Microplastics in Sediment Cores from Asia and Africa as Indicators of Temporal Trends in Plastic Pollution

Microplastics (<5 mm) were extracted from sediment cores collected in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and South Africa by density separation after hydrogen peroxide treatment to remove biofilms were and identified using FTIR. Carbonyl and vinyl indices were used to avoid counting biopolymers as plastics. Microplastics composed of variety of polymers, including polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyethyleneterphthalates (PET), polyethylene-polypropylene copolymer (PEP), and polyacrylates (PAK), were identified in the sediment. We measured microplastics between 315 µm and 5 mm, most of which were in the range 315 µm–1 mm. The abundance of microplastics in surface sediment varied from 100 pieces/kg-dry sediment in a core collected in the Gulf of Thailand to 1900 pieces/kg-dry sediment in a core collected in a canal in Tokyo Bay. A far higher stock of PE and PP composed microplastics in sediment compared with surface water samples collected in a canal in Tokyo Bay suggests that sediment is an important sink for microplastics. In dated sediment cores from Japan, microplastic pollution started in 1950s, and their abundance increased markedly toward the surface layer (i.e., 2000s). In all sediment cores from Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and South Africa, the abundance of microplastics increased toward the surface, suggesting the global occurrence of and an increase in microplastic pollution over time.

Yukari Matsuguma, Hideshige Takada, Hidetoshi Kumata and al., Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, pp 1–10, Special Issue: Indicators of Ocean Pollution, First Online 22 May 2017

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Do microplastic loads reflect the population demographics along the southern African coastline?

Plastic pollution is a major anthropogenic contaminant effecting the marine environment and is often associated with high human population densities and industrial activities. The microplastic (63 to 5000 μm) burden of beach sediment and surf-zone water was investigated at selected sites along the entire length of the South African coastline. It was predicted that samples collected in areas of high population density, would contain a higher microplastic burden than those along coasts that demonstrate very low population densities. With the exception of water column microplastics within Richard’s Bay Harbour (413.3 ± 77.53 particles·m− 3) and Durban Harbour (1200 ± 133.2 particles·m− 3), there were no significant spatial differences in microplastic loads. This supports the theory that harbours act as a source of microplastics for the surrounding marine environment. Additionally, the absence of any spatial variation highlights the possible long range distribution of microplastic pollutants by large scale ocean currents.

Holly Astrid Nel, Jeffrey William Hean, Xavier Siwe Noundou, Pierre William Froneman, Marine  Pollution Bulletin, Volume 115, Issues 1–2, 15 February 2017, Pages 115–119

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Plastic ingestion by estuarine mullet Mugil cephalus (Mugilidae) in an urban harbour, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Coastal urban environments have high plastic pollution levels, and hence interactions between plastic debris and marine life are frequent. We report on plastic ingestion by mullet Mugil cephalus in Durban Harbour, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Of 70 mullet (13.0–19.5 cm total length), 73% had plastic particles in their guts, with a mean of 3.8 particles per fish (SD 4.7). Plastic ingestion showed no relation to digestive tract content or fish length. White and clear plastic fibres were ingested most commonly. This urban population of M. cephalus had a higher incidence of plastic ingestion than has been reported in studies on fish from other coastal areas or the oceanic environment.

T Naidoo, AJ Smit, D Glassom, African Journal of Marine Science, Volume 38, Issue 1, p. 145-149, 2016

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First evidence of microplastics in the African Great Lakes: Recovery from Lake Victoria Nile perch and Nile tilapia

Microplastic contamination in the African Great Lakes is currently unreported, and compared to other regions of the world little is known about the occurrence of microplastics in African waters and their fauna. The present study was conducted in the Mwanza region of Tanzania, located on the southern shore of Lake Victoria. The gastrointestinal tracts of locally fished Nile perch (Lates niloticus) and Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) were examined for plastics. Plastics were confirmed in 20% of fish from each species by Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier Transform Infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy. A variety of polymer types were identified with likely sources being urban waste and consumer use. Although further research is required to fully assess the impact of plastic pollution in this region, our study is the first to report the presence of microplastics in Africa’s Great Lakes and within the fish species that inhabit them.

Fares John Biginagwa, Bahati Sosthenes Mayoma, Yvonne Shashoua, Kristian Syberg, Farhan R. Khan, Journal of Great Lakes Research, Volume 42, Issue 1, Pages 146–149, February 2016

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