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Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1039/D0EM00446D

The fate of plastic in the ocean environment – a minireview

04 Mar 2021-Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts (Royal Society of Chemistry)-Vol. 23, Iss: 2, pp 198-212
Abstract: The presence of plastics in the marine environment poses a threat to ocean life and has received much scientific and public attention in recent years. Plastics were introduced to the market in the 1950s and since then, global production figures and ocean plastic littering have increased exponentially. Of the 359 million tonnes (Mt) produced in 2018, an estimated 14.5 Mt has entered the ocean. In particular smaller plastic particles can be ingested by marine biota causing hazardous effects. Plastic marine debris (PMD) is exposed to physical, chemical and biological stressors. These cause macro and microplastic to break down into smaller fragments, including sub micrometre sized nanoplastic particles, which may account for an important but so far unevaluated fraction of the ocean plastic budget. Physicochemical and biological deterioration of PMD also leads to the release of more volatile compounds and the terminal oxidation of PMD, which most likely accounts for an important but also unevaluated fraction in the ocean plastic budget. This minireview provides an overview on (1) the quantity of plastic production and waste, pathways for plastics to enter the marine realm, the inventory of PMD and the negative effects of PMD to ocean life. (2) We discuss plastic degradation mechanisms in the ocean, expanding on the processes of photodegradation and biodegradation. (3) This review also highlights the emerging topic of nanoplastics in the sea and provides an overview on their specific physical and chemical properties, potential harm to ocean life, and nanoplastic detection techniques.

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Topics: Marine debris (55%)
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18 results found


Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.3389/FMICB.2021.673553
Abstract: Plastic particles in the ocean are typically covered with microbial biofilms, but it remains unclear whether distinct microbial communities colonize different polymer types. In this study, we analyzed microbial communities forming biofilms on floating microplastics in a bay of the island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea. Raman spectroscopy revealed that the plastic particles mainly comprised polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and polystyrene (PS) of which polyethylene and polypropylene particles were typically brittle and featured cracks. Fluorescence in situ hybridization and imaging by high-resolution microscopy revealed dense microbial biofilms on the polymer surfaces. Amplicon sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene showed that the bacterial communities on all plastic types consisted mainly of the orders Flavobacteriales, Rhodobacterales, Cytophagales, Rickettsiales, Alteromonadales, Chitinophagales, and Oceanospirillales. We found significant differences in the biofilm community composition on PE compared with PP and PS (on OTU and order level), which shows that different microbial communities colonize specific polymer types. Furthermore, the sequencing data also revealed a higher relative abundance of archaeal sequences on PS in comparison with PE or PP. We furthermore found a high occurrence, up to 17% of all sequences, of different hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria on all investigated plastic types. However, their functioning in the plastic-associated biofilm and potential role in plastic degradation needs further assessment.

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3 Citations


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/J.SCITOTENV.2021.146421
Ishrat Vasi Shaikh, V. A. E. Shaikh1Institutions (1)
Abstract: The presence of meso, macro, and microplastics (MPs) in aquatic environments has raised concerns due to their potential risks to aquatic as well as human life. Though plastics are considered to be inert in nature, MPs with toxic additives and accumulated contaminants have harmful ecological effects. Reports of absorption of MPs by internal tissues and toxicity in vital organs such as lung cells, liver, and brain cells have proved its serious health hazards. The study of plastic debris in the aquatic environment deserves special attention due to its ecotoxicological impact. This review presents a detailed account of the assessment of plastic debris in marine as well as freshwater environments. The formation of MPs and their sources, sampling, isolation, identification and characterization methods adopted, and the prevalence of MPs in aquatic life are discussed. To the best of our knowledge, the present article is a first-ever comprehensive review covering the entire of India. Our review finds that, so far, very few studies have been carried out, and there is a paucity of information, especially on the prevalence of plastic debris in the freshwater environment, fish, and other aquatic animals in India. While major studies have been done at various coastal locations in the southern part of India and a few studies in the rest of India, south-eastern states remain neglected. Toxicological studies on various life forms, including humans, are lacking. The present review also fills the gap in our knowledge of the various locations studied across India and can guide future research.

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Topics: Microplastics (52%)

2 Citations


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/J.SCITOTENV.2021.150243
Changjun Li1, Lixin Zhu1, Xiaohui Wang1, Kai Liu1  +1 moreInstitutions (1)
Abstract: Marine microplastic (MP) pollution is a global environmental problem that has received attention from scientific researchers and the public for the past several decades. However, without a suitably large-volume sampling method, the presence of MPs in subsurface water (

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Topics: Microplastics (57%), Subsurface flow (52%)

2 Citations


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1002/JEMT.23838
Mustafa Doğan1Institutions (1)
Abstract: Polyethylene plastics are widely used in daily life in the packaging of foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, detergents, and chemicals. In this study, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) was exposed to an ultraviolet (UV) fluorescence lamp in simulated aging and degradation experiments. Ultraviolet degradation mechanisms were investigated on the surface after sunlight and UV lamp exposure. The plastic surfaces' molecular and surface degradation results were compared with their Fourier Transform Infrared-Attenuated Total Reflectance (FTIR-ATR) and ultraviolet visible (UV-Vis) spectra. By growing the length of exposure time increased stages of degradation were observed. After UV lamp and sunlight exposure, changing degradation levels were also determined with spectroscopic evaluations and the results were compared. LDPE was selected since it has a simple structure and a number of branched polymer structures that facilitate easily disruption of the chemical bond. Breaks in the polymer chain were easily seen in the plastics at the end of degradation and a fragile structure was formed throughout the polymer chain after accelerating UV light aging. The FTIR spectrum clarified the changed and fractured molecular bond structures of UV-exposed polyethylene. The change in the molecular structure of the plastic caused small changes in its color and small variations in this color change were detected by recording the Ultraviolet-Visible (UV-Vis) spectrum. The Philips UV lamp's light intensity and the wavelength spectrum range were measured. The UV lamp and sun UV light doses were calculated and compared.

