Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

A Systematic Study on the Degradation Products Generated from Artificially Aged Microplastics

Version 1 : Received: 28 April 2021 / Approved: 30 April 2021 / Online: 30 April 2021 (15:29:00 CEST)

How to cite: Biale, G.; La Nasa, J.; Mattonai, M.; Corti, A.; Vinciguerra, V.; Castelvetro, V.; Modugno, F. A Systematic Study on the Degradation Products Generated from Artificially Aged Microplastics. Preprints 2021, 2021040792 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202104.0792.v1). Biale, G.; La Nasa, J.; Mattonai, M.; Corti, A.; Vinciguerra, V.; Castelvetro, V.; Modugno, F. A Systematic Study on the Degradation Products Generated from Artificially Aged Microplastics. Preprints 2021, 2021040792 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202104.0792.v1).

Abstract

Up to 13 million tons of plastic waste are estimated to enter the oceans every year. A generally accepted picture based on an increasing number of environmental studies suggests that the largest fraction of it consists or is rapidly degraded into microplastics (MPs). Most of the analytical studies focused on MPs are based on the detection and identification of the polymers. On the other hand, plastic debris in the environment undergo chemical (mainly photoxidative) and physical degradation processes leading not only to fragmentation but also to the formation of leachable, soluble and/or volatile degradation products that are released in the environment. The formation of such low molecular weight species is generally neglected in the studies on MPs even if these compounds, released in the environment from the plastics debris, may pose even higher risks for the environment and for the biota than the MPs particles themselves, risks that are far from being understood and assessed. In this study we performed the analysis of reference MPs - polymer micropowders obtained by grinding a set of five polymer types down to final size in the 857-509 μm range, namely high- and low-density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE, respectively), polystyrene (PS), polypropylene (PP), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The reference MPs were artificially aged in a Solar-Box and their degradation products were analyzed to investigate their degradation processes. In particular, a systematic and thorough characterization of the aged (photo-oxidized) MPs and of their low molecular weight and/or highly oxidized fraction extractable in polar organic solvents was performed. For this purpose, the artificially aged MPs were subjected to selective extraction with organic solvent that are non-solvents for the virgin polymers, targeting selective recovery of the low molecular weight fractions generated during the artificial aging. Analysis of both the extractable fractions and the residues was carried out by a multi-technique approach combining evolved gas analysis-mass spectrometry (EGA-MS) and pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS). Up to 18 wt% of newly extractable, low molecular weight fraction was recovered from the photo-aged MPs, depending on the polymer type. The results highlight the need for more extensive studies about the potential harmfulness of the oxidation products (molecular and oxidized oligomeric species) that may leach out from plastic debris during their permanence in the environment.

Subject Areas

Microplastics; Artificial Ageing; Polymer Degradation; Artificial Ageing; Polyethylene; Polypropylene; Polystyrene; Polyethylene Terephthalate

Comments (0)

We encourage comments and feedback from a broad range of readers. See criteria for comments and our diversity statement.

Leave a public comment
Send a private comment to the author(s)
Views 0
Downloads 0
Comments 0
Metrics 0


×
Alerts
Notify me about updates to this article or when a peer-reviewed version is published.
We use cookies on our website to ensure you get the best experience.
Read more about our cookies here.