Textile microplastics: causes and cures – improving our understanding of the drivers of fibre loss during washing (PhD Project)

Freshwater’s macro microplastic problem

Like in the oceans, the bulk of the pollution in rivers and lakes is not in the form of plastic bottles and other large pieces, but tiny pieces called microplastics that would be hard to spot. “Three quarters of what we take out of the Great Lakes are less than a millimeter in size,” she says. “It’s basically the size of a period of a sentence.” These plastics are concerning to scientists because they are being ingested by a variety of aquatic organisms. (…) (pbs.org, 11/05/2017)

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Anthropogenic fibres in the Baltic Sea water column: Field data, laboratory and numerical testing of their motion

Distribution of microplastics particles (MPs) in the water column is investigated on the base of 95 water samples collected from various depths in the Baltic Sea Proper in 2015–2016. Fibres are the prevalent type of MPs: 7% of the samples contained small films; about 40% had (presumably) paint flakes, while 63% contained coloured fibres in concentrations from 0.07 to 2.6 items per litre. Near-surface and near-bottom layers (defined as one tenth of the local depth) have 3–5 times larger fibre concentrations than intermediate layers. Laboratory tests demonstrated that sinking behaviour of a small and flexible fibre can be complicated, with 4-fold difference in sinking velocity for various random fibres’ curvature during its free fall. Numerical tests on transport of fibres in the Baltic Sea Proper were performed using HIROMB reanalysis data (2007) for the horizontal velocity field and laboratory order-of-magnitude estimates for the sinking velocity of fibres. The model takes into account (i) motion of fibres together with currents, (ii) their very slow sinking, and (iii) their low re-suspension threshold. Sensitivity of the final distribution of fibres to variations of those parameters is examined. These experiments are the first step towards modelling of transport of fibres in marine environment and they seem to reproduce the main features of fibres distribution quite well.

A. Bagaev, A. Mizyuk, L. Khatmullina, I. Isachenko, I. Chubarenko, Science of The Total Environment, Volumes 599–600, 1 December 2017, Pages 560–571

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Is the feeding type related with the content of microplastics in intertidal fish gut?

Microplastics pollution is a growing global concern that affects all aquatic ecosystems. Microplastics in the environment can be in the form of fibers and/or particles, being the former the most abundant in the marine environment, representing up to 95% of total plastics. The aim of this work was to compare the content of microplastics among intertidal fish with different feeding type.

Our results show that omnivorous fish presented a higher amount of microplastic fibers than registered in herbivores and carnivores. Moreover, lower condition factors (K) were found in omnivorous specimens with higher microplastic content. We hypothesized that the type of feeding resulted in different microplastic ingestion, with species with wider range of food sources as omnivores with higher rates. Futures studies carried out to evaluate the biological impacts of microplastics on marine organisms, and microplastics cycling on the marine environment should consider the type of feeding of the studied species.

Ricardo Mizraji, Camila Ahrendt, Diego Perez-Venegas and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 116, Issues 1–2, 15 March 2017, Pages 498–500

Synthetic fibers as microplastics in the marine environment: A review from textile perspective with a focus on domestic washings

The ubiquity of plastic materials in the environment has been, for long, a matter of discussion. Smaller particles, named microplastics (< 5 mm), gained attention more recently and are now the focus of many studies, especially for their particularities regarding sources, characteristics and effects (e.g., surface-area-to-volume ratio which can increase their potential to transport toxic substances). Fibers from textile materials are a subgroup of microplastics and can be originated from domestic washings, as machine filters and wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are not specifically designed to retain them. Once in the environment, fibers can reach concentrations up to thousands of particles per cubic meter, being available to be ingested by a broad range of species. In this scenario, this review adds and details the textile perspective to the microplastics exploring nomenclature, characteristics and factors influencing emission, but also evidencing gaps in knowledge needed to overcome this issue. Preliminarily, general information about marine litter and plastics, followed by specific aspects regarding textile fibers as microplastics, were introduced. Then fiber sources to microplastic pollution were discussed, mainly focusing on domestic washings that pass through WWTPs. Studies that reveal domestic washing as microplastic sources are scarce and there is a considerable lack of standardization in methods as well as incorporation of textile aspects in experimental design. Knowledge gaps include laundry parameters (e.g., water temperature, use of chemicals) and textile articles characteristics (e.g., yarn type, fabric structure) orchestrated by consumers’ choice. The lack of information on the coverage and efficiency of sewage treatment systems to remove textile fibers also prevent a global understanding of such sources. The search of alternatives and applicable solutions should come from an integrated, synergic and global perspective, of both environmental and textile area, which still need to be fostered.

Flavia Salvador Cesa, Alexander Turra, Julia Baruque-Ramos, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 598, 15 November 2017, Pages 1116–1129

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Naval exercises add trillions of pieces of plastic debris to oceans

For the next two decades, the U.S. Navy will inject hundreds of thousands of pounds of flares and billions of metal-coated glass fibers into ocean waters off the coasts of Washington and Oregon.

When the last two decades are added in, the Navy will have left behind more than half a million pounds of flares and trillions of microfibers of chaff (a radar countermeasure dropped by aircraft) by the year 2037.

Additionally, as Truthout previously reported, upcoming naval exercises will inject 20,000 tons of heavy metals and explosives into the seas. (…) (alternet.org, 6/04/2017)

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Sources and fate of microplastics in marine and beach sediments of the Southern Baltic Sea-a preliminary study

Microplastics’ (particles size ≤5 mm) sources and fate in marine bottom and beach sediments of the brackish are strongly polluted Baltic Sea have been investigated. Microplastics were extracted using sodium chloride (1.2 g cm−3). Their qualitative identification was conducted using micro-Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (μFT-IR). Concentration of microplastics varied from 25 particles kg−1 d.w. at the open sea beach to 53 particles kg−1 d.w. at beaches of strongly urbanized bay. In bottom sediments, microplastics concentration was visibly lower compared to beach sediments (0–27 particles kg−1 d.w.) and decreased from the shore to the open, deep-sea regions. The most frequent microplastics dimensions ranged from 0.1 to 2.0 mm, and transparent fibers were predominant. Polyester, which is a popular fabrics component, was the most common type of microplastic in both marine bottom (50%) and beach sediments (27%). Additionally, poly(vinyl acetate) used in shipbuilding as well as poly(ethylene-propylene) used for packaging were numerous in marine bottom (25% of all polymers) and beach sediments (18% of all polymers). Polymer density seems to be an important factor influencing microplastics circulation. Low density plastic debris probably recirculates between beach sediments and seawater in a greater extent than higher density debris. Therefore, their deposition is potentially limited and physical degradation is favored. Consequently, low density microplastics concentration may be underestimated using current methods due to too small size of the debris. This influences also the findings of qualitative research of microplastics which provide the basis for conclusions about the sources of microplastics in the marine environment.

Bożena Graca, Karolina Szewc, Danuta Zakrzewska, Anna Dołęga, Magdalena Szczerbowska-Boruchowska, Environ Sci Pollut Res (2017) 24: 7650

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