Marketplace

  • The Rushlight Show Trade Shows & Conferences
    The Rushlight Show

    The Rushlight Show is a marketplace that brings together cleantech developers and sustainable solution providers, with investors & financiers and businesses looking to source suppliers and partners for an improved level of sustainability in their supply chain and operations.

  • Ecobuild 2018 Trade Shows & Conferences
    Ecobuild 2018

    Ecobuild 2018 will be designed around its visitors and will bring to life the things they have said are most important to the future of the industry: the latest technology; the freshest thinking; and the most innovative materials to keep them at the forefront of the built environment.

  • Bluesky Maps & GIS
    Bluesky

    Bluesky National Tree Map Helps Dudley Council Protect Urban Trees

    Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council is utilising Bluesky's National Tree Map data to help ascertain numbers for a borough wide inventory of trees to help with their management and protection.

  • Society for the Environment Movers & Shakers
    Society for the Environment

    The Society for the Environment's boss recognised for female CEO excellence and Society also gives out Honary Fellowship to university professor

    The Society for the Environment has been recognised twice in the inaugural Female CEO Excellence Awards, with an award for CEO, Dr Emma Wilcox, and for the Society's environmental professional register.

v ecohouse button

baxi button web

web mossborough spud field copy

Friday, 05 January 2018 10:14

'Lost' human hair-width ocean microplastics now detected by fluorescent dye

The 'lost' 99%' of potentially harmful ocean microplastics could be identified cheaply with a fluorescent dye, its University of Warwick developers claim.

microplastics1 copyNew research, led by Gabriel Erni-Cassola and Dr. Joseph A. Christie-Oleza from Warwick's School of Life Sciences, has established a pioneering way to detect the smaller fraction of microplastics using a fluorescent dye. Many of the microplastics are as small as 20 micrometres - comparable to the width of a human hair or wool fibre.

The dye specifically binds to plastic particles, and renders them easily visible under a fluorescence microscope.

To test their new method, the researchers took samples from surface sea water and beach sand from the English coast around Plymouth. The researchers detected a much larger amount of tiny microplastics smaller than 1 mm than was previously estimated – and significantly more than would have been identified previously with traditional methods.

These results challenge the current belief of the apparent loss of the smallest microplastics from surface seawater, and highlights the need of further research to understand the real fate of plastic waste in the oceans.

Interestingly, the researchers also discovered that the greatest abundance of microplastics of this small size was polypropylene, a common polymer which is used in packaging and food containers – demonstrating that our consumer habits are directly affecting the oceans.

microplastics2 copyLarge plastic objects are known to fragment over time due to weathering processes, breaking down into smaller and smaller particles termed 'microplastics'. Microplastics are the most prevalent type of marine debris in our oceans, and their impact or potential harm to aquatic life is not yet fully understood.

Author Gabriel Erni-Cassola commented: "Using this method, a huge series of samples can be viewed and analysed very quickly, to obtain large amounts of data on the quantities of small microplastics in seawater or, effectively, in any environmental sample.

"Current methods used to assess the amount of microplastics mostly consist in manually picking the microplastics out of samples one by one – demonstrating the great improvement of our method."

Co-author Dr Joseph A. Christie-Oleza commented: "Have we found the lost 99% of missing plastic in surface oceans? Obviously this method needs to be implemented in future scientific surveys to confirm our preliminary findings. It is important to understand how plastic waste behaves in the environment to correctly assess future policies."

The research, 'Lost, but found with Nile red; a novel method to detect and quantify small microplastics (20 μm–1 mm) in environmental samples', is published in Environmental Science & Technology. It is co-authored by Professor Matthew Gibson from the University of Warwick's Department of Chemistry and Warwick Medical School, and Professor Richard C. Thompson from Plymouth University.

Research link: Lost, but found with Nile red