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Issue 13, 2019
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Using castor oil to separate microplastics from four different environmental matrices

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Abstract

The detection of environmental microplastics (MP) is limited by the need to rigorously separate polymers from the surrounding sample matrix. Searching for an affordable, low-risk and quick separation method, we developed a protocol to separate microplastics (size range: 0.3–1 mm; virgin polymers: PP, PS, PMMA and PET-G) from suspended surface solids (marine and fluvial) as well as soil and sediment using castor oil. We demonstrate effective separation of the four polymers in a spike-recovery experiment. The mean ± SD MP spike-recovery rate was 99 ± 4% with an average matrix reduction of 95 ± 4% (dry weight, n = 16). The protocol was validated by separating non-spiked environmental Rhine River suspended solids samples recovering 74 ± 13% of MP. There PS comprised 76% of the non-retrieved MP and additional H2O2 digestion was needed to sufficiently reduce the highly abundant natural matrix. This castor oil lipophilicity-based protocol (i) achieves high MP recovery rates as a function of its environmental matrix reduction ability and (ii) provides environmentally friendly, non-hazardous and resource-efficient separation of MP from four different, typically investigated environmental compartments using one and the same method. Based on the Rhine River sample validation, the protocol is a potent replacement for traditional density separation techniques. Samples with high biogenic concentrations may require additional digestion.

Graphical abstract: Using castor oil to separate microplastics from four different environmental matrices

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Publication details

The article was received on 23 Nov 2018, accepted on 23 Feb 2019 and first published on 25 Feb 2019


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C8AY02559B
Anal. Methods, 2019,11, 1788-1794
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    Using castor oil to separate microplastics from four different environmental matrices

    T. Mani, S. Frehland, A. Kalberer and P. Burkhardt-Holm, Anal. Methods, 2019, 11, 1788
    DOI: 10.1039/C8AY02559B

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