First record of plastiglomerates, pyroplastics, and plasticrusts in South America

Gabriel Enrique De-la-Torre, Carlos Ivan Pizarro-Ortega, Diana Carolina Dioses-Salinas, Md Refat Jahan Rakib, Williams Ramos, Victor Pretell, Victor Vasques Ribeiro, Ítalo Braga Castro, Sina Dobaradaran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Beaches in the Anthropocene carry the heavy burden of human-derived pollution, like that induced by plastic litter. For decades, plastic debris has been classified based on its source or physical size. In recent years, studies described and documented new forms of plastic formations, including plastiglomerates, plasticrusts, and pyroplastics. However, reports of these newly described formations are substantially lacking. Therefore, in the present study, we reported the first evidence of plasticrusts (plastic encrusting rock surfaces), plastiglomerates (organic/inorganic composite materials in a plastic matrix), and pyroplastics (burned and weathered plastics) in Peru. The plastic pollutants were recovered from the field through marine litter surveys on four beaches where illegal litter burning and campfires take place. All the suspected plastic formations were analyzed and confirmed using Fourier transformed infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, and one of each type was analyzed by X-Ray fluorescence (EDX) spectrometry. Plastiglomerates consisted of a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or polypropylene (PP) matrix with rock and sand inclusions. Pyroplastics were found in various stages of weathering and consisted of various polymers, including HDPE, PP, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and polyamide (PA). Interestingly, our field observations suggest a new plasticrust formation pathway based on plastic burning and filling of rock crevices with molten plastic. The latter was identified as either PP or HDPE. Elements typically found in the sand and seawater (e.g., Na, Cl, Ca, Si, Fe) were identified on the surface of the plastic formations, as well as others that could potentially be associated with the leaching of additives (e.g., Ti, Br). Although the present study contributed to the knowledge concerning the occurrence of the new types of plastic formations, as well as possible formation pathways, there are still many questions to answer. Hence, we encourage future studies to focus on the toxicity that new plastic formations may induce in contrast with conventional plastics, the release of secondary contaminants (e.g., microplastics, additives), and their degradation in the environment. Lastly, standardized sampling and data treatment protocols are required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155179
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume833
DOIs
StatePublished - 10 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Debris
  • Degradation
  • Microplastic
  • Plastic
  • Pollution
  • Polymer

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