In the environment, the main factors influencing the degradation of plastics are the type of polymer, abiotic processes and biotic factors. According to the literature, the environment where plastic waste is subjected to environmental conditions that favor its degradation and the production of microplastics seems to be the coastal one. To increase knowledge on the degradation of plastics in this environment, in situ experiments were conducted in sub coastal environments to test the degradation of six commonly used types of plastics and the possible factors responsible for the degradation were investigated. The degradation in the urban air environment has also been studied and compared with that in the coastal environment. The types of plastic used were polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), high density polyethylene (HDPE), low density polyethylene (LDPE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The sub-environments selected were a) a lagoon, b) a port environment and c) a fluvial environment near the mouth. They have been identified in Italy, in Goro (Ferrara) and in the area of Siracusa. Testing racks were built to allow the exposure of all types of plastics in the form of strips. They were suitably installed in the Goro lagoon and in the “Porto Piccolo” of Siracusa at intertidal and subtidal depths, at the Ciane River in Siracusa, in semi-floating and submerged conditions and on a terrace of a building at Siracusa. Sampling of the plastic strips was performed after 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 28 and 36 weeks of exposure in each environment. At each sampling time point, total mass change and mass change after washing with hydrochloric acid were measured; from week 4 to week 28 samples chlorophyll a accumulation were measured. The 12- and 28-week exposure samples were also observed using SEM and were subjected to leaching testing. Plastic strips exposed for 28 weeks in the lagoon and port environments were subjected to dissolution by acid attacks. Subsequently, factorial ANOVA was performed to assess the influence of plastic type, depth zonation, and deployment time, on apparent plastic mass change, biofilm mass accumulation, and Chla accumulation. The study showed that the rate of degradation and the type of degradation strongly depend on the environment to which the plastics were exposed. Greater UV radiation, higher temperatures and the absence of fouling are the causes that have led to greater degradation in the air environment than in the aquatic environment. The aquatic environments that caused the greatest degradation is the port one, followed by the lagoon one and finally the river one. In the latter, however, no significant degradation was found. The agents that contributed to the degradation are many: exposure to UV rays, environmental temperature, water salinity, accumulation of fouling, oxygen availability, hydrodynamic energy. Beyond UV radiation, considered the most influential factor on degradation, fouling also played an important effect. In fact, it mainly carried out a role by shielding the plastic from UV radiation. The degradation was also influenced by the depth of deployment. In intertidal/semi-floating conditions, in fact, due to the greater UV radiation, the greater thermal stress and the greater hydrodynamic energy, the plastic strips have undergone greater degradation compared to the subtidal/submerged conditions. The type of plastic also affected the rate of degradation. PS was the one most subject to degradation in all environments, showing mostly fragmentation. In the air environment, there was a greater degradation for PP, PET and PVC plastics and minimal degradation for LDPE and HDPE. In the lagoon and port environment, on the other hand, there was a greater degradation for PET and PVC and gradually decreasing for LDPE, HDPE, and PP. In the river environment, even if it was present differentiated by type of plastic, the degradation was not found significantly.

Common plastic degradation in coastal environments

RIZZO, Marzia
2022

Abstract

In the environment, the main factors influencing the degradation of plastics are the type of polymer, abiotic processes and biotic factors. According to the literature, the environment where plastic waste is subjected to environmental conditions that favor its degradation and the production of microplastics seems to be the coastal one. To increase knowledge on the degradation of plastics in this environment, in situ experiments were conducted in sub coastal environments to test the degradation of six commonly used types of plastics and the possible factors responsible for the degradation were investigated. The degradation in the urban air environment has also been studied and compared with that in the coastal environment. The types of plastic used were polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), high density polyethylene (HDPE), low density polyethylene (LDPE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The sub-environments selected were a) a lagoon, b) a port environment and c) a fluvial environment near the mouth. They have been identified in Italy, in Goro (Ferrara) and in the area of Siracusa. Testing racks were built to allow the exposure of all types of plastics in the form of strips. They were suitably installed in the Goro lagoon and in the “Porto Piccolo” of Siracusa at intertidal and subtidal depths, at the Ciane River in Siracusa, in semi-floating and submerged conditions and on a terrace of a building at Siracusa. Sampling of the plastic strips was performed after 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 28 and 36 weeks of exposure in each environment. At each sampling time point, total mass change and mass change after washing with hydrochloric acid were measured; from week 4 to week 28 samples chlorophyll a accumulation were measured. The 12- and 28-week exposure samples were also observed using SEM and were subjected to leaching testing. Plastic strips exposed for 28 weeks in the lagoon and port environments were subjected to dissolution by acid attacks. Subsequently, factorial ANOVA was performed to assess the influence of plastic type, depth zonation, and deployment time, on apparent plastic mass change, biofilm mass accumulation, and Chla accumulation. The study showed that the rate of degradation and the type of degradation strongly depend on the environment to which the plastics were exposed. Greater UV radiation, higher temperatures and the absence of fouling are the causes that have led to greater degradation in the air environment than in the aquatic environment. The aquatic environments that caused the greatest degradation is the port one, followed by the lagoon one and finally the river one. In the latter, however, no significant degradation was found. The agents that contributed to the degradation are many: exposure to UV rays, environmental temperature, water salinity, accumulation of fouling, oxygen availability, hydrodynamic energy. Beyond UV radiation, considered the most influential factor on degradation, fouling also played an important effect. In fact, it mainly carried out a role by shielding the plastic from UV radiation. The degradation was also influenced by the depth of deployment. In intertidal/semi-floating conditions, in fact, due to the greater UV radiation, the greater thermal stress and the greater hydrodynamic energy, the plastic strips have undergone greater degradation compared to the subtidal/submerged conditions. The type of plastic also affected the rate of degradation. PS was the one most subject to degradation in all environments, showing mostly fragmentation. In the air environment, there was a greater degradation for PP, PET and PVC plastics and minimal degradation for LDPE and HDPE. In the lagoon and port environment, on the other hand, there was a greater degradation for PET and PVC and gradually decreasing for LDPE, HDPE, and PP. In the river environment, even if it was present differentiated by type of plastic, the degradation was not found significantly.
VACCARO, Carmela
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Descrizione: COMMON PLASTICS DEGRADATION IN COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS
Tipologia: Tesi di dottorato
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11392/2486762
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