Apr 14, 2021

A nurdle in a haystack. The 2020 Mississippi River plastic pellet spill reveals widespread pellet contamination from multiple sources.

Speaker
  • Professor, College of the Coast and Environment, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Baton Rouge, LA
    Biography

      Mark Benfield is a Professor in the College of the Coast and Environment, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences at Louisiana State University. His research examines plastic pollution and zooplankton ecology. He received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, M.Sc. from the University of Kwazulu-Natal, and B.Sc. from the University of Toronto.


    Abstract

    Authors: Mark C. Benfield, Elizabeth Marchio, Aimee Thomas, Kyrsten Boswell, and Nicole Nguyen.

    In August 2020 the MV Bianca lost a shipping container filled with an estimated 750 million raw polyethylene resin pellets (nurdles). The majority of these pellets entered the Mississippi River and contaminated shorelines within, and downriver of New Orleans. Samples collected at contaminated sites contained large quantities of nurdles, many of which had morphologies that differed from samples of the spilled pellets. This study describes the spill and the preliminary results from the use of FT-IR  spectroscopy to distinguish spill pellets from those released by other sources.


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