Characterization of microplastic litter from oceans by an innovative approach based on hyperspectral imaging

An innovative approach, based on HyperSpectral Imaging (HSI), was developed in order to set up an efficient method to analyze marine microplastic litter. HSI was applied to samples collected by surface-trawling plankton nets from several parts of the world (i.e. Arctic, Mediterranean, South Atlantic and North Pacific). Reliable information on abundance, size, shape and polymer type for the whole ensemble of plastic particles in each sample was retrieved from single hyperspectral images. The simultaneous characterization of the polymeric composition of the plastic debris represents an important analytical advantage considering that this information, and even the validation of the plastic nature of the small debris, is a common flaw in the analysis of marine microplastic pollution. HSI was revealed as a rapid, non-invasive, non-destructive and reliable technology for the characterization of the microplastic waste, opening a promising way for improving the plastic pollution monitoring.

Silvia Serranti, Roberta Palmieri, Giuseppe Bonifazi, Andrés Cózar, Waste Management, Available online 5 March 2018, In Press

The article


Sorption of organic compounds by aged polystyrene microplastic particles

Microplastics that are released into the environment undergo aging and interact with other substances such as organic contaminants. Understanding the sorption interactions between aged microplastics and organic contaminants is therefore essential for evaluating the impact of microplastics on the environment. There is little information available on how the aging of microplastics affects their sorption behavior and other properties. We have therefore investigated the effects of an accelerated UV-aging procedure on polystyrene microplastics, which are used in products such as skin cleaners and foams. Physical and chemical particle characterizations showed that aging led to significant surface oxidation and minor localized microcrack formation. Sorption coefficients of organic compounds by polystyrene microplastics following aging were up to one order of magnitude lower than for pristine particles. Sorption isotherms were experimentally determined using a diverse set of probe sorbates covering a variety of substance classes allowing an in-depth evaluation of the poly-parameter linear free-energy relationship (ppLFER) modelling used to investigate the contribution of individual molecular interactions to overall sorption. The ppLFER modelling was validated using internal cross-validation, which confirmed its robustness. This approach therefore yields improved estimates of the interactions between aged polystyrene microplastics and organic contaminants.

Thorsten Hüffer, Anne-Katrin Weniger, Thilo Hofmann, Environmental Pollution, Volume 236, May 2018, Pages 218–225

The article

Mitigation measures to avert the impacts of plastics and microplastics in the marine environment (a review)

The increasing demand for and reliance on plastics as an everyday item, and rapid rise in their production and subsequent indiscriminate disposal, rise in human population and industrial growth, have made the material an important environmental concern and focus of interest of many research. Historically, plastic production has increased tremendously to over 250 million tonnes by 2009 with an annual increased rate of 9%. In 2015, the global consumption of plastic materials was reported to be > 300 million tonnes and is expected to surge exponentially. Because plastic polymers are ubiquitous, highly resistant to degradation, the influx of these persistent, complex materials is a risk to human and environmental health. Because microplastics are principally generated from the weathering or breakdown of larger plastics (macroplastics), it is noteworthy and expedient to discuss in detail, expatiate, and tackle this main source. Macro- and microplastic pollution has been reported on a global scale from the poles to the equator. The major problem of concern is that they strangulate and are ingested by a number of aquatic biota especially the filter feeders, such as molluscs, mussels, oysters, from where it enters the food chain and consequently could lead to physical and toxicological effects on aquatic organisms and human being as final consumers. To this end, in order to minimise the negative impacts posed by plastic pollution (macro- and microplastics), a plethora of strategies have been developed at various levels to reduce and manage the plastic wastes. The objective of this paper is to review some published literature on management measures of plastic wastes to curb occurrence and incidents of large- and microplastics pollution in the marine environments.

Oluniyi Solomon Ogunola, Olawale Ahmed Onada, Augustine Eyiwunmi Falaye, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, pp 1-18,

The article

Occurrence of microplastics in commercial fish from a natural estuarine environment

Microplastic ingestion has been reported for several marine species, but the level of contamination in transitional systems and associated biota is less known. The aim of this study was to assess the occurrence of microplastic ingestion in three commercial fish species: the sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), the seabream (Diplodus vulgaris) and the flounder (Platichthys flesus) from the Mondego estuary (Portugal). Microplastics were extracted from the gastrointestinal tract of 120 individuals by visual inspection and digestion solution. A total of 157 particles were extracted from 38% of total fish (96% fibers), with 1.67 ± 0.27 (SD) microplastics per fish. Significantly higher amount of ingested microplastics was recorded for D. vulgaris (73%). The dominant polymers identified by μ-FTIR were polyester, polypropylene and rayon (semi-synthetic fiber). It is reported for the first time the presence of this pollutant in fish populations from the Mondego estuary raising concerns on their potential negative effects.

