Occurrence of Marine Litter in the Marine Environment: A World Panorama of Floating and Seafloor Plastics

The marine environment is directly linked to human life. Healthy oceans have always been important to mankind as all life depends on them. Nowadays, marine litter, mainly plastic, is found widespread in the environment, in all sea compartments, posing one of the major threats for the marine environment. To date, the fate of this litter is still questionable and the identification of areas where litter permanently accumulates is a major challenge.

In the present chapter, a world panorama is given in respect to the occurrence of floating and seafloor plastics. Information on floating micro-, meso-, and macro-plastics is given, as well as information on plastics of size bigger than 10 mm lying on the seafloor (shallow waters, continental shelf, deep-sea environments) of world’s seas.

Christos Ioakeimidis, François Galgani, George Papatheodorou, Chapter, Part of the series The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry pp 1-28, Date: 30 April 2017

The chapter

Additives and Chemicals in Plastics

Global production of plastics is clearly on the increase and plastic products have become an inextricable part of our everyday life. Over a short span of about 75 years plastics have penetrated diverse application areas replacing conventional materials quite successfully. Continued growth in production is expected in the medium term but questions on the sustainability of plastics are being raised. A key aspect of sustainability of plastics and rubber materials is their potential environmental toxicity and in particular human toxicity. Plastic resins, however, are nontoxic materials, composed of macromolecules that are neither digestible nor absorbable in the gut. Toxicity of plastics often observed is attributed to the numerous additives mixed in with the resin during processing and fabrication of products, the residual monomers, or catalysts trapped in the resin and the chemicals picked up by the plastics from the environment. Of these, the additives are present at the highest concentrations in plastic products. Knowing and evaluating the additives commonly used, their potential toxicity, and their intake routes to human users are essential for the sustainability of plastics.

Anthony L. Andrady, Nepali Rajapakse, Chapter, Part of the series The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry pp 1-17, Date: 22 April 2017

The chapter

Degradation of Various Plastics in the Environment

It is very important to understand the interaction between plastics and environment in ambient conditions. The plastics degrade because of this interaction and often their surface properties change resulting in the creation of new functional groups. The plastics after this change continue to interact with the environment and biota. It is a dynamic situation with continuous changing parameters. Polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) degrade through the mechanisms of photo-, thermal, and biodegradation. The three polymers degrade with different rates and different pathways. Under normal conditions, photo- and thermal degradation are similar. For polyethylene, photo-degradation results in sharper peaks in the bands which represent ketones, esters, acids, etc. on their infrared spectrum. The same is true for poly propylene but this polymer is more resistant to photo-degradation. The photo-oxidation of PET involves the formation of hydroperoxide species through oxidation of the CH2 groups adjacent to the ester linkages and the hydroperoxides species involving the formation of photoproducts through several pathways. For the three polymers, interaction with microbes and formation of biofilms are different. Generally, biodegradation results in the decrease of carbonyl indices if the sample has already been photo-degraded by exposure to UV. Studies with environmental samples agree with these findings but the degradation of plastics is very subjective to the local environmental conditions that are usually a combination of those simulated in laboratory conditions. For example, some studies suggested that fragmentation of plastic sheet by solar radiation can occur within months to a couple of years on beaches, whereas PET bottles stay intact over 15 years on sea bottoms.

Kalliopi N. Fotopoulou, Hrissi K. Karapanagioti, Chapter, Part of the series The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry, pp 1-22, Date: 13 April 2017

The chapter

Characterization and Analysis of Microplastics

This book aims to fulfill the gap on the existence of published analytical methodologies for the identification and quantification of microplastics. This overview includes the following main topics: introduction to the fate and behavior of microplastics in the environment, assessment of sampling techniques and sample handling, morphological, physical, and chemical characterization of microplastics, and the role of laboratory experiments in the validation of field data.

