Microplastic pollution on the strandline of urban and natural city beaches: The role of local activities

  1. Bayo, Javier
  2. Rojo, Dolores
  3. Olmos, Sonia
  4. LÓpez, Miriam
International Journal of Environmental Impacts: Management, Mitigation and Recovery

ISSN: 2398-2640 2398-2659

Year of publication: 2020

Volume: 3

Issue: 2

Pages: 155-167

Type: Article

DOI: 10.2495/EI-V3-N2-155-167 GOOGLE SCHOLAR lock_openOpen access editor

More publications in: International Journal of Environmental Impacts: Management, Mitigation and Recovery


The worldwide production of plastics has been reported to grow from 335 million t in 2016 up to 348million t in 2017, giving employment to over 1.5 million people in Europe. Plastic materials havechanged our way of life because of their versatility, high durability and ability to be moulded in different shapes. For that reason, when discarded in the marine environment, plastics and especially microplastics can become an environmental hazard.This article describes the presence and abundance of microplastics in sandy beaches of a coastalcity, Cartagena (southeast Spain), surrounding the Mar Menor coastal lagoon, an important touristdestination with also local activities, mainly fishery and agriculture. Microscopic observations andFourier-transform infrared spectroscopy analyses displayed a total of 14 polymer families in the microplastic composition, mainly represented by low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene, polyvinyl ester (PVE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene, nylon (NYL) and polyester (PES). Theextensive amount of polymer types together with an important variety of colours demonstrates the multiple origin of microplastics. LDPE in a film form proved to be a consequence of plastic greenhousesdegradation, prone to cracking under environmental stress, because of their transportation through anorthwest catchment down to the beach. Similarly, PVE used in naval composite structures as a primaryresin proved to be higher in urban than in natural beaches because of the massive use of fishing boatsand pleasure crafts. Littering and runoff were the main sources for other microplastic particles, mainlyPP, NYL and PES.