Filipa Bessa, Pablo Barría, João M. Neto and al., Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 128, March 2018, Pages 575–584

The article

Polystyrene Nanoplastics-enhanced Contaminant Transport: Role of Irreversible Adsorption in Glassy Polymeric Domain

Nanoplastics (NPs) are becoming an emerging pollutant of global concern. A potential risk is that NPs may serve as carriers to increase the spreading of co-existing contaminants. In this study, we examined the effects of polystyrene nanoplastics (PSNPs, 100 nm), used as a model NP, on the transport of five organic contaminants of different polarity in saturated soil. The presence of low concentrations of PSNPs significantly enhanced the transport of nonpolar (pyrene) and weakly polar (2,2′,4,4′-tetrabromodiphenyl ether) compounds, but had essentially no effects on the transport of three polar compounds (bisphenol A, bisphenol F and 4-nonylphenol). The strikingly different effects of NPs on the transport of nonpolar/weakly polar versus polar contaminants could not be explained with different adsorption affinities, but was consistent with the polarity-dependent extents of desorption hysteresis. Notably, desorption hysteresis was only observed for nonpolar/weakly polar contaminants, likely because nonpolar compounds tended to adsorb in the inner matrices of glassy polymeric structure of polystyrene (resulting in physical entrapment of adsorbates), whereas polar compounds favored surface adsorption. This hypothesis was verified with supplemental adsorption and desorption experiments of pyrene and 4-nonylphenol using a dense, glassy polystyrene polymer and a flexible, rubbery polyethylene polymer. Overall, the findings of this study underscore the potentially significant environmental implication of NPs as contaminant carriers.

Jin Liu, Yini Ma, Dongqiang Zhu, Tianjiao Xia, Yu Qi, Yao Yao, Xiaoran Guo, Rong Ji, and Wei Chen, Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript, February 8, 2018

Artificial polymer materials debris characteristics along the Moroccan Mediterranean coast

A monitoring program was carried out in autumn 2015 along the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, at sites including urban, village and remote/rural beaches. Artificial Polymer Materials (APM) represented 70.64% of all collected items and included plastic (16 categories), foamed plastic (3) and other APM materials (2). Plastic items represented the dominant debris with 5356 items, i.e. 94.53% of all APM debris, foamed plastics presented 191 items (i.e. 3.37%) and other APM summed 119 items, i.e. 2.1% of all APM. Urban areas presented 49.63% of all APM recollected items with cigarette butts representing 32% of total APM items. Village areas presented 40.43% of total APM recollected items with cigarette butts representing 14.1%. Remote and rural beaches recorded 9.94% of total APM items and no cigarette butts were observed. Despite the efforts of local administrations, which introduced litter bins and enforced mechanical and manual cleaning operations, debris were essentially related to beachgoers.

F. Maziane, D. Nachite, G. Anfuso, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 128, March 2018, Pages 1–7

The article

Characterization of microplastic litter in the gastrointestinal tract of Solea solea from the Adriatic Sea

Micro-plastic particles in the world’s oceans represent a serious threat to both human health and marine ecosystems. Once released into the aquatic environment plastic litter is broken down to smaller pieces through photo-degradation and the physical actions of waves, wind, etc. The resulting particles may become so small that they are readily taken up by fish, crustaceans and mollusks. There is mounting evidence for the uptake of plastic particles by marine organisms that form part of the human food chain and this is driving urgent calls for further and deeper investigations into this pollution issue.

The present study aimed at investigating for the first time the occurrence, amount, typology of microplastic litter in the gastrointestinal tract of Solea solea and its spatial distribution in the northern and central Adriatic Sea. This benthic flatfish was selected as it is a species of high commercial interest within the FAO GFCM (General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean) area 37 (Mediterranean and Black Sea) where around 15% of the overall global Solea solea production originates.

The digestive tract contents of 533 individuals collected in fall during 2014 and 2015 from 60 sampling sites were examined for microplastics. These were recorded in 95% of sampled fish, with more than one microplastic item found in around 80% of the examined specimens. The most commonly found polymers were polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, polyethylene, polyester, and polyamide, 72% as fragments and 28% as fibers. The mean number of ingested microplastics was 1.73 ± 0.05 items per fish in 2014 and 1.64 ± 0.1 in 2015. PVC and PA showed the highest densities in the northern Adriatic Sea, both inshore and off-shore while PE, PP and PET were more concentrated in coastal areas with the highest values offshore from the port of Rimini.

G. Pellini, A. Gomiero, T. Fortibuoni and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 234, March 2018, Pages 943–952

The article