Microplastic and tar pollution on three Canary Islands beaches: An annual study

Marine debris accumulation was analyzed from three exposed beaches of the Canary Islands (Lambra, Famara and Las Canteras). Large microplastics (1–5 mm), mesoplastics (5–25 mm) and tar pollution were assessed twice a month for a year. There was great spatial and temporal variability in the Canary Island coastal pollution. Seasonal patterns differed at each location, marine debris concentration depended mainly of local-scale wind and wave conditions. The most polluted beach was Lambra, a remote beach infrequently visited. The types of debris found were mainly preproduction resin pellets, plastic fragments and tar, evidencing that pollution was not of local origin, but it cames from the open sea. The levels of pollution were similar to those of highly industrialized and contaminated regions. This study corroborates that the Canary Islands are an area of accumulation of microplastics and tar rafted from the North Atlantic Ocean by the southward flowing Canary Current.

A. Herrera, M. Asensio, I. Martínez, A. Santana, T. Packard, M. Gómez, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 6 November 2017, In Press

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Rocky shoreline protocols miss microplastics in marine debris surveys (Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador)

Most anthropogenic marine debris shoreline studies are conducted on sandy shores, rather than rocky coastlines. We amended a standardized protocol for monitoring marine debris on a high-loading beach composed of small rocks and cobbles in Newfoundland, Canada. Our protocol had two parts: we conducted stratified sampling to a depth of ~ 20 cm below the surface of the rocks (standing survey), and surveyed accumulation of items on the surface of rocks every other day (loading survey). We found the vast majority of smaller items were below the surface. Only 17.2% of debris were microplastics (< 5 mm). Types of anthropogenic debris differed significantly between the standing survey and the loading survey. We found no relationship between either wind direction or wind speed, and distributions of debris. This study allows for a better understanding of marine debris detection along rocky coasts, and the limitations of protocols for studying them.

Matt McWilliams, Max Liboiron, Yolanda Wiersma, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 13 October 2017, In Press

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Molecular identification of polymers and anthropogenic particles extracted from oceanic water and fish stomach – A Raman micro-spectroscopy study

Pacific Ocean trawl samples, stomach contents of laboratory-raised fish as well as fish from the subtropical gyres were analyzed by Raman micro-spectroscopy (RMS) to identify polymer residues and any detectable persistent organic pollutants (POP). The goal was to access specific molecular information at the individual particle level in order to identify polymer debris in the natural environment. The identification process was aided by a laboratory generated automated fluorescence removal algorithm. Pacific Ocean trawl samples of plastic debris associated with fish collection sites were analyzed to determine the types of polymers commonly present. Subsequently, stomach contents of fish from these locations were analyzed for ingested polymer debris. Extraction of polymer debris from fish stomach using KOH versus ultrapure water were evaluated to determine the optimal method of extraction. Pulsed ultrasonic extraction in ultrapure water was determined to be the method of choice for extraction with minimal chemical intrusion. The Pacific Ocean trawl samples yielded primarily polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) particles >1 mm, PE being the most prevalent type. Additional microplastic residues (1 mm – 10 μm) extracted by filtration, included a polystyrene (PS) particle in addition to PE and PP. Flame retardant, deca-BDE was tentatively identified on some of the PP trawl particles. Polymer residues were also extracted from the stomachs of Atlantic and Pacific Ocean fish. Two types of polymer related debris were identified in the Atlantic Ocean fish: (1) polymer fragments and (2) fragments with combined polymer and fatty acid signatures. In terms of polymer fragments, only PE and PP were detected in the fish stomachs from both locations. A variety of particles were extracted from oceanic fish as potential plastic pieces based on optical examination. However, subsequent RMS examination identified them as various non-plastic fragments, highlighting the importance of chemical analysis in distinguishing between polymer and non-polymer residues.

