Plastic debris in the coastal environment: The invincible threat? Abundance of buried plastic debris on Malaysian beaches

S H Fauziah, I A Liyana, P Agamuthu
Waste Management & Research 2015, 33 (9): 812-21
Studies on marine debris have gained worldwide attention since many types of debris have found their way into the food chain of higher organisms. Thus, it is crucial that more focus is given to this area in order to curb contaminations in sea food. This study was conducted to quantify plastic debris buried in sand at selected beaches in Malaysia. Marine debris was identified according to size range and distribution, and this information was related to preventive actions to improve marine waste issues. For the purpose of this study, comparison of plastic waste abundance between a recreational beach and fish-landing beaches was also carried out, since the different beach types represent different activities that produce debris. Six beaches along the Malaysian coastline were selected for this study. The plastic types in this study were related to the functions of the beach. While recreational beaches have abundant quantities of plastic film, foamed plastic including polystyrene, and plastic fragment, fish-landing beaches accumulated line and foamed plastic. A total of 2542 pieces (265.30 g m(-2)) of small plastic debris were collected from all six beaches, with the highest number from Kuala Terengganu, at 879 items m(-2) on Seberang Takir Beach, followed by Batu Burok Beach with 780 items m(-2). Findings from studies of Malaysian beaches have provided a clearer understanding of the distribution of plastic debris. This demonstrates that commitments and actions, such as practices of the 'reduce, reuse, recycle' (3R) approach, supporting public awareness programmes and beach clean-up activities, are essential in order to reduce and prevent plastic debris pollution.

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