Plastic marine debris on the Portuguese coastline: a matter of size?

J Martins, P Sobral
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2011, 62 (12): 2649-53
Plastic debris is a worldwide threat to marine environments and Portugal is not immune to it. Though never quantified, items of all sizes can be found in the Portuguese coastline; therefore the objective of this work is the identification of main size classes in stranded plastic debris. Beaches sediment was sampled and in the laboratory plastic items were sorted in 11 classes from <1 to >10mm, counted and weighted. Plastic size ranged from 50 μm to 20 cm and microplastics (<5mm) were the majority (72%). Most plastic fits in the smaller size classes, due to expected high residence time in the sea enhancing degradation processes, which increase surface exposure and potentially persistent organic pollutants (POP) adsorption. These results point out the important contribution of microplastics to marine debris pollution, its risks, and the need to set a higher focus on this size class.

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