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Topics: Ultraviolet light (66%), Ultraviolet (56%), Light intensity (56%) ... show more

2 Citations


Book ChapterDOI: 10.1007/978-981-16-1955-7_5
01 Jan 2021-
Abstract: Millions of tons of plastics entering the sea each year are a substantial environmental problem. It is expected that ocean plastic pollution will increase when considering the rapidly rising rates in global plastic production, in contrast to the relatively slow growth in plastic recycling rates, and future projections of increasing population densities in coastal areas. However, a significant discrepancy exists between the vast quantities of plastic entering the ocean and the orders of magnitude lower amounts afloat at the sea surface, indicating a substantial sink for ocean plastics. Plastics are probably degraded in a multi-step process facilitated by abiotic and biotic factors. Abiotic factors, such as shear stress induced by wave action, solar ultraviolet radiation, and heat embrittle and fragment plastics. Fragmentation of macroplastics results in micro and nanoscale particles. Photooxidation causes the release of chain scission products from the polymer matrix, e.g., nanoplastics, low-molecular-weight polymer fragments, and hydrocarbon gases. Biodegradation of plastics is mediated by microbes that have enzymes capable of inducing (1) chain scission and depolymerization, and (2) assimilate and terminally oxidize the intermediate products of initial degradation. Plastic degradation products from UV radiation could be a useful carbon source for microbes, while the role of marine microbes as initial degraders is not well understood. Several terrestrial microorganisms (bacteria, fungi) are known to degrade specific plastic polymers. For example, the bacterium Ideonella sakaiensis hydrolyses polyethylene terephthalate (PET) with a novel cutinase (termed PETase) and utilizes the degradation products as energy and carbon source. In the marine environment, complex hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria have repetitively been found in association with plastics. These bacteria have genes encoding for monooxygenases, peroxidases, and dehydrogenases, enzymes which can, in principle, facilitate the initial breakdown of plastics. Most commonly applied methods to investigate plastic biodegradation are based on monitoring weight loss of plastic over time, determining chemical changes of the polymer, investigating colonization of plastics by microbes, and measuring CO2 production rates. However, these evaluation methods often lack rigor in confirming initial depolymerization, assimilation, and mineralization. This chapter provides an overview of plastic biodegradation in the marine realm. Identified and potential microbial plastic degraders will be covered. Their metabolic and enzymatic capabilities will be highlighted with respect to valorization their potential in the future.

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Topics: Plastic recycling (62%), Plastic pollution (56%), Biodegradation (55%)

2 Citations


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151 results found


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1126/SCIENCE.1260352
Jenna Jambeck1, Roland Geyer2, Chris Wilcox3, Theodore R. Siegler4  +4 moreInstitutions (7)
13 Feb 2015-Science
Abstract: Plastic debris in the marine environment is widely documented, but the quantity of plastic entering the ocean from waste generated on land is unknown. By linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status, we estimated the mass of land-based plastic waste entering the ocean. We calculate that 275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entering the ocean. Population size and the quality of waste management systems largely determine which countries contribute the greatest mass of uncaptured waste available to become plastic marine debris. Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025.

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Topics: Municipal solid waste (59%), Marine debris (58%), Plastic pollution (58%) ... show more

4,410 Citations


Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1126/SCIADV.1700782
01 Jul 2017-Science Advances
Abstract: Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However, robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.

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Topics: Plastic recycling (58%), Plastic pollution (51%)

3,752 Citations


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1016/J.MARPOLBUL.2011.05.030
Anthony L. Andrady1Institutions (1)
Abstract: This review discusses the mechanisms of generation and potential impacts of microplastics in the ocean environment. Weathering degradation of plastics on the beaches results in their surface embrittlement and microcracking, yielding microparticles that are carried into water by wind or wave action. Unlike inorganic fines present in sea water, microplastics concentrate persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by partition. The relevant distribution coefficients for common POPs are several orders of magnitude in favour of the plastic medium. Consequently, the microparticles laden with high levels of POPs can be ingested by marine biota. Bioavailability and the efficiency of transfer of the ingested POPs across trophic levels are not known and the potential damage posed by these to the marine ecosystem has yet to be quantified and modelled. Given the increasing levels of plastic pollution of the oceans it is important to better understand the impact of microplastics in the ocean food web.

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Topics: Microplastics (68%), Plastic pollution (53%), Marine debris (51%)

3,152 Citations


Open accessJournal ArticleDOI: 10.1098/RSTB.2008.0205
Abstract: One of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet is the accumulation and fragmentation of plastics. Within just a few decades since mass production of plastic...

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Topics: Plastic pollution (52%)

2,900 Citations


Journal ArticleDOI: 10.1126/SCIENCE.1094559
07 May 2004-Science
Abstract: Millions of metric tons of plastic are produced annually. Countless large items of plastic debris are accumulating in marine habitats worldwide and may persist for centuries ([ 1 ][1]–[ 4 ][2]). Here we show that microscopic plastic fragments and fibers ([Fig. 1A][3]) are also widespread in the

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2,544 Citations


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