High School Highlight: Micro-plastics on Bonaire

By: Julia Marisol Martinus

My name is Julia Marisol Martinus. I am 18 years old and I am a student at the local high school. I am in my last year of school and currently conducting my senior thesis.

 

I am doing research about micro-plastics. Micro-plastics are classified as small plastic particles with a length of 5 mm or shorter. Most micro-plastics are so small that you cant see them with the naked eye. These plastic particles are really harmful for our environment for many reasons, namely they negatively influence the reproduction processes of many organisms, namely filter-feeding organisms such as mussels. Common types of micro-plastic are microbeads, which are found in many cosmetic products such as face wash and toothpaste. Micro-plastics can also result from larger pieces of plastic in the environment being broken down by abiotic factors such as water and sunlight. Plastic packaging that claim to be `biodegradable` often misguides people because the plastic isn’t actually biodegradable, it just breaks down into microscopic pieces, hence micro-plastic. Biodegradable means `(of a substance or object) capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms`, plastics are synthetic and cannot be decomposed.

I am researching if sea currents have an effect on the location and abundance of micro-plastics in the sand around Bonaire. My research consists of two parts: analyzing data regarding sea currents and collecting sand samples to analyze for micro-plastic. I have chosen 6 locations all around Bonaire to collect sand samples. I am collecting three samples from each location, closest to the shore, midway from shore to road or rubble furthest sand patch from shore. I am using a 15 cm long corer to take sand samples. From each sample I will use 100 mL and add fresh water to make the plastic particles float to the top. I will then use a 20-micrometer filter to separate the water and the micro-plastics. After putting the residue on a Petri dish I will look at it under the microscope to remove particles that aren’t plastic.

                                         

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