Extraction of microplastic from biota: recommended acidic digestion destroys common plastic polymers

Kristina Enders, Robin Lenz, Sabrina Beer, Colin A. Stedmon

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The chemical digestion of tissue from marine biota for microplastic analysis is currently conducted following a variety of protocols published in scientific literature. Often there is a lack of information on whether and to which degree the applied chemicals are destructive to microplastic particles of various polymer types. In the present study we report that a digestion protocol recently recommended by ICES using nitric and perchloric acid has strong detrimental effects on several common plastic polymers, in particular polyamide and polyurethane and to a lesser degree acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, polymethyl methacrylate and polyvinylchloride. Raman spectroscopic measurements revealed changes in peak occurrence and intensity for several polymers that did not otherwise show visual macroscopic changes. We developed and tested an alkaline digestion protocol in order to preserve small microplastic particles while removing organic tissue material. We recommend this method for the development of guidelines for plastic microplastic monitoring in biota
Original languageEnglish
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)326-331
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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