Analysis of Litter from Beaches in Northumbria

Several items of litter were photographed and taken from two beaches in Northumbria, so that the polymer type could be determined. Photographs were taken with a scale before Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) analysis, any fibrous items were also examined using polarised light microscopy.

AOO1, AOO2 & AOO3 (top left) AOO8 (top right) AOO16 (bottom left) and  AOO22 (bottom right)

The results of the FTIR analysis of the plastic removed from the beach were produced using the Hummel polymer library to compare the plastics found to reference data to give an indication of the type of plastic present. These identifications were also verified by comparing to literature values and assigning peaks. There was a large quantity of fishing wire removed from the beach clean-up, the majority of which (n=10) were identified as a biopolymer of polyamide 6 and polyamide 6,6 otherwise known as nylon 6 and nylon 66, and one fishing was identified as polyether urethane. Most of the fishing wire also had small sections of plastic encasing the polyamide wire, the majority (n=3) of these were identified in one instance. There were also two beads found on the fishing wire, one of which was identified as polystyrene and the other was identified as polyethylene. More samples were also collected from a secondary beach in Northumbria, the samples taken from this beach were principally rope samples. The library identified three of them as poly(Ethylene:Propylene:Diene) which is a type of synthetic rubber, although the secondary match polyethylene which also has a high match, due to this and the result of comparing to literature values for both polymers and peak assignment, the rope samples were identified as polyethylene as opposed to Poly(Ethylene:Propylene:Diene). One sample was also identified as polypropylene.

FTIR Result from AOO1 identified as Polyamide 6 & Polyamide 6,6

FTIR Result from AOO2 identified as Alkyd Resin

FTIR Result from AOO3 identified as Polystyrene

FTIR Result from AOO8 identified as Polyether Urethane

FTIR Result from AOO16 identified as Polyethylene

FTIR Result from AOO22 identified as Polypropylene

Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) imaging was carried out on some of the samples taken from the beaches in Northumbria to observe the level of degradation that the plastic had undergone. AOO2 and AOO4 were both taken from AOO1 and identified as Alkyd resin. However, AOO4 had been more sheltered than AOO2 and as such would have degraded less. This can also be seen in the SEM images as AOO4 looks as if it has only begun to degrade and a slight mottling effect can be seen on the surface. AOO2 has more pronounced pits forming on the surface and the areas around the edges show areas that are starting to break away from the plastic surface forming microplastics. Two of the legs from AOO9, the fishing tackle, were observed. The legs were chosen as they differed in colour and there is a potential that they are a different state of degradation. There were very little differences between them. However, the leg that had a darker colouration demonstrated more cracking and larger areas of degradation than the other leg. The fishing wire AOO1 was also observed, the wire showed a high level of degradation, with a ragged surface and protruding bits of plastic that could break away and produce microplastics.

SEM Image of AOO1

SEM Images of AOO2

SEM Images of AOO4

SEM Images of AOO9