Ocean pollution: Focusing on fragmentation of plastic waste
First discovered by sailors, the masses of plastic debris floating at the center of vast ocean vortices called gyres are today under close scrutiny by scientists. To better understand the fragmentation of microplastics under the effect of light and abrasion by waves, researchers combined physico-chemical analyses with statistical modeling. They were thus able to show that pieces of plastic debris behave in very different ways according to their size. The bigger pieces appear to float flat at the surface of the water, with one face preferentially exposed to sunlight. However, the researchers observed fewer small-sized debris (around 1 mg) than predicted by the mathematical model.