Validation of ATR FT-IR to identify polymers of plastic marine debris, including those ingested by marine organisms

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Abstract

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 identification codes #1–6 and several #7 plastics were compared to standard and raw manufactured polymers. High temperature size exclusion chromatography measurements 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 consisted of 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.

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Jung, M. R., Horgen, F. D., Orski, S. V., Rodriguez C., V., Beers, K. L., Balazs, G. H., … Lynch, J. M. (2018). Validation of ATR FT-IR to identify polymers of plastic marine debris, including those ingested by marine organisms. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 127, 704–716. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.12.061

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