Sutapa Ghosal, Michael Chen, Jeff Wagner, Zhong-Min Wang, Stephen Wall, Environmental Pollution, Available online 13 October 2017, In Press

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Export of plastic debris by rivers into the sea

Abstract ImageA substantial fraction of marine plastic debris originates from land-based sources and rivers potentially act as a major transport pathway for all sizes of plastic debris. We analyzed a global compilation of data on plastic debris in the water column across a wide range of river sizes. Plastic debris loads, both microplastic (particles <5 mm) and macroplastic (particles >5 mm) are positively related to the mismanaged plastic waste (MMPW) generated in the river catchments. This relationship is nonlinear where large rivers with  population-rich catchments delivering a disproportionately higher fraction of MMPW into the sea. The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88–95% of the global load into the sea. Using MMPW as a predictor we calculate the global plastic debris inputs form rivers into the sea to range between 0.41 and 4 × 106 t/y. Due to the limited amount of data high uncertainties were expected and ultimately confirmed. The empirical analysis to quantify plastic loads in rivers can be extended easily by additional potential predictors other than MMPW, for example, hydrological conditions.

Christian Schmidt, Tobias Krauth, and Stephan Wagner, Environ. Sci. Technol., Article ASAP, October 11, 2017

Export of microplastics from land to sea. A modelling approach

Quantifying the transport of plastic debris from river to sea is crucial for assessing the risks of plastic debris to human health and the environment. We present a global modelling approach to analyse the composition and quantity of point-source microplastic fluxes from European rivers to the sea. The model accounts for different types and sources of microplastics entering river systems via point sources. We combine information on these sources with information on sewage management and plastic retention during river transport for the largest European rivers. Sources of microplastics include personal care products, laundry, household dust and tyre and road wear particles (TRWP). Most of the modelled microplastics exported by rivers to seas are synthetic polymers from TRWP (42%) and plastic-based textiles abraded during laundry (29%). Smaller sources are synthetic polymers and plastic fibres in household dust (19%) and microbeads in personal care products (10%). Microplastic export differs largely among European rivers, as a result of differences in socio-economic development and technological status of sewage treatment facilities. About two-thirds of the microplastics modelled in this study flow into the Mediterranean and Black Sea. This can be explained by the relatively low microplastic removal efficiency of sewage treatment plants in the river basins draining into these two seas. Sewage treatment is generally more efficient in river basins draining into the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. We use our model to explore future trends up to the year 2050. Our scenarios indicate that in the future river export of microplastics may increase in some river basins, but decrease in others. Remarkably, for many basins we calculate a reduction in river export of microplastics from point-sources, mainly due to an anticipated improvement in sewage treatment.

Max Siegfried, Albert A. Koelmans, Ellen Besseling, Carolien Kroeze, Water Research, Volume 127, 15 December 2017, Pages 249-257

Risks of Plastic Debris: Unravelling Fact, Opinion, Perception, and Belief

Researcher and media alarms have caused plastic debris to be perceived as a major threat to humans and animals. However, although the waste of plastic in the environment is clearly undesirable for aesthetic and economic reasons, the actual environmental risks of different plastics and their associated chemicals remain largely unknown. Here we show how a systematic assessment of adverse outcome pathways based on ecologically relevant metrics for exposure and effect can bring risk assessment within reach. Results of such an assessment will help to respond to the current public worry in a balanced way and allow policy makers to take measures for scientifically sound reasons.

Albert A. Koelmans, Ellen Besseling, Edwin Foekema and al., Environ. Sci. Technol., Volume 51, Issue 20, Page 11513-11519, October 17, 2017

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Characteristics of meso-sized plastic marine debris on 20 beaches in Korea

We surveyed the abundance and accumulation patterns of mesoplastic marine debris (5–25 mm) on 20 beaches in Korea. The mean abundance of it was 13.2 items/m2, and the mean weight was 1.5 g/m2. Hard plastic and Styrofoam were the dominant types. The proportions of hard plastic and Styrofoam were highly variable among the beaches, each accounting for 0–100% of the total debris on a given beach with 32% and 48.5% (by number) on average, respectively. Relatively lower abundances of mesoplastic marine debris compared with our previous studies were likely due by differences of the sampling areas within the beach. The samples of this research were selected from backshore, middle line, and water edge whereas they were selected from high strandline and backshore in our previous studies. It should be considered when discussing the level of mesoplastic marine debris.

Jongsu Lee, Jongmyoung Lee, Sunwook Hong, Sang Hee Hong, Won Joon Shim, Soeun Eo, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 123, Issues 1–2, 15 October 2017, Pages 92-96

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