Polymer identification of plastic marine debris can help identify its sources, degradation, and fate. We optimized and validated a fast, simple, and accessible technique, attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR FT-IR), to identify polymers contained in plastic ingested by sea turtles. Spectra of consumer good items with known resin codes #1-6 and several #7 polymers were compared to those of scientifically-sourced and raw manufactured plastics. An inter-laboratory comparison with high temperature size exclusion chromatography confirmed ATR FT-IR could differentiate these polymers. High-density (HDPE) and low-density polyethylene (LDPE) discrimination is challenging but a clear step-by-step guide is provided that identified 78% of ingested PE samples. The optimal cleaning methods were wiping ingested pieces with water or cutting. Of 828 ingested plastics pieces from 50 Pacific sea turtles, 96% were identified by ATR FT-IR as HDPE, LDPE, unknown PE, polypropylene (PP), PE and PP mixtures, polystyrene, polyvinyl chloride, and nylon.
Citation: Marine Pollution Bulletin
Pub Type: Journals
marine plastics, turtles, attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, high temperature size exclusion chromatography