Synthetic shorelines in New Zealand? Quantification and characterisation of microplastic pollution on Canterbury’s coastlines

Microplastics are persistent environmental contaminants found in marine environments worldwide. Microplastic particles isolated from coastlines in the Canterbury region of New Zealand were quantified and characterised. Sediment samples were collected from 10 locations representing exposed-beach, estuarine and harbour environments in both urban and non-urban settings. Particles were isolated from sediments using an NaCl density-separation procedure and quantified and characterised with a combination of optical/fluorescence imaging and micro-Raman spectroscopy. Microplastics were detected at eight out of 10 locations, at concentrations ranging from 0–45.4 particles kg−1 of dry sediment. The majority of microplastics were identified as polystyrene (55%), polyethylene (21%) and polypropylene (11%). Microplastic concentrations in exposed-beach environments were significantly greater than in harbour and estuarine environments.

PJ Clunies-Ross, GPS Smith, KC Gordon, S Gaw, New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, Volume 50, Issue 2, pages 317-325, 2016

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