The influence of additives on the fate of plastics in the marine environment, exemplified with barium sulphate

Date of publication 17 August 2020

Authors Turner, Andrew; Filella, Montserrat.

Sources Marine pollution bulletin : 158



With an inherent density marginally below that of seawater, polyolefins (polyethylene-polypropylene) are predicted to float or undergo beaching in the marine environment. Polyolefins commonly observed on the seabed, therefore, require additional considerations that are usually based around increasing density through fouling or packaging into sinking faecal matter. Here, however, we propose that the presence of additives is of least equal significance to the behaviour of such plastics in marine systems. We compared barium, present largely as the filler, BaSO4 (density = 4.5 g cm(-3)), in consumer and beached plastics and established that the metal was more abundant and occurred at higher concentrations in the former samples, consistent with the environmental fractionation of plastics based on additive content. Significantly, the Ba content of polyolefins required to confer a density above seawater is about 13,000 mg kg(-1), a value that was exceeded in many consumer plastics but never observed in beached samples.

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