Balls of seagrass could help kick microplastics out of the sea

Seagrass forms balls that have the potential to capture 867 million pieces of plastic annually

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Scientists from the University of Barcelona (UB) have discovered that seagrass and natural fibre in the shape of balls, could clean up the oceans by trapping up to 867 million plastic pieces every year.

The research, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that plastics are trapped in the ‘Posidonia Neptune’ seagrass balls that normally collect plastic as they form.

‘Posidonia oceanica’ seagrass is believed to be beneficial for marine biodiversity because of its role in nutrition, shelter and reproduction.

The study shows plastics found in the seas are captured by masses of natural fibre, or pods, which are then carried onto the beaches, during periods of strong waves and storms.

Although there are no studies that have measured the number of seagrass balls expelled from the seabed to the coastlines, it is estimated that around 1,470 plastics are taken per kilogram of plant fibre.

That figure is believed to be ‘significantly higher’ than the plastics captured through leaves or sand.

According to recent research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, nearly 14 million tonnes of microplastics are littering the world’s seafloor.

Anna Sànchez-Vidal, Member of the Department of Ocean and Earth Dynamics of the UB, said: “According to the analysis the trapped microplastics in the prairies of the Posidonia Oceanica are mainly filaments, fibres and fragments of polymers which are denser than the seawater such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET).”

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