New research, led by Gabriel Erni-Cassola and Dr Joseph Christie-Oleza from Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, is pioneering a way to detect the smaller fraction of microplastics – many as small as 20 micrometres (comparable to the width of a human hair), using a fluorescent dye.
Large plastic objects are known to fragment over time due to weathering processes, breaking down into ‘microplastics’, the most prevalent type of marine debris, and their impact or potential harm to aquatic life is not fully understood.
Reports have suggested that the amount of plastic waste found in the oceans only amounts to 1% of what was estimated, so new methods need to find and identify the missing 99% of ‘lost’ plastic ocean waste.
Gabriel Erni-Cassola, said: “Current methods used to assess the amount of microplastics mostly consist in manually picking the microplastics out of samples one by one.”
Co-author Dr Joseph Christie-Oleza, added: “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.”