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Special Issue "Microplastics - Macro Challenge for Environmental Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Sustainability and Applications".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2020) | Viewed by 48000

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Andrés Rodríguez-Seijo
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR), University of Porto, Terminal de Cruzeiros do Porto de Leixões, Av. General Norton de Matos s/n, 4450-208 Matosinhos, Portugal
Interests: agricultural plastics, microplastics, potentially toxic elements, soil science, SUITMAs
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

Plastic contamination is a current environmental issue and a concern for all ecosystems, even reaching the Antarctic habitat with adverse impacts for environments, ingestion of plastic and microplastics by aquatic and terrestrial fauna, carriers of contaminants and the release of the absorbed contaminants and additives to the environment.

Although the microplastics issue was reported for the first time in the 1970s, research into the microplastics boom began two decades ago. In those years, research about plastic contamination was focused on seas and oceans as a final sink of plastics, but plastic contamination is also an environmental concern in terrestrial areas and continental water streams. Both areas are the primary source of plastic, mainly terrestrial ecosystems, but have been forgotten for several years. In this sense, a new environmental awareness appeared in the last years from the general population for plastic reduction, and some governments are also working on the adoption of new guidelines on single-use plastics to reduce marine litter.

More knowledge is needed to understand the fate and behaviour of (micro-)plastics, new analytical methodologies for sampling and characterisation, mitigation measures, (bio)-degradation techniques, environmentally friendly alternatives of plastics, legislation, economic impacts and ecotoxicological effects of plastics, which sometimes are not well described, especially when plastics have additives or act as carriers of contaminants in environmental matrices.

In addition, research was focused on microplastics, but it is also needed to understand the impact of nanoplastics and to improve the knowledge of macroplastics.

We welcome the submission of review and research papers, both theoretical, practical contributions and case studies. All kinds of research, including negative results, are welcomed. All submissions will be subjected to a peer review before publication.

Dr. Andrés Rodríguez-Seijo
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • agricultural lands
  • aquatic ecosystems
  • biodegradable plastics
  • carriers of contaminants
  • ecotoxicological effects
  • emerging pollutants
  • marine microplastics
  • nanoplastics
  • oceans
  • polymers
  • terrestrial ecosystems
  • sediments
  • streams

