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Marine organisms can shred a plastic bag into 1.75 million pieces, study shows

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December 8, 2017 University of Plymouth read full ScienceDaily article here

A single plastic grocery bag could be shredded by marine organisms into 1.75 million microscopic fragments, according to new research.

Marine scientists at the University of Plymouth examined the rate at which bags were broken down by the amphipod Orchestia gammarellus, which inhabits coastal areas in northern and western Europe.

They believe the results are an example of marine wildlife actually contributing to the spread of microplastics within the marine environment, rather than them simply being emitted from the water supply or forming through the physical and chemical break down of larger items.

The type of plastic (conventional, degradable and biodegradable) had no effect on the rate of ingestion, however the presence of a biofilm meant the shredding took place around four times as quickly.

This, the researchers say, is consistent with recent studies into the feeding behaviour of seabirds and suggests marine life might be increasingly attracted to marine debris as a source of food regardless of the potential harm caused…..

D.J. Hodgson, A.L. Bréchon, R.C. Thompson. Ingestion and fragmentation of plastic carrier bags by the amphipod Orchestia gammarellus Effects of plastic type and fouling load. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2018; 127: 154 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.11.057

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