Our seas and oceans are full of plastic pollutants but, unfortunately, what we can see is only a small part of the harmful debris. Scientists assume that this visible waste represents only one percent of the entire mass of pollutants hiding in the waters. Since the other 99 percent remains hidden, it’s extremely difficult to remove it. However, a team of researchers discovered how to spot this lost plastic.
Microplastics are incredibly difficult to spot with the naked eye
Whenever environmentalists look at the plastic pollutants present in the ocean, they leave out a huge part of the waste. This consists of small portions which usually break from bigger pieces of plastic, and are also known as microplastics. They are smaller than 5 millimeters, meaning that, most of the time, researchers aren’t even aware of their presence.
However, a team of researchers from the University of Warwick found a solution to this environmental crisis. They created a special fluorescent dye which makes plastic material appear brighter. This way, they could spot even the tiniest pollutants, leading to a more accurate assessment of the waste present in oceans.
The fluorescent dye makes the tiny pollutants visible
This is a huge achievement, since it represents a huge progress from the previous method used to spot microplastics. Before coming up with the idea of using dye, environmentalists had to pick up each individual piece of tiny plastic, which was the most counterproductive method one could think of.
Now, once they add the dye, all the tiny pollutants get lit up. From then on, researchers can either spot them with the naked eye or, for the smallest pieces, detect them by using a microscope. This way, they could account for more harmful particles in the water than they could easily detect. The findings are important, since even the tiniest of pollutants could harm the environment.