Characterization of microplastic and mesoplastic debris in sediments from Kamilo Beach and Kahuku Beach, Hawai’i

Sediment samples were collected from two Hawai’ian beaches, Kahuku Beach on O’ahu and Kamilo Beach on the Big Island of Hawai’i. A total of 48,988 large microplastic and small mesoplastic (0.5–8 mm) particles were handpicked from the samples and sorted into four size classes (0.5–1 mm, 1–2 mm, 2–4 mm, 4–8 mm) and nine color categories. For all sizes combined the most common plastic fragment color was white/transparent (71.8%) followed by blue (8.5%), green (7.5%), black/grey (7.3%), red/pink (2.6%), yellow (1.2%), orange (0.6%), brown (0.3%) and purple (0.2%). Color frequency distribution based on both numbers and mass of particles was not significantly different among the various size classes nor between the two beaches. White and black/grey resin pellets accounted for 11.3% of the particles collected from Kahuku Beach and 4.2% of the particles from Kamilo Beach. Plastic type based on Raman Spectrometer analysis of a small representative subsample indicated that most of the fragments were polyethylene and a few were polypropylene.

Alan M. Young, James A. Elliott, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 113, Issues 1–2, 15 December 2016, Pages 477–482

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