The sea water, beaches and sediments on the Tarragona coast contain quantities of plastic similar to those in a big city like Barcelona.
The sea water, beaches and sediments on the Tarragona coast contain quantities of plastic similar to those in a big city like Barcelona. And more than half are clothing fibres from washing machines. This is one of the main findings of a study carried out by researchers from the URV’s research group Tecnatox and presented last week at a congress in Helsinki. They are not referring exclusively to the plastic waste that can be seen floating on the water or being washed up by the waves. What most concerns them is the presence of microscopic plastic waste that cannot be seen by the naked eye but which can have an impact on human health. It is the study of these particles and their effects that is the main objective of the researchers from the URV’s Department of Chemical Engineering and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. In a series of pioneering studies that were initiated in 2018, they analysed samples of sea water, marine sediment and sand from Tarragona beaches to determine the presence of plastics and their possible source.
These plastics are washed into the sea by streams and large rivers like the Ebro, as well as by the drainage system and underwater outfalls. They also come from industrial discharges of plastic polymers and direct discharges into the sea by boats. Recent studies, however, have revealed other possible sources of pollution: for example, synthetic fibres that come from clothes during washing. From the samples taken from the Tarragona coast, the researchers have observed that up to 57% of all the plastics analysed from sea water are microscopic fibres from clothes, which flow into the treatment parts and which are only partially removed before the water is finally discharged into the sea.
Read more at Universitat Rovira I Virgili
Image: The researchers are analysing samples of sea water, marine sediment and sand from Tarragona beaches. (Credit: URV)