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Iced block method: An efficient method for preparation of micro-sized expanded polystyrene foams

Kwak, Jin Il, An, Youn-Joo
Environmental pollution 2020 v.263 pp. 114387
bioaccumulation, environmental impact, foams, grinding, ice, microplastics, polystyrenes, sieving, toxicity
Recently, numerous studies concerning dye-labeled microplastic beads have reported on the end-of-life, environmental effects of microplastics because of their ubiquitous commercial usage. Less is understood about the toxicity and bioaccumulation of plastics other than microplastic beads, which can also harm the environment (e.g., fragments, fibers, foams, and films). Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is widespread in the environment owing to its many uses, however, limited research has been conducted on EPS foams. This study focuses on developing an efficient method for the preparation of micro-sized EPS foams for research purposes and compares it with previous microplastics preparation methods reported in 68 previous studies. It was demonstrated that the iced EPS block method (iced EPS block + water) generated larger quantities of smaller-sized EPS foams (20–200 and 200–500 μm) compared to the EPS + ice + water and EPS + water methods. The optimal protocol includes 1) iced EPS block preparation, 2) grinding and sieving, and 3) collecting. Additionally, it was confirmed that the iced EPS block method requires less money, labor, and time compared to previously reported methods in the literature. The method proposed in this research can assist future investigations into the environmental effects of EPS foams.