Beach microplastics

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A stretch of beach at least 100m in length is recommended. The site should be divided into 10m segments, which can be marked using sticks of bamboo. Within each segment, a square of 50cm by 50cm should be selected at random and also marked using Saté sticks and string. Random site selection can be done using a random number generator such as the one at to give distances in meters to locate the site within each segment. A number between 1 and 10 should be selected for the location along the beach, and a number between 1 and ~50 for the distance from the ocean (depending on the width of the beach, it should be before vegetation starts).

Microplastics protocol

Adapted from Arocha's Guidelines for sampling microplastics on sandy beaches



  • 2 buckets
  • Water filter fabric (with 100-300 um plastic mesh)
  • Elastics
  • Measuring tape
  • Saté sticks
  • String
  • Small metal shovel
  • Metal sieve 5mm mesh
  • Metal sieve 1mm mesh
  • Metal Tweezers
  • Magnifying glass
  • Glass jar with a date & location
  • Clipboard & form
  • Cotton towel


  1. Filter sea water
    • Cover the filter fabric over one bucket and hold it in place with an elastic
    • Slowly pour ocean water into the bucket to filter out any micro plastics
    • Once done cover the bucket
  2. Prepare the research area
    • Locate and mark your sampling location with a bamboo stick
    • Stand downwind from the sampling location
    • Using the stick as the top right corner, measure and mark a 50cm by 50cm square with bamboo sticks and string
    • Pour filtered water over the square to hold the sand in place
  3. Collect sample
    • Use a small metal shovel to dig 5 cm deep
    • Put the top 5cm of sand into a bucket
    • Take out pebbles, shells, wood or seaweed and wash them with filtered seawater using the fine mesh strainer to catch any micro plastics
    • Use a magnifying glass to double check for any remaining microplastics
    • Put the large items back at the beach and any micro plastics into the glass collection jar
  4. Filter sample
    • Place a 5mm mesh on top of a 1mm mesh
    • Use a metal spoon to put sand in the 5mm mesh and wash the sand through with filtered seawater
    • Whatever gets through the 1mm filter stays at the beach
    • Put what is left in the 1mm filter into the glass collection jar
    • Check the top 5mm filter for micro plastic
    • Take them out with tweezers
    • Put them in the glass collection jar
    • Throw the rest of the sand back on the beach



  • For analysis:
  • Glass dishes
  • Black and white paper cards
  • Light
  • Magnifying glass
  • Tweezers
  • Teasing needles
  • Saté sticks
  • Microscope
  • Ruler
  • Glass storage jar
  • Labels
  • Marker
  • Data sheet
  • Camera


  1. Put the sand from the jar in a glass bowl with filtered sea water
  2. Stir the dish to release pieces from each other
    • The microplastics should float
  3. Place black and white paper under the bowl to see different plastics
  4. Shine a light over the water to see transparent films
  5. Take out pieces with metal tweezers and place them in a petri dish
    • Organic pieces may disintegrate when prodded
  6. Identify micro plastics under a microscope or magnifying glass
    • Classify micro plastics according to the photo guide below
    • If you see cell structures under a microscope it is organic and not plastic
  7. Take a picture of each piece and overall collection
  8. Record findings in form below
Shapes of typical microplastics collected from inland waters Qinghai Lake and Three Gorges Reservoir in China
Shapes of typical microplastics collected from inland waters (Qinghai Lake and Three Gorges Reservoir) in China (a, sheet; b, film; c, line/fiber; d, fragment; e, pellet/granule; f, foam)[1]
Category label Type of plastic Quantity found
A sheet
B film
C filament/string
D rigid
E pellet
F foam

Macroplastics protocol

Adapted from Guideline for monitoring marine litter on the beaches in the OSPAR maritime area


  • Clipboard with a form to keep track of what is collected
  • Bag to fill in the plastic waste
  • Bag for non plastic waste
  • Small container for cigarette butts
  • Reusable gloves


Work in teams of 3 with 2 cleaners and one note taker.

  1. Take a picture of your section before you start
  2. Collect waste:
    • Write down what you pick up below
    • Put cigarette butts in a separate container
  3. Take a picture after you finish
  4. Take the bag(s) back to homebase
  5. Take a picture of the filled bags
  6. Weigh bags and write down the total in the form
  7. If you're working with other teams feel free to join them
Type # of pieces Weight
Cigarette butts
Most common types of waste found:
Most common plastics found:


The budget for equipment necessary for 10 groups to study a length of 100m in Boca Grandi, along with locations in Aruba where the items can be purchased, is detailed in the table below. This equipment is also available from Metabolic Foundation for people in Aruba to borrow in order to carry out research on local beaches.

Store Cost Items
Island Asia Afl.66.56 Towels, needles, rulers
Win Tung Home Center Afl.2.39 Magnifying glass
Aruba Supplies & Distribution Afl.26.51 Spoons
Office Systems Aruba Afl.65.65 Labels, paper, clipboards
Do It Center Camacuri Afl.71.73 Buckets, shovels
Kooyman Megastore Afl.329.80 Gloves, buckets, tubs, markers, twine, markers
Wu's Excellent Hardware & Homecenter Afl.29.30 Shovels
Win Tung Home Center Afl.132.24 1mm sieves, magnifying glasses
Flora Aruba NV Afl.19.00 Bamboo sticks
Island Asia Afl.19.56 Glass dishes
Tat Fat Home Depot Afl.21.74 Tile drill bit, hardware
Aruba Supplies & Distribution Afl.79.50 5mm sieves
Do It Center Shaba Afl.98.90 Tape measure, flashlights
Win Tung Home Center Afl.141.67 Fine sieves

Related links


  1. Microplastic Pollution in Inland Waters Focusing on Asia - Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: [accessed 3 Sep, 2019]