A critical assessment of visual identification of marine microplastic using Raman spectroscopy for analysis improvement

Robin Lenz, Kristina Enders, Colin Stedmon, David M.A. Mackenzie, Torkel Gissel Nielsen

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Identification and characterisation of microplastic (MP) is a necessary step to evaluate their concentrations, chemical composition and interactions with biota. MP ≥10 μm diameter filtered from below the sea surface in the European and subtropical North Atlantic were simultaneously identified by visual microscopy and Raman micro-spectroscopy. Visually identified particles below 100 μm had a significantly lower percentage confirmed by Raman than larger ones indicating that visual identification alone is inappropriate for studies on small
microplastics. Sixty-eight percent of visually counted MP (n = 1279) were spectroscopically confirmed being plastic. The percentage varied with type, colour and size of the MP. Fibres had a higher success rate (75%) than
particles (64%).We tested Raman micro-spectroscopy applicability for MP identification with respect to varying chemical composition (additives), degradation state and organic matter coating. Partially UV-degraded postconsumer plastics provided identifiable Raman spectra for polymers most common among marine MP, i.e. polyethylene and polypropylene
Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)82-91
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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