The characterization and analysis of microplastics is a hot topic considering the current need for reliable data on concentrations of microplastics in environmental compartments. This book presents a comprehensive overview of the analytical techniques and future perspectives of analytical methodologies in the field.

Comprehensive Analytical Chemistry, Volume 75, Pages 1-286 (2017), edited by Teresa A.P. Rocha-Santos and Armando C. Duarte, ISBN: 978-0-444-63898-4

The book

Nature of Plastic Marine Pollution in the Subtropical Gyres

The abundance and distribution of plastic debris in the marine environment show patterns of near- and offshore generation, migration toward and accumulation in the subtropical gyres, fragmentation, and redistribution globally. Ecological impacts in the subtropical gyres include invasive species transport and rampant ingestion and entanglement; yet plastics have also created substantial new habitat, resulting in population increases in some species. Though estimates of surface abundance and weight indicate over a quarter million tons and particle counts in the trillions, there is also a rapid removal of microplastics from the sea surface. Recent studies show widespread occurrence of these microplastics throughout the vertical column and in benthic and coastal sediments. It is likely that sedimentation is the ultimate fate for plastic lost at sea. Before microplastics sink, they likely cause significant impacts to marine food chains and ecosystems. In the open ocean, plastics are mingled with marine communities, making removal at sea prohibitive. This new understanding informs mitigation efforts to divert attention away from open-ocean cleanup. Similar to the way societies dealt with widely distributed particulate contamination in the air above cities, the “smog” of microplastics destined to pass through marine ecosystems before finally settling on the seafloor is best addressed with preventative measures.

Marcus Eriksen, Martin Thiel, Laurent Lebreton, Chapter, Part of the series The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry pp 1-28, Date: 11 February 2017

The chapter

Microplastic Pollutants [book]

Microplastic Pollutants introduces the reader to the growing problem of microplastic pollution in the aquatic environment and is the first ever book dedicated exclusively to the subject of microplastics. Importantly, this timely full-colour illustrated multidisciplinary book highlights the very recent realization that microplastics may transport toxic chemicals into food chains around the world.

Microplastic pollutants is currently an important topic in both industry and academia, as well as among legislative bodies, and research in this area is gaining considerable attention from both the worldwide media and scientific community on a rapidly increasing scale.

Ultimately, this book provides an excellent source of reference and information on microplastics for scientists, engineers, students, industry, policy makers and citizens alike.

  • A detailed chronological history of plastic materials from their creation until the present day
  • Extensive review and discussion of the existing literature on the interactions of microplastics with chemical pollutants and their effects on aquatic life
  • Explanation and provision of the techniques used for the detection, separation and identification of microplastics
  • Detailed multidisciplinary information on the way in which plastic materials and microplastics behave in the aquatic environment
  • The provision of extensive multidisciplinary reference data relating to plastic materials and microplastics

Christopher Crawford and Brian Quinn
ISBN 978-0-12-809406-8

The book

Fate and Impact of Microplastics in Marine Ecosystems From the Coastline to the Open Sea [Book]

Fate and Impact of Microplastics in Marine Ecosystems: From the Coastline to the Open Sea brings together highlights from the conference proceedings for MICRO 2016: Fate and Impact of Microplastics in Marine Ecosystems: From the Coastline to the Open Sea.

While the presence of microplastics in ecosystems has been reported in the scientific literature since the 1970’s, many pressing questions regarding their impacts remain unresolved. This short format title draws from the shared scientific and technical material and summarizes the current research and future outlook.

  • Includes a range of topics, from macro- to microplastics
  • Presents data from source to sink, including occurrence and distribution of microplastics in freshwater bodies, coastal zones, and the open ocean
  • Presents the impacts of microplastics on marine life as well as microplastics as vectors of biological and chemical contaminants
  • Provides important analysis on solutions and next steps

Edited byJuan Baztan, Bethany Jorgensen, Sabine Pahl, Richard C. Thompson and Jean-Paul Vanderlinden, ISBN 978-0-12-812271-6

The book