, 2010) More recently, Operation Cleansweep (www opcleansweep or

, 2010). More recently, Operation Cleansweep (www.opcleansweep.org), a joint initiative of the American Chemistry Council and Society of the Plastics Industry, is aiming for industries to commit to zero pellet loss during their operations. Within the marine environment, plastic is widely considered the primary constituent of ‘marine debris’, a category that includes both anthropogenic litter (e.g. glass, metal, wood), and naturally occurring flotsam (e.g. vegetation, pumice; Barnes et al., 2009, Moore, 2008, Ryan et al., 2009 and Thompson et al., 2004). However, PD-0332991 clinical trial small plastic debris (<0.5 mm

in diameter) is considered a widely under-researched component of marine debris (Doyle et al., 2011) due to the difficulties in assessing the abundance, density and distribution of this contaminant within the marine environment. Quantifying the input of plastics Vemurafenib order into the marine environment is precluded by the array of pathways by which plastics may enter the oceans and would require accurate timescales of the length at which plastics

remain at sea prior to degradation (Ryan et al., 2009). Meanwhile, quantifying debris that has already reached the marine environment is complicated by the vastness of the oceans compared to the size of the plastics being assessed. Spatial and temporal variability owing to oceanic currents and seasonal patterns further complicate this issue (Doyle

et al., 2011 and Ryan et al., 2009). Nevertheless, a suite of sampling techniques has been developed that allow the presence of small plastic debris to be determined. These include: (1) beach combing; (2) sediment sampling; Selleckchem Dolutegravir (3) marine trawls; (4) marine observational surveys; and (5) biological sampling. Beach combing is considered the easiest of the available techniques to conduct, requiring little logistical planning and relatively low costs (MCS, 2010). Typically carried out by researchers and environmental awareness groups, this technique involves collecting and identifying all litter items, in a systematic approach, along a specified stretch of coastline. By repeating the beach combing process on a regular basis, accumulation of plastic debris can be monitored over time (Ryan et al., 2009). This technique is particularly useful for determining the presence of macroplastics and plastic resin pellets, termed ‘Mermaid’s Tears’ by beach combers, but microplastics, especially those too small to be observed by the naked eye, are likely to go unnoticed using such a technique.

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