The separation of microplastics from environmental matrices is still challenging, especially for sediments where microplastics can accumulate affecting benthic organisms. Many authors have adopted different procedures, but their effectiveness has been rarely compared. The present study aims to compare the recovery rate of three different methodologies for the separation of dense microplastics from fine sediments and provide insights about contamination processes occurring in microplastic separation techniques. The protocols tested are a density separation method with NaCl and NaI, a density separation with NaI followed by a centrifugation step, and a digestion method with 10%KOH (m
). The recovery yields of two high-density polymers of three different dimensional classes were tested. The highest recovery rate was reported for the first protocol. However, this method proved to be expensive, and unsatisfactory results were found when using merely NaCl. The digestion method was the one that was proven to be simple, reproducible, and affordable. The contamination tests highlighted as multiple filtration steps can increase the number of fibers deriving from airborne contamination. Since a unified approach for microplastic separation from sediments is still not selected, this study is of paramount importance as it provides data about the reliability of different methods widely adopted.
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