In 2005, Dr. Hideshige Takada founded International Pellet Watch (IPW) to track and study plastic pellets. Pellets are the raw material that gets remelted and molded into plastic products. Citizens across the globe collected plastic pellets from the beaches they visited and sent them to his laboratory at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. The content of the pellets are analyzed to determine its global POP distribution. The results are sent to the participants via email and released on the web.
So far, pellet samples from approximately 200 locations in about 40 countries have been analyzed. Five samples are analyzed from each location to see piece-to-piece variability. About 1000 pellet samples have been analyzed so far. POPs were detected in every one of those 1000 pellet samples from around the world, even from remote islands, providing evidence that plastic pellets transport POPs for long distances.
POPs are hazardous human-made chemicals that are resistant to degradation in the environment. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), different sorts of organochlorine pesticides (e.g. DDTs and HCHs) and brominated flame-retardants are all POPs.
Analyzing plastic pellets enables IPW to observe spatial patterns of POP concentrations. For example, PCB concentrations were two to three orders of magnitude higher in highly-industrialized areas. Even though, usage of PCBs was banned in the 1970s, they accumulated in the bottom sediments in coastal zones and rivers. (General Electric caused The Hudson River to become a Super Fund Site by dumping PCBs into the water for decades). Due to their persistent and hydrophobic nature, PCBs are easily remobilized by wind, waves, and currents, sediments stirred up by organisms, dredging and underwater construction. PCBs continue to contaminate coastal waters by becoming absorbed into plastic pellets.
I googled plastic pellets and . . . . yikes!
Until next time,