ALS now offers a new method for microplastics which gives you both the number of microplastic particles as well as the type of plastic. ALS has offered methods for microplastics since 2017 and we have exapanded our range of methods to meet the needs of our customers.
Initially our customers only asked for the number of microplastic particles in a sample. The samples were extracted and purified and the analysis is performed by SEM (scanning electron microscope). This technique could identify if the particle was made of plastic or not but it could not destinguish between different types of plastics made out of the same chemical elements. Our customers then started to ask for the type of plastic as well as the number of particles, to meet this need and we have now implemented µFTIR, we have now developed a new method which uses µFTIR to be able to meet these demands. This includes internationally renowned separation techniques for sludge, sediment and soil. We are also developing methods for biota, fish and mussels as well as food and beverages.
Microplastics in the environment are subject to intense research and studies reveal that they are present in products we use daily, for example, bottled water and cosmetics. Plastics degrade very slowly in the environment and the large amount of plastics in our water environment has led to an increased focus on the harmful effects to marine organisms.
What are microplastics?
The definition of microplastics is small plastic particles less than 5 mm, with most microplastics being smaller than 1 mm. Microplastics are very tiny pieces of manufactured plastic (microbeads) used as additives to health and beauty products. Plastic pellets that are used as raw material in the industry are unintentionally spread into the environment during transport and production. These particles are called primary particles. Microplastics can also derive from larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. These particles are called secondary particles.
Sources of microplastics
Studies show that important sources of microplastics in the sea are road wear and abrasion of tyres, artificial turfs, plastic fibres from textiles and industrially produced plastic pellets. Health and beauty products which contain microbeads (for example toothpaste and soap) also contribute to the contamination.
Plastics that are disposed of in the environment instead of being recycled will eventually degrade into smaller plastic particles.
It is uncertain how much of the particles from road wear and artificial turfs are transported to water recipients.
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