Sampling efficiency of a high volume microplastic sampler for environmental characterization in aquatic habitats

Jacquelyn Roush


Plastics and microplastics have been entering the ocean at increasing rates, but there remains little uniformity in the methods of sampling and extracting microplastics from aquatic systems. In this study, we trialed a high-volume sampling system (capable of 50-150 gallons per sample) that filters fresh or seawater through 280 μm, 100 μm and 10 μm stainless steel cartridges. Overall efficiency of the system was estimated experimentally by seeding using pre-counted microplastic beads and nylon fibers into the system. These known particles were collected on the filters and extracted using vacuum filtration in the lab. The recovered samples of microplastics were used to enumerate the recovery of microplastics, giving rise to an estimate of the extraction efficiency of the system. For microplastics beads >280 μm, we found that the system has an efficiency of 44±5%. Consequently, field sampling and extraction methods need to be refined for more efficient microplastic recovery.