Characterization of plastic beach litter by raman spectroscopy in south-western spain.

Asensio-Montesinos, F., Oliva Ramírez, M., González-Leal, J. M., Carrizo, D., & Anfuso, G. (2020). Characterization of plastic beach litter by raman spectroscopy in south-western spain. Science of the Total Environment, 744 doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140890

The characteristics and distribution of plastic litter were evaluated in October 2018 at 40 beaches along the coast of Cádiz Province, in Spain. A total of 14,261 plastic items, appertaining to 57 litter groups, were identified along the study area at different beach zones, i.e. at low tide water level (2%), along the foreshore (6%), at high tide water level (67%) and in the backshore area (25%). Plastic items have a great floatability, being this one of the main reasons for their proportional dominance among beach litter, especially in the wrack line. Hundreds of measurements were made of different items using Raman spectroscopy, an effective technique to determine the type of plastic. Cellulose acetate represented the most abundant material (79%) linked to cigarette butts, followed by polypropylene, 9% and polyethylene, 8%. The remaining were composed by polystyrene, polyethylene terephthalate and polyvinyl chloride. Smoke related items were the most common in the study area, followed by film and hard pieces, cotton bud sticks, fishing strings, food wrappers, caps/lids and single-use plastics. Beach litter can be related to beachgoers but some categories can be attributed to fishing activities or wastewater discharges. Plastics cause a multitude of damages to the coastal ecosystem, due to their toxic components and adsorbed substances and their facility of fragmentation and dispersion. Principal objective is the compositional characterization of plastic beach litter items and their spatial variability. It is therefore important to avoid unnecessary consumption, promote recycling and use other materials that are less harmful to the environment.

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