Identification of plastics via FTIR spectroscopy
This protocol is extracted from research article:
Multidecadal increase in plastic particles in coastal ocean sediments
Sci Adv, Sep 4, 2019; DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax0587

To determine whether visually identified plastics were plastic polymers, we analyzed a subset of particles using an FTIR spectrometer with an attenuated total reflectance diamond crystal attachment (Nicolet 6700 with Smart-iTR). All spectra were recorded at 4 cm−1 resolution. The FTIR spectra for particles collected from the ocean were compared to published standards (2, 15, 29, 30) to attempt to identify whether the particles were plastic, biological material, or sedimentary material. The spectra were analyzed via eFTIR software ( The plastic was further identified to plastic type when possible. At least 10% of particles from every fifth 0.5-cm transverse sediment layer from the box core were identified by FTIR. The trilaminate bag and core liner in which the core was stored were also tested via FTIR to identify sources of contamination.

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