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Influence of colourants on environmental degradation of plastic litter

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-03-15, 16:42 authored by Sarah Key, Peter G Ryan, Sarah E Gabbott, Jack Allen, Andrew P Abbott
Plastic degradation and the resultant production of microplastics has an important effect on the environment and fauna across the world. This paper shows that the colourant incorporated into plastic formulations has a significant effect on the stability of plastics. A static experimental exposure of differently coloured polypropylene bottle tops from the same manufacturer to a moderate climate over 3 years showed that black, white and silver plastics were almost unaffected whereas the specific blue, green and especially red pigments used in this study were significantly degraded. The second part of the study collected littered HDPE plastic containers from a remote South African beach and analysed their condition as a function of the given manufacturing date stamp. Most items were black or white and samples up to 45 years old were found with relatively little environmental degradation other than mild abrasion. It appears that carbon and titanium dioxide colourants protect the HDPE polymer from photolytic degradation. While anthraquinone, phthalocyanine and diketopyrrolopyrrole pigments were found to enable UV light to degrade the polymer leading to brittle plastics, promoting the formation of microplastics, it is likely that other pigments that do not strongly absorb in the UV will result in similar degradation.

Funding

Central England NERC Training Alliance (CENTA)

Natural Environment Research Council

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History

Author affiliation

College of Science & Engineering/ChemistryCollege of Science & Engineering/Geography, Geology & Environment

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Environmental Pollution

Volume

347

Pagination

123701

Publisher

Elsevier BV

issn

0269-7491

eissn

1873-6424

Copyright date

2024

Available date

2024-03-15

Spatial coverage

England

Language

en

Deposited by

Professor Sarah Gabbott

Deposit date

2024-03-15

Data Access Statement

Data will be made available on request.

Rights Retention Statement

  • No

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