Lichens accumulate micro-plastic from the environment



The aim of this study was to assess if lichens (Flavoparmelia caperata) surrounding a landfill dumping site in Italy accumulated higher amounts of micro-plastics compared with lichens at more distant sites.Lichen samples were collected at three sites along a transect from the landfill: close (directly facing the landfill), intermediate (200 m), and remote (1500 m). Anthropogenic micro-particles (fibres and fragments) were determined visually after wet peroxide digestion of the samples, and micro-plastics were identified based on a hot needle test; the type of plastic was identified by micro-Raman analysis.The results showed that lichens collected in the vicinity of the landfill accumulated the highest number of anthropogenic microfibres and fragments (147 mp/g dw), and consequently micro-plastics (79 mp/gdw), suggesting that the impact of landfill emissions is spatially limited. The proportion of fibres and fragments identified as micro-plastics was 40% across all sites and the most abundant polymer type was polyester or polyethylene terephthalate (68%). These results clearly indicated that lichens can effectively be used to monitor the deposition of micro-plastics.

The article was published in the popular scientific journal Nature.

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