Plastic debris in the Mediterranean Sea: Types, occurrence and distribution along Adriatic shorelines

Small plastic debris in sediments from five beaches were investigated to evaluate their occurrence and abundance in the Northern Adriatic coast for the first time. Plastic debris extracted from sediments were counted, weighted and identified by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). A total of 1345 items of debris (13.491 g) were recorded, with a mean density of 12.1 items kg−1 d.w. and 0.12 g kg−1 d.w. Fragments were the most frequent type of small plastics debris detected. In terms of abundance, microplastics (<5 mm) accounted for 61% of debris, showing their wide distribution on Adriatic coasts, even far-away from densely populated areas. The majority of the polymers found were polyolefins: there were greater quantities of polyethylene and polypropylene compared to other types of plastic. Primary microplastics accounted for only 5.6% of the total plastic debris. There were greater quantities of microplastics at sites subjected to stronger riverine runoff. The results will provide useful background information for further investigations to understand the sink and sources of this emergent and priority contaminant.

Cristina Munari, Marco Scoponi, Michele Mistri, Waste Management, Vol. 67, September 2017

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