Large microplastic particles in sediments of tributaries of the River Thames, UK – Abundance, sources and methods for effective quantification

Sewage effluent input and population were chosen as predictors of microplastic presence in sediments at four sites in the River Thames basin (UK). Large microplastic particles (1 mm–4 mm) were extracted using a stepwise approach to include visual extraction, flotation and identification using Raman spectroscopy. Microplastics were found at all four sites. One site had significantly higher numbers of microplastics than other sites, average 66 particles 100 g− 1, 91% of which were fragments. This site was downstream of a storm drain outfall receiving urban runoff; many of the fragments at this site were determined to be derived of thermoplastic road-surface marking paints. At the remaining three sites, fibres were the dominant particle type. The most common polymers identified included polypropylene, polyester and polyarylsulphone. This study describes two major new findings: presence of microplastic particles in a UK freshwater system and identification of road marking paints as a source of microplastics.

Alice A. Horton, Claus Svendsen, Richard J. Williams, David J. Spurgeon, Elma Lahive, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 114, Issue 1, 15 January 2017, Pages 218–226

The article

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