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Adsorption of trace metals to plastic resin pellets in the marine environment

Luke A. Holmes, Andrew Turner, Richard C. Thompson
Environmental pollution 2012 v.160 no. pp. 42-48
cobalt, copper, zinc, equations, lead, marine environment, cadmium, beaches, estuarine sediments, partition coefficients, nickel, polyethylene, seawater, chromium, pellets, sorption isotherms, adsorption, England
Plastic production pellets collected from beaches of south west England contain variable concentrations of trace metals (Cr, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd and Pb) that, in some cases, exceed concentrations reported for local estuarine sediments. The rates and mechanisms by which metals associate with virgin and beached polyethylene pellets were studied by adding a cocktail of 5 μg L⁻¹ of trace metals to 10 g L⁻¹ pellet suspensions in filtered seawater. Kinetic profiles were modelled using a pseudo-first-order equation and yielded response times of less than about 100 h and equilibrium partition coefficients of up to about 225 ml g⁻¹ that were consistently higher for beached pellets than virgin pellets. Adsorption isotherms conformed to both the Langmuir and Freundlich equations and adsorption capacities were greater for beached pellets than for virgin pellets. Results suggest that plastics may represent an important vehicle for the transport of metals in the marine environment.