Dirty laundry : Are your clothes polluting the ocean?

In an indoor “Manchester-drizzle-simulating” rain room at the University of Leeds, and in a laundry lab in Plymouth, research is revealing the unexpected environmental cost of the very clothes on our backs. (…)

And in a recent lab study, they found that polyester and acrylic clothing shed thousands of plastic fibres each time it was washed- sending another source of plastic pollution down the drain and, eventually, into the ocean. (…) (bbc.com, 6/07/2017)

The news

Foraging preferences influence microplastic ingestion by six marine fish species from the Texas Gulf Coast

This study evaluated the influence of foraging preferences on microplastic ingestion by six marine fish species from the Texas Gulf Coast. A total of 1381 fish were analyzed and 42.4% contained ingested microplastic, inclusive of fiber (86.4%), microbead (12.9% %), and fragment (< 1.0%) forms. Despite a substantial overlap in diet, ordination of ingested prey items clustered samples into distinctive species groupings, reflective of the foraging gradient among species. Orthopristis chrysoptera displayed the lowest overall frequency of microplastic ingestion and the most distinctive ordination grouping, indicating their selective invertebrate foraging preferences. Cluster analysis of O. chrysoptera most closely classified microplastic with the ingestion of benthic invertebrates, whereas the ingestion of microplastic by all other species most closely classified with the ingestion of vegetation and shrimp. O. chrysoptera, as selective invertebrate foragers, are less likely to ingest microplastics than species exhibiting generalist foraging preferences and methods of prey capture.

Colleen A. Peters, Peyton A. Thomas, Kaitlyn B. Rieper, Susan P. Bratton, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 11 July 2017, In Press

The article

Microplastic contamination of intertidal sediments of Scapa Flow, Orkney: A first assessment

The concentration of microplastic particles and fibres was determined in the intertidal sediments at selected sites in Scapa Flow, Orkney, using a super-saturated NaCl flotation technique to extract the plastic and FT-IR spectroscopy to determine the polymer types. Mean concentrations were 730 and 2300 kg− 1 sediment (DW), respectively. Detailed spatial and quantitative analysis revealed that their distribution was a function of proximity to populated areas and associated wastewater effluent, industrial installations, degree of shore exposure and complex tidal flow patterns. Sediment samples from Orkney showed similar levels of microplastic contamination as in two highly populate industrialized mainland UK areas, The Clyde and the Firth of Forth. It was concluded that relative remoteness and a comparative small island population are not predictors of lower microplastic pollution. Furthermore, a larger concerted effort across Scotland and the UK is required to establish a baseline microplastic database for the evaluation of future policy measures.

J. Blumenröder, P. Sechet, J.E. Kakkonen, M.G.J. Hartl, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 11 July 2017, In Press

The article

Release of polyester and cotton fibers from textiles in machine washings

Microplastics are widely spread in the environment, which along with still increasing production have aroused concern of their impacts on environmental health. The objective of this study is to quantify the number and mass of two most common textile fibers discharged from sequential machine washings to sewers. The number and mass of microfibers released from polyester and cotton textiles in the first wash varied in the range 2.1 × 105 to 1.3 × 107 and 0.12 to 0.33% w/w, respectively. Amounts of released microfibers showed a decreasing trend in sequential washes. The annual emission of polyester and cotton microfibers from household washing machines was estimated to be 154,000 (1.0 × 1014) and 411,000 kg (4.9 × 1014) in Finland (population 5.5 × 106). Due to the high emission values and sorption capacities, the polyester and cotton microfibers may play an important role in the transport and fate of chemical pollutants in the aquatic environment.

Markus SillanpääPirjo Sainio, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, pp 1–9, July, 01, 2017

The article

The uptake of macroplastic & microplastic by demersal & pelagic fish in the Northeast Atlantic around Scotland

This study reports plastic ingestion in various fish found from coastal and offshore sites in Scottish marine waters. Coastal samples consisted of three demersal flatfish species (n = 128) collected from the East and West coasts of Scotland. Offshore samples consisted of 5 pelagic species and 4 demersal species (n = 84) collected from the Northeast Atlantic. From the coastal fish sampled, 47.7% of the gastrointestinal tracts contained macroplastic and microplastic. Of the 84 pelagic and demersal offshore fish, only 2 (2.4%) individuals from different species had ingested plastic identified as a clear polystyrene fibre and a black polyamide fibre. The average number of plastic items found per fish from all locations that had ingested plastic was 1.8 (± 1.7) with polyamide (65.3%), polyethylene terephthalate (14.4%) and acrylic (14.4%) being the three most commonly found plastics. This study adds to the existing data on macroplastic and microplastic ingestion in fish species.

Fionn Murphy, Marie Russell, Ciaran Ewins, Brian Quinn, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 10 July 2017, In Press

The article

Quantifying Microplastics on National Park Beaches

This report details the results from a project funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program and led by the National Park Service (link is external) and Clemson University (link is external), in which beach sediments were collected and analyzed to assess the abundance and distribution of microplastics and microfibers on U.S. National Park beaches. Thirty-seven National Park beaches, representing 35 National Parks, Monuments, Seashores, and Recreation areas were sampled for microplastics and microfibers. Scientists found microplastics or microfibers in sand samples collected from all 37 beaches. Microfibers were the predominant type of debris found (97% by count). Individual beaches in the Great Lakes and Pacific Islands had the highest concentrations of microplastics and microfibers. Microplastics and microfibers were even found in remote areas of Alaska. (NOAA, June 2017)

The report

Microplastics in the sediments of Terra Nova Bay (Ross Sea, Antarctica)

This is the first survey to investigate the occurrence and extent of plastic contamination in sediments collected in Terra Nova Bay (Ross Sea, Antarctica). Plastic debris extracted from 31 samples of sediments were counted, weighted and identified by Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR). All sediment samples contained plastics: a total of 1661 items of debris (3.14 g) were recorded from the 31 samples of sediment. Plastic particles in the samples ranged from 0.3 to 22 mm in length. Fibres were the most frequent type of small plastics debris detected. In terms of abundance, microplastics (< 5 mm) accounted for 78.4% of debris. 9 polymer types were found: the most common material (94.13% by weight) was styrene-butadiene-styrene copolymer (SBS), widely used in pneumatic tires, etc. A decreasing concentration of plastic debris at increasing distances from the Mario Zucchelli Base was evidenced.

Cristina Munari, Vanessa Infantini, Marco Scoponi, Eugenio Rastelli, Cinzia Corinaldesi, Michele Mistri, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 20 June 2017, In Press

The article