A new small device made of glass for separating microplastics from marine and freshwater sediments
Separating microplastics from marine and freshwater sediments is challenging, but necessary to determine their distribution, mass, and ecological impacts in benthic environments. Density separation is commonly used to extract microplastics from sediments by using heavy salt solutions, such as zinc chloride and sodium iodide. However, current devices/apparatus used for density separation, including glass beakers, funnels, upside-down funnel-shaped separators with a shut-off valve, etc., possess various shortcomings in terms of recovery rate, time consumption, and/or usability. In evaluating existing microplastic extraction methods using density separation, we identified the need for a device that allows rapid, simple, and efficient extraction of microplastics from a range of sediment types. We have developed a small glass separator, without a valve, taking a hint from an Utermöhl chamber. This new device is easy to clean and portable, yet enables rapid separation of microplastics from sediments. With this simple device, we recovered 94–98% of <1,000 µm microplastics (polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene terephthalate, and polystyrene). Overall, the device is efficient for various sizes, polymer types, and sediment types. Also, microplastics collected with this glass-made device remain chemically uncontaminated, and can, therefore, be used for further analysis of adsorbing contaminants and additives on/to microplastics.