Looking for Microplastics in water in Madagascar
Looking for microplastics in water in Madagascar
By Kaya Malhi
Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic that pollute the environment . Microplastics are not a specific kind of plastic , but rather any type of plastic fragment that is less than 5 mm in length according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration .They enter natural ecosystems from a variety of sources, including cosmetics , clothing , and industrial processes.
Two classifications of microplastics currently exist. Primary microplastics are any plastic fragments or particles that are already 5.0 mm in size or less before entering environment. These include microfibers from clothing, microbeads , and plastic pellets (also known as nurdles). Secondary microplastics are microplastics that are created from the degradation of larger plastic products once they enter the environment through natural weathering processes. Such sources of secondary microplastics include water and soda bottles, fishing nets, and plastic bags. Both types are recognized to persist in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems .
In this experiment we were looking for microplastics in different water sources around Madagascar’s capital city, Antananarivo. This experiment is important so that we can assess the impacts of the microplastics and base our actions upon the results. Furthermore, it is an interesting experiment due to the lack of research in developing countries such as Madagascar. In the experiment we filtered 1.5 litres of water from 6 diffrent water sources, (including water from a plastic factory, water from rice paddies, source water, water from a cloth factory and domestic washing water) we then filtered this water through filter paper and searched for the micro plastics that were caught in the paper.
My hypothesis for this experiment was that it would result in the paper from the domestic washing having the highest concentration of microplastics. My reasoning for this was that there would be a high concentration due to all the micro plastic fibres coming off any polyester fabrics. I expected the second highest to be the used water from the industrial cloth factory. In third place I predicted the used water from the plastic factory followed by the tap water and then the rice paddies.
Materials and Methods
For this experiment the materials I used were: a funnel, 1.5 litre bottles, a microscope, filter paper, water (from various sources), a notebook and a pen. For each sample, I went to the source and personally filled the 1.5 litre bottles. I then took them back to the hotel and filtered them. I did this by placing the filter paper inside the funnel and placing the funnel on top of a spare bottle. I then poured a small amount of water inside the funnel (on top of the filter paper), waited for it to filter through and poured a bit more, I repeated this process until the water was completely filtered. I then hung the filter paper to dry. Once the paper was dry I placed it under the microscope and searched for plastic fibres (using the top light). To ensure it was a fair test I searched from left to right so as not to miss plastic fibres. I then noted down the number and colours of fibres and here are the results.
Source: Water from the tap of “Flower Lodge” hotel, Antsirabe, Madagascar. Co-ordinates: (-19.8653313, 47.0367596)
Number of Fibres: 11
Colours of Fibres: 6 blue, 2 black, 1 black and yellow, 1 brown and 1 beige.
Source: Water from machines cleaning plastic bags in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Co-ordinates:
Number of Fibres: 33
Colours of Fibres: 20 blue, 2 brown, 8 black and 3 green.
Source: Water that was used on the rice paddies. From Antananarivo, Madagascar. Co-ordinates: (-18.8169232, 47.4632459)
Number of Fibres: 0
Colours of Fibres: _
Source Water :
Source: Natural water source to be used on rice paddies. Co-ordinates: (-18.8169232, 47.4632459)
Number of Fibres: 3
Colours of Fibres: 1 blue, 2 black
Cloth Factory Water :
(unfortunately their outflow of water went straight into a tank that was inaccessible so we took a sample of water from their taps instead)
Source: Water from the taps of cloth factory “ARAWAK” in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Co-ordinates: (-18.8258125, 47.4578064)
Number of Fibres: 8
Colours of Fibres: 4 blue, 3 black, 1 green.
Domestic Washing Water :
Source: Washing machine outflow from a flat in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Co-ordinates: (-18.8803402, 47.5634861)
Number of Fibres: 34
Colours of Fibres: 16 blue, 17 black and 1 pink.
The results support the original hypothesis in all aspects save the cloth factory. However, the original hypothesis was assuming that the water samples would be from the used water outflow which was not the case.
This experiment was designed to highlight the issue of microplastics in common sources of water. We used a microscope to observe different sources of water under closer inspection. The results concluded that the water from domestic washing had the highest density of microplastics followed by (in order): plastic factory, tap water, cloth factory, source water and rice paddies. This supports the hypothesis in all cases save the cloth factory.
A new testable question that could diverge from this could be: are there similar results in HIC’s such as the UK?