A large-scale investigation of microplastic contamination: Abundance and characteristics of microplastics in European beach sediment

Here we present the large-scale distribution of microplastic contamination in beach sediment across Europe. Sediment samples were collected from 23 locations across 13 countries by citizen scientists, and analysed using a standard operating procedure. We found significant variability in the concentrations of microplastics, ranging from 72 ± 24 to 1512 ± 187 microplastics per kg of dry sediment, with high variability within sampling locations. Three hotspots of microplastic accumulation (> 700 microplastics per kg of dry sediment) were found. There was limited variability in the physico-chemical characteristics of the plastics across sampling locations. The majority of the microplastics were fibrous, < 1 mm in size, and blue/black in colour. In addition, using Raman spectrometry we identified particles as polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene. Our research is the first large spatial-scale analysis of microplastics on European beaches giving insights into the nature and extent of the microplastic challenge.

Froukje A.E. Lots, Paul Behrens, Martina G. Vijver, Alice A. Horton, Thijs Bosker, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 123, Issues 1–2, 15 October 2017, Pages 219-226

The article


Is it possible to implement a complex adaptive systems approach for marine systems? The experience of Italy and the Adriatic Sea


• This paper evaluates the implementation of the MSFD in the Adriatic Sea.
• The MSFD is the first policy for marine complex adaptive systems in the EU.
• Ecological and jurisdictional boundaries overlap and cross-border cooperation is low.
• Integrative assessments of marine systems may be impossible to achieve.
• Relative isolation of theoretical approaches and management practices.

Emanuele Bigagli, Ocean & Coastal Management, Volume 149, 15 November 2017, Pages 81–95

The article

Marine litter in the Nordic Seas: Distribution composition and abundance

Litter has been found in all marine environments and is accumulating in seabirds and mammals in the Nordic Seas. These ecosystems are under pressure from climatic change and fisheries while the human population is small. The marine landscapes in the area range from shallow fishing banks to deep-sea canyons. We present density, distribution and composition of litter from the first large-scale mapping of sea bed litter in arctic and subarctic waters. Litter was registered from 1778 video transects, of which 27% contained litter. The background density of litter in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea is 202 and 279 items/km2 respectively, and highest densities were found close to coast and in canyons. Most of the litter originated from the fishing industry and plastic was the second most common litter. Background levels were comparable to European records and areas with most littering had higher densities than in Europe.

Lene Buhl-Mortensen, Pål Buhl-Mortensen, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 31 August 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

The article

Government drops opposition to Bill banning microplastics

The Government has reversed a decision to oppose a Labour Party Bill banning the use of microplastics and microbeads in personal care items including scrubs, soaps, lotions and toothpastes.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney had originally planned to reject the Prohibition of microplastics Bill on the grounds that it could place Ireland in breach of EU Treaty articles on the free movement of goods and that it was flawed in definitions, enforcement and its “level of ambition”.

But in the Dáil on Thursday he told the Bill’s author, Cork East Labour TD Seán Sherlock, that the Government would not oppose the legislation but would probably abstain and allow it to proceed on the basis that “if and when we produce the Government’s legislative response to this whether in the foreshore Bill or in a separate piece of legislation after the work that needs to be done first”. (…) (irishtimes.com, 4/05/2017)

The news

NORMAN interlaboratory study (ILS) on passive sampling of emerging pollutants

A chemical monitoring on site (CM Onsite) organised by NORMAN Association and JRC in support of the Water Framework Directive

Passive samplers can play a valuable role in monitoring water quality within a legislative framework such as the European Union’s Water Framework Directive (WFD). The time-integrated data from these devices can be used to complement chemical monitoring of priority and emerging contaminants which are difficult to analyse by spot or bottle sampling methods, and to improve risk assessment of chemical pollution. In order to increase the acceptance of passive sampling technology amongst end users and to gain further information about the robustness of the calibration and analytical steps, several inter-laboratory field studies have recently been performed in Europe. Such trials are essential to further validate this sampling method and to increase the confidence of the technological approach for end users. An inter-laboratory study on the use of passive samplers for the monitoring of emerging pollutants was organised in 2011 by the NORMAN association (Network of reference laboratories for monitoring emerging environmental pollutants; http://www.norman-network.net) together with the European DG Joint Research Centre to support the Common Implementation Strategy of the WFD. Thirty academic, commercial and regulatory laboratories participated in the passive sampler comparison exercise and each was allowed to select their own sampler design. All the different devices were exposed at a single sampling site to treated waste water from a large municipal treatment plant. In addition, the organisers deployed in parallel for each target analyte class multiple samplers of a single type which were subsequently distributed to the participants for analysis. This allowed an evaluation of the contribution of the different analytical laboratory procedures to the data variability. The results obtained allow an evaluation of the potential of different passive sampling methods for monitoring selected emerging organic contaminants (pharmaceuticals, polar pesticides, steroid hormones, fluorinated surfactants, triclosan, bisphenol A and brominated flame retardants). In most cases, between laboratory variation of results from passive samplers was roughly a factor 5 larger than within laboratory variability. Similar results obtained for different passive samplers analysed by individual laboratories and also low within laboratory variability of sampler analysis indicate that the passive sampling process is causing less variability than the analysis. This points at difficulties that laboratories experienced with analysis in complex environmental matrices. Where a direct comparison was possible (not in case of brominated flame retardants) analysis of composite water samples provided results that were within the concentration range obtained by passive samplers. However, in the future a significant improvement of the overall precision of passive sampling is needed. The results will be used to inform EU Member States about the potential application of passive sampling methods for monitoring organic chemicals within the framework of the WFD. (2016)

The report

The social costs of marine litter along European coasts

This is the first study to assess the social costs of marine debris washed ashore and litter left behind by beach visitors along different European coasts. Three identical surveys, including a discrete choice experiment, are implemented at six beaches along different European coastlines: the Mediterranean Sea in Greece, the Black Sea in Bulgaria and the North Sea in the Netherlands. Beach visitors are asked for their experiences with beach litter and their willingness to volunteer in beach clean-up programs and their willingness to pay an entrance fee or increase in local tax to clean up marine litter. Significant differences are found between countries. This has important implications for the size and transferability of the estimated social costs of marine litter across Europe.

Roy Brouwer, Dariya Hadzhiyska, Christos Ioakeimidis, Hugo Ouderdorp, Ocean & Coastal Management, Volume 138, 15 March 2017, Pages 38–49

The article