (used in manufacturing industries) or fibres (from textile industries) which finally enters into the environment. Secondary microplastics are formed by disintegration of larger fragments under the exposure of sunlight, mechanical abrasive forces by rain, waves, wind and/or water. A number of factors affect the quantity of microplastic present in freshwater environments. In addition to physical forces, human population density proximal to the water body, proximity to urban centres, water residence time, and size of the water body also affects plastic properties. With time, other complex processes in nature such as physical, chemical and biological break down plastics by interfering with its structural integrity. Several studies demonstrate that microplastics found in wastewater sludge being used as manure for agricultural fields, thus having the tendency to alter the soil environment condition influencing the microbial population as well. Inadequate data are available on the fate and transport of microplastics under varying environmental conditions that are required to supplement important information for further research. In addition, microplastics have the tendency to absorb heavy metals and hydrophobic organic contaminants such as PAHs and PCBs from its surroundings and thus acting as carriers for these contaminants in the environment system. In this study, three kinds of microplastics (polyethylene, polypropylene and expanded polystyrene) of different densities were chosen. Plastic samples were placed in sand with different aqueous media (distilled water, surface water, groundwater and marine water). It was incubated at varying temperatures (25, 35 and 40 °C) and agitation levels (rpm). The results show that the number of plastic fragments enhanced with increase in temperature and agitation speed. Moreover, the rate of disintegration of expanded polystyrene is high compared to other plastics. These results demonstrate that temperature, salinity, and mechanical abrasion plays a major role in degradation of plastics. Since weathered microplastics are more harmful as compared to the virgin microplastics, long-term studies involving other environmental factors are needed to have a better understanding of degradation of plastics.

Keywords: temperature, Fragmentation, Environmental Contamination, Weathering, Microplastics

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2 Microplastics in Fish from Grenada, West Indies: Problems and Opportunities

Authors: Michelle E. Taylor, Clare E. Morrall


Microplastics are small particles produced for industrial purposes or formed by breakdown of anthropogenic debris. Caribbean nations import large quantities of plastic products. The Caribbean region is vulnerable to natural disasters and Climate Change is predicted to bring multiple additional challenges to island nations. Microplastics have been found in an array of marine environments and in a diversity of marine species. Occurrence of microplastic in the intestinal tracts of marine fish is a concern to human and ecosystem health as pollutants and pathogens can associate with plastics. Studies have shown that the incidence of microplastics in marine fish varies with species and location. Prevalence of microplastics (≤ 5 mm) in fish species from Grenadian waters (representing pelagic, semi-pelagic and demersal lifestyles) harvested for human consumption have been investigated via gut analysis. Harvested tissue was digested in 10% KOH and particles retained on a 0.177 mm sieve were examined. Microplastics identified have been classified according to type, colour and size. Over 97% of fish examined thus far (n=34) contained microplastics. Current and future work includes examining the invasive Lionfish (Pterois spp.) for microplastics, investigating marine invertebrate species as well as examining environmental sources of microplastics (i.e. rivers, coastal waters and sand). Owing to concerns of pollutant accumulation on microplastics and potential migration into organismal tissues, we plan to analyse fish tissue for mercury and other persistent pollutants. Despite having ~110,000 inhabitants, the island nation of Grenada imported approximately 33 million plastic bottles in 2013, of which it is estimated less than 5% were recycled. Over 30% of the imported bottles were ‘unmanaged’, and as such are potential litter/marine debris. A revised Litter Abatement Act passed into law in Grenada in 2015, but little enforcement of the law is evident to date. A local Non-governmental organization (NGO) ‘The Grenada Green Group’ (G3) is focused on reducing litter in Grenada through lobbying government to implement the revised act and running sessions in schools, community groups and on local media and social media to raise awareness of the problems associated with plastics. A local private company has indicated willingness to support an Anti-Litter Campaign in 2018 and local awareness of the need for a reduction of single use plastic use and litter seems to be high. The Government of Grenada have called for a Sustainable Waste Management Strategy and a ban on both Styrofoam and plastic grocery bags are among recommendations recently submitted. A Styrofoam ban will be in place at the St. George’s University campus from January 1st, 2018 and many local businesses have already voluntarily moved away from Styrofoam. Our findings underscore the importance of continuing investigations into microplastics in marine life; this will contribute to understanding the associated health risks. Furthermore, our findings support action to mitigate the volume of plastics entering the world’s oceans. We hope that Grenada’s future will involve a lot less plastic. This research was supported by the Caribbean Node of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter.

Keywords: Pollution, Microplastics, Caribbean, small island developing nation

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1 Applying Miniaturized near Infrared Technology for Commingled and Microplastic Waste Analysis

Authors: Monika Rani, Claudio Marchesi, Stefania Federici, Laura E. Depero


Degradation of the aquatic environment by plastic litter, especially microplastics (MPs), i.e., any water-insoluble solid plastic particle with the longest dimension in the range 1µm and 1000 µm (=1 mm) size, is an unfortunate indication of the advancement of the Anthropocene age on Earth. Microplastics formed due to natural weathering processes are termed as secondary microplastics, while when these are synthesized in industries, they are called primary microplastics. Their presence from the highest peaks to the deepest points in oceans explored and their resistance to biological and chemical decay has adversely affected the environment, especially marine life. Even though the presence of MPs in the marine environment is well-reported, a legitimate and authentic analytical technique to sample, analyze, and quantify the MPs is still under progress and testing stages. Among the characterization techniques, vibrational spectroscopic techniques are largely adopted in the field of polymers. And the ongoing miniaturization of these methods is on the way to revolutionize the plastic recycling industry. In this scenario, the capability and the feasibility of a miniaturized near-infrared (MicroNIR) spectroscopy combined with chemometrics tools for qualitative and quantitative analysis of urban plastic waste collected from a recycling plant and microplastic mixture fragmented in the lab were investigated. Based on the Resin Identification Code, 250 plastic samples were used for macroplastic analysis and to set up a library of polymers. Subsequently, MicroNIR spectra were analysed through the application of multivariate modelling. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) was used as an unsupervised tool to find trends within the data. After the exploratory PCA analysis, a supervised classification tool was applied in order to distinguish the different plastic classes, and a database containing the NIR spectra of polymers was made. For the microplastic analysis, the three most abundant polymers in the plastic litter, PE, PP, PS, were mechanically fragmented in the laboratory to micron size. The distinctive arrangement of blends of these three microplastics was prepared in line with a designed ternary composition plot. After the PCA exploratory analysis, a quantitative model Partial Least Squares Regression (PLSR) allowed to predict the percentage of microplastics in the mixtures. With a complete dataset of 63 compositions, PLS was calibrated with 42 data-points. The model was used to predict the composition of 21 unknown mixtures of the test set. The advantage of the consolidated NIR Chemometric approach lies in the quick evaluation of whether the sample is macro or micro, contaminated, coloured or not, and with no sample pre-treatment. The technique can be utilized with bigger example volumes and even considers an on-site evaluation and in this manner satisfies the need for a high-throughput strategy.

Keywords: Chemometrics, Microplastics, microNIR, urban plastic waste

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