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
Handle with Care—Microplastic Particles in Intestine Samples of Seals from German Waters
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10424; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410424 - 13 Dec 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2527
Abstract
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) aims to reduce the marine debris burden in the marine environment by 2020. This requires an assessment of the actual situation, which includes the occurrence as well as the caused impacts. Information on both is scarce when [...] Read more.
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) aims to reduce the marine debris burden in the marine environment by 2020. This requires an assessment of the actual situation, which includes the occurrence as well as the caused impacts. Information on both is scarce when it comes to top predators like marine mammals and the burden of microplastic. This is hampered by the limited access to free ranging marine mammals for collecting samples, as well as sample handling. The present study investigated gastrointestinal tracts and faecal samples of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) regularly occurring in the German North Sea and Baltic Sea with the aim of gaining information on the occurrence of microplastics. In total, 255 particles ≥100 µm (70 fibres, 185 fragments) were found in exemplary ten intestine and nine faecal samples. The findings ranged from zero fibres and six fragments, up to 35 fibres and 55 fragments per sample. Additionally, this study established a protocol for sample handling, microplastic isolation (≥100 µm) and quantification of gastrointestinal tracts and faecal samples of marine mammals with a low share of contamination. This approach helps to quantify the presence of microplastics in free-ranging marine mammals and is therefore applicable to assess the real burden of microplastic presence in the marine environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics - Macro Challenge for Environmental Sustainability)
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Article
Microplastic Contamination of Three Commonly Consumed Seafood Species from Taiwan: A Pilot Study
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9543; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229543 - 17 Nov 2020
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2897
Abstract
Microplastics have already been detected in various human foods, especially seafood. This problem should be especially pertinent to the Taiwanese public because a relatively high proportion of people’s diet comes from seafood. Therefore, a pilot study of microplastic contamination of seafood products commonly [...] Read more.
Microplastics have already been detected in various human foods, especially seafood. This problem should be especially pertinent to the Taiwanese public because a relatively high proportion of people’s diet comes from seafood. Therefore, a pilot study of microplastic contamination of seafood products commonly consumed by Taiwanese people is presented. Six batches of three seafood species were examined for the presence of microplastics using FTIR spectroscopy. A total of 107 seafood individuals from three species (hard clam Meretrix lusoria, oyster Crassostrea gigas, Loligo squid Loliginidae spp.) weighing a total of 994 g yielded a total of 100 microplastic particles consisting of nine different polymer types. The most common polymer types were polypropylene, poly(ethylene:propylene:diene), and polyethylene terephthalate; we also detected six additional, but less common polymer types. A total of 91% of microplastic particles were fragments that likely originated from fragmented plastic debris which was then consumed by the seafood species; the remaining particles were fibers and a pellet. The mean number of microplastics kg−1 was 87.9 microplastics kg−1 across the three examined species. Given that the Taiwanese public average about 10 kg of seafood consumption per year, a few thousand microplastic particles are estimated to be annually consumed on average. The methodology of this pilot study can now be used to conduct examinations of more seafood species and samples. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics - Macro Challenge for Environmental Sustainability)
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Article
The Marine Plastic Litter Issue: A Social-Economic Analysis
Sustainability 2020, 12(20), 8677; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12208677 - 19 Oct 2020
Cited by 40 | Viewed by 9506
Abstract
The issue of marine plastic litter pollution is multifaceted, cross-sectoral, and ongoing in the absence of appropriate management measures. This study analysed the issue of marine plastic litter pollution in the context of the Descriptor 10 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and [...] Read more.
The issue of marine plastic litter pollution is multifaceted, cross-sectoral, and ongoing in the absence of appropriate management measures. This study analysed the issue of marine plastic litter pollution in the context of the Descriptor 10 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and Good Environmental Status of the oceans and seas. The Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework was used to assess the causes, effects, and management measures to changes in the marine environment resulting from marine plastics pollution. We noted that less than 10 peer-reviewed publications have applied the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) model to the issue of marine plastics pollution. Some basic needs such as food security, movement of goods and services, and shelter are also some of the major drivers of marine plastic pollution. The use of plastics is linked to multiple economic sectors (fisheries, agriculture, transport, packaging, construction) and other human activities. A significant amount of the resulting pressures came from the economic sectors for packaging and construction. State changes occurred at the environmental (contamination and bioaccumulation), ecosystem (ingestion of plastics, ghost fishing) and ecosystem service levels (supply of sea food, salt and cultural benefits), with possible loss of jobs and income being some of the observed impacts on human welfare. Responses as management measures, which are tailored to meet each component of the DPSIR framework, were identified. These included policies, regulations, technological advancement and behavioural change. The research acknowledges the issue of marine plastics pollution as a global environmental problem and recommends a trans-disciplinary approach, involving all types of stakeholders. Future research and analysis applying the DPSIR framework will be useful to provide the information necessary for the effective, adaptive management of litter pollution by marine plastics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics - Macro Challenge for Environmental Sustainability)
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Article
Microplastics in Honey, Beer, Milk and Refreshments in Ecuador as Emerging Contaminants
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5514; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12145514 - 08 Jul 2020
Cited by 69 | Viewed by 7612
Abstract
According to the latest research, marine products have the greatest potential for microplastic (MPs) contamination. Therefore, their presence in terrestrial food has not managed to attract much attention—despite the fact that in the future they may represent a serious environmental risk. Research conducted [...] Read more.
According to the latest research, marine products have the greatest potential for microplastic (MPs) contamination. Therefore, their presence in terrestrial food has not managed to attract much attention—despite the fact that in the future they may represent a serious environmental risk. Research conducted in Europe and the US has indicated the presence of MPs in tap water, bottled water, table salt, honey, beer and snails for human consumption. The presence of MPs in food has not yet been evaluated in Latin America. This work focused on evaluating two widely consumed beverages: milk and soft drinks. Furthermore, honey and beer samples were analyzed and compared to findings in the literature. All products were sourced in Ecuador. In order to determine correlations with the intensity of anthropogenic activity, samples of both industrially processed and craft products were studied. For the analysis, an improvement of previous techniques used to determine MPs in honey was applied. This technique uses microfiltration followed by degradation of organic matter with hydrogen peroxide—and finally, continuous rinsing with deionized water. Size ranges were established between 0.8–200 mm. The number of microplastics found was between 10 and 100 MPs/L, with an average of around 40 MPs/L. The sizes of the particles found in the study are in the range of 13.45 and 6742.48 μm for the fibers, and between 2.48 and 247.54 μm for the fragments. From the composition analysis carried out with FTIR, we were able to confirm the presence of 12% of microplastic. The results generally showed a greater presence of MPs compared to those registered in Europe, probably due to processing methods rather than environmental pollution. Regarding composition, the main microplastics found were polyethylene, polypropylene and polyacrylamide. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics - Macro Challenge for Environmental Sustainability)
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Review

