From nurdles to plastic density, from scrutinizing microfibres to recognizing foams, check out this fabulous handy guide by maxliboiron over at Public Lab:
One of the main problems of working with microplastics is that they can be difficult to tell apart from non-plastics. In my own lab, beginners can have up to an ~80% error rate where they either fail to identify some things as plastics, or identify non-plastics as plastics by mistake. This guide is designed to help reduce that margin of error so you can be more sure of what you’ve found.
This guide assumes you are working with samples from BabyLegs, and have prepared your sample by sorting and drying it, though it can be generalized to microplastics found in other ways.
- Your microplastic sample, sorted and dried.
- A dissecting microscope. Dissecting scopes are different than compound microscopes, which are more common. Dissecting scopes have a larger working area on the stage (the place where you put the sample) and a lower magnification. If you don’t have one, you can use a handheld/USB microscope (such as these), or even a magnifying glass. The less sophisticated your viewing system, the more likely you are to make an error.
- A glass or plastic petri dish, watch glass, or other flat, shallow container to look at your sample under the microscope with.
- Spotter’s Guide to micoplastics, available here: Spotter’s_Guide_to_Plastic_Pollution-_trawls-SM.pdf We’ve prepared this guide with common plastic types and common plastic-look alikes to aid identification.
- Sewing needle & source of heat (like a lighter)
- Nail polish remover
- Datasheet (if you are collecting data systematically into some kind of data set. No need if you’re just poking around). We have a blank datasheet here.