On the quantity and composition of floating plastic debris entering and leaving the Tamar Estuary, Southwest England

Source: ScienceDirect

Authors: Saeed S. Sadri, Richard C. Thompson

Abstract

The majority of plastic debris found in the marine environment has land based sources and rivers are considered an important medium for transfer of this debris. Here we report on the quantity and composition of floating plastic debris collected from surface waters of the Tamar Estuary. This represents the first study of riverine transport of floating plastic debris into European waters during different tidal regimes. Plastics were found in a variety of forms and sizes and microplastics (<5 mm) comprised 82% of the debris. The most abundant types of plastic were Polyethylene (40%), Polystyrene (25%) and Polypropylene (19%). There was a significant difference in size frequency distribution between the spring and neap tides with more fragments of larger size observed during spring tides. While it is clear that debris has accumulated on shorelines within the estuary, during our study this river did not identify as a net source or sink.

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