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Review
Hints at the Applicability of Microalgae and Cyanobacteria for the Biodegradation of Plastics
Sustainability 2020, 12(24), 10449; https://doi.org/10.3390/su122410449 - 14 Dec 2020
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 4629
Abstract
Massive plastic accumulation has been taking place across diverse landscapes since the 1950s, when large-scale plastic production started. Nowadays, societies struggle with continuously increasing concerns about the subsequent pollution and environmental stresses that have accompanied this plastic revolution. Degradation of used plastics is [...] Read more.
Massive plastic accumulation has been taking place across diverse landscapes since the 1950s, when large-scale plastic production started. Nowadays, societies struggle with continuously increasing concerns about the subsequent pollution and environmental stresses that have accompanied this plastic revolution. Degradation of used plastics is highly time-consuming and causes volumetric aggregation, mainly due to their high strength and bulky structure. The size of these agglomerations in marine and freshwater basins increases daily. Exposure to weather conditions and environmental microflora (e.g., bacteria and microalgae) can slowly corrode the plastic structure. As has been well documented in recent years, plastic fragments are widespread in marine basins and partially in main global rivers. These are potential sources of negative effects on global food chains. Cyanobacteria (e.g., Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803, and Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942), which are photosynthetic microorganisms and were previously identified as blue-green algae, are currently under close attention for their abilities to capture solar energy and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide for the production of high-value products. In the last few decades, these microorganisms have been exploited for different purposes (e.g., biofuels, antioxidants, fertilizers, and ‘superfood’ production). Microalgae (e.g., Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, and Phaeodactylum tricornutum) are also suitable for environmental and biotechnological applications based on the exploitation of solar light. Can photosynthetic bacteria and unicellular eukaryotic algae play a role for further scientific research in the bioremediation of plastics of different sizes present in water surfaces? In recent years, several studies have been targeting the utilization of microorganisms for plastic bioremediation. Among the different phyla, the employment of wild-type or engineered cyanobacteria may represent an interesting, environmentally friendly, and sustainable option. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics - Macro Challenge for Environmental Sustainability)
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Review
Sample Preparation Techniques for the Analysis of Microplastics in Soil—A Review
Sustainability 2020, 12(21), 9074; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12219074 - 31 Oct 2020
Cited by 58 | Viewed by 7008
Abstract
Although most plastic pollution originates on land, current research largely remains focused on aquatic ecosystems. Studies pioneering terrestrial microplastic research have adapted analytical methods from aquatic research without acknowledging the complex nature of soil. Meanwhile, novel methods have been developed and further refined. [...] Read more.
Although most plastic pollution originates on land, current research largely remains focused on aquatic ecosystems. Studies pioneering terrestrial microplastic research have adapted analytical methods from aquatic research without acknowledging the complex nature of soil. Meanwhile, novel methods have been developed and further refined. However, methodical inconsistencies still challenge a comprehensive understanding of microplastic occurrence and fate in and on soil. This review aims to disentangle the variety of state-of-the-art sample preparation techniques for heterogeneous solid matrices to identify and discuss best-practice methods for soil-focused microplastic analyses. We show that soil sampling, homogenization, and aggregate dispersion are often neglected or incompletely documented. Microplastic preconcentration is typically performed by separating inorganic soil constituents with high-density salt solutions. Not yet standardized but currently most used separation setups involve overflowing beakers to retrieve supernatant plastics, although closed-design separation funnels probably reduce the risk of contamination. Fenton reagent may be particularly useful to digest soil organic matter if suspected to interfere with subsequent microplastic quantification. A promising new approach is extraction of target polymers with organic solvents. However, insufficiently characterized soils still impede an informed decision on optimal sample preparation. Further research and method development thus requires thorough validation and quality control with well-characterized matrices to enable robust routine analyses for terrestrial microplastics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics - Macro Challenge for Environmental Sustainability)
