Microplastic Survey of the Soko Islands, Hong Kong
After the samples are collected they are laid out to dry ready for sorting. Before doing anything the samples are photographed for records. The larger pieces are removed and kept to one side. The next step is to begin sorting the organics and polystyrene beads from the smaller plastic fragments and nurdles (pre-production plastic pellets). At this point we are only photographing the polystyrene and organics. This way we can tell approximately what percentage of the total these make up. The small plastic fragments and nurdles are then seperated and counted. The results of these will be published in a report in the near future.
One of the most concerning issues with micro-plastics is that they are being found inside seabirds and fish, fish that are destined for human consumption. Nurdles or pre-production plastic pellets are the raw component of all plastic items. They are transported in large sacks and spillage is rife during both transportation and inside the factories. Factory floors are often washed down and the nurdles end up washing down the drains and into rivers leading to the sea. Nurdles are found on almost every beach worldwide.
Micro-plastics often have rough, coarse surfaces that attract pollutants and toxins like a sponge. Marine life that mistakenly eat these micro-plastics are often found either dead or malnourished as the plastics accumulate in the animals stomach, taking up essential space needed for food to energy transfer. Once in the stomach of an animal, the toxins then transfer to the flesh. This is where the concern lies with humans that consume seafood, eating flesh that has been marinated in toxins.