Skip Navigation Links
Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management
António Mendes Lopes (editor), Jiazhong Zhang(editor)
António Mendes Lopes (editor)

University of Porto, Portugal


Jiazhong Zhang (editor)

School of Energy and Power Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 710049, China

Fax: +86 29 82668723 Email:

Reporting Marine Microplastics Data: the Need for a Standardized Protocol

Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management 10(3) (2022) 279--297 | DOI:10.5890/JEAM.2022.09.006

Valentina H. Pauna$^{1}$, Elvira Buonocore$^{1,2}$, Monia Renzi$^{3,4}$, Giovanni Fulvio Russo$^{1,2}$,\\ Pier Paolo Franzese $^{1,2}$

$^{1}$ Department of Science and Technology, Parthenope University of Naples, Centro Direzionale, Isola C4, 80143. Naples,


$^{2}$ UNESCO Chair on ``Environment, Resources and Sustainable Development'', Department of Science and Technology,

Parthenope University of Naples, Via F. Petrarca 80 (80123), Naples, Italy

$^{3}$ Bioscience Research Center, Via Aurelia Vecchia 32, 58015, Orbetello, Grosseto, Italy

$^{4}$ Department of Life Science, University of Trieste, L. Giorgieri, 10 - 34127 Trieste

Download Full Text PDF



Marine microplastics have become an issue of great concern at the global level. The attention towards the issue of marine microplastics, highly recognized by international policy and scientific research, has increased considerably over the last decades. At the European level, several initiatives have been promoted addressing the reduction of plastic pollution as a high priority target, among which the \textit{Marine Strategy Framework Objective (D10)} and the \textit{European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.} In addition, researchers have explored many strategies to optimize the detection and monitoring of microplastics in sediments, seawater, and organisms and to effectively demonstrate their potential ecological harm. However, since pollution dynamics, the functioning of natural ecosystems, and their relationships are very complex, there still lacks a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of microplastics on marine ecosystems. This lack of knowledge may impact the effectiveness of decision-making processes in terms of plastic reduction and waste management. In this study, we present the results of a literature review which focuses on particularly impactful marine microplastic methodological and analytical articles from 2004 to 2017 to identify possible gaps or inconsistencies in the reported data. Based on this review, a framework for a general reporting protocol (GRP) is outlined to encourage increased collaborative research efforts to harmonize the reporting of microplastics data in scientific studies. The proposed GRP outline could be useful in addressing data needs for effective ecological risk assessment.


  1. [1]  Anbumani, S. and Kakkar, P. (2018), Ecotoxicological effects of microplastics on biota: a review, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 25(15), 14373-14396,
  2. [2]  Barrows, A.P.W., Neumann, C.A., Berger, M.L., and Shaw, S.D. (2017), Grab: Vs. neuston tow net: A microplastic sampling performance comparison and possible advances in the field, Analytical Methods, 9(9), 1446-1453,
  3. [3]  Boitier, B. (2012), CO2 emissions production-based accounting vs consumption: Insights from the WIOD databases, Final WIOD Conference: Causes and Consequences of Globalization, (April), 1-23.
  4. [4]  Borrelle, S.B., Rochman, C.M., Liboiron, M., Bond, A.L., Lusher, A., Bradshaw, H., and Provencher, J.F. (2017), Why we need an international agreement on marine plastic pollution, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(38), 9994-9997,
  5. [5]  Brandon, J., Goldstein, M., and Ohman, M.D. (2016), Long-term aging and degradation of microplastic particles: Comparing in situ oceanic and experimental weathering patterns, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 110(1), 299-308,
  6. [6]  Browne, M.A., Galloway, T.S., and Thompson, R.C. (2010), Spatial patterns of plastic debris along estuarine shorelines, Environ. Sci. Technol., 44, 3404-3409, 10.1021/es903784e.
  7. [7]  Buonocore, E., Picone, F., Russo, G.F., and Franzese, P.P. (2018), The scientific research on natural capital: A bibliometric network analysis, Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management, 6(4), 374-384.
  8. [8]  Buonocore, E., Picone, F., Donnarumma, L., Russo, G.F., and Franzese, P.P. (2019), Modeling matter and energy flows in marine ecosystems using emergy and eco-exergy methods to account for natural capital value, Ecological Modelling, 392, 137-146.
  9. [9]  Burns, E.E. and Boxall, A.B.A. (2018), Microplastics in the aquatic environment: Evidence for or against adverse impacts and major knowledge gaps. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 37(11), 2776-2796,
  10. [10]  Catarino, A.I., Thompson, R., Sanderson, W., and Henry, T.B. (2017), Development and optimization of a standard method for extraction of