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Review
Atmospheric Micro and Nanoplastics: An Enormous Microscopic Problem
Sustainability 2020, 12(18), 7327; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12187327 - 07 Sep 2020
Cited by 36 | Viewed by 4070
Abstract
Atmospheric plastic pollution is now a global problem. Microplastics (MP) have been detected in urban atmospheres as well as in remote and pristine environments, showing that suspension, deposition and aeolian transport of MP should be included and considered as a major transport pathway [...] Read more.
Atmospheric plastic pollution is now a global problem. Microplastics (MP) have been detected in urban atmospheres as well as in remote and pristine environments, showing that suspension, deposition and aeolian transport of MP should be included and considered as a major transport pathway in the plastic life cycle. This work reports an up to date review of the experimental estimation of deposition rate of MP in rural and urban environment, also analyzing the correlation with meteorological factors. Due to the limitations in sampling and instrumental methodology, little is known about MP and nanoplastics (NP) with sizes lower than 50 µm. In this review, we describe how NP could be transported for longer distances than MP, making them globally present and potentially more concentrated than MP. We highlight that it is crucial to explore new methodologies to collect and analyze NP. Future research should focus on the development of new technologies, combining the existent knowledge on nanomaterial and atmospheric particle analysis. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics - Macro Challenge for Environmental Sustainability)
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Review
A Practical Overview of Methodologies for Sampling and Analysis of Microplastics in Riverine Environments
Sustainability 2020, 12(17), 6755; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12176755 - 20 Aug 2020
Cited by 50 | Viewed by 4656
Abstract
Microplastics have recently been stated as being remarkable contaminants of all environmental matrices. The lack of consistent and standardised methods and protocols used to evaluate and quantify microplastics present in riverine systems made a comparison among different studies a critical issue. Based on [...] Read more.
Microplastics have recently been stated as being remarkable contaminants of all environmental matrices. The lack of consistent and standardised methods and protocols used to evaluate and quantify microplastics present in riverine systems made a comparison among different studies a critical issue. Based on literature research and the practical expertise of the authors, this work presents a complete collection and analysis of procedures concerning the monitoring of microplastics in riverine environments, focusing on their sampling and analytical protocols to identify, quantify, and characterise them. Further details regarding the advantages and disadvantages of each analytical technique described, such as general recommendations and suggestions, are provided to give practical support for analytical procedures. In particular, microplastics studies consist firstly of their sampling from the aquatic compartment (aqueous and solid phase). Based on the goal of the research, specific devices can be used to collect particles from different matrices. It follows their quantification after extraction from the environmental matrix, adopting different protocols to isolate microplastics from a large amount of organic matter present in a riverine system. In the end, additional qualitative analyses (e.g., RAMAN and FTIR spectroscopy, GC-MS) are required to identify the chemical composition of particles for a better image regarding the abundance of polymer types, their origin, or other information related to manufacturing processes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics - Macro Challenge for Environmental Sustainability)
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Other

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Opinion
Emerging Concerns about Microplastic Pollution on Groundwater in South Korea
Sustainability 2020, 12(13), 5275; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12135275 - 30 Jun 2020
Cited by 23 | Viewed by 3810
Abstract
If human history has thus far been divided into the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age, then modern times can be considered the Plastic Age [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Microplastics - Macro Challenge for Environmental Sustainability)
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