Microplastic resin pellets on an urban tropical beach in Colombia

Microplastics are a problem in oceans worldwide. The current situation in Latin America is not well known. This paper reports, for the first time, the presence of microplastics on an urban Caribbean beach in Cartagena, Colombia. Pellet samples were collected from a tourist beach over a 5-month period covering both dry and rainy seasons. Pellets were classified by color and their surface analyzed by stereomicroscopy, and some were characterized by infrared spectroscopy. The most abundant pellets were white, presenting virgin surfaces, with few signs of oxidation. This is congruent with a short residence time in the marine environment and primary sources possibly located nearby. The frequency of white pellets did not change with sampling period. Surface features identified in the pellets included cracks, material loss, erosion, adhesion, granulation, color change, and glazed surfaces. Reticulated granular pellets exhibited the greatest degradation, easily generating submicroplastics. Sample composition was mostly polyethylene, followed by polypropylene. This pollution problem must be addressed by responsible authorities to avoid pellet deposition in oceans and on beaches around the world.

Isabel Acosta-Coley, Jesus Olivero-Verbel, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, June 2015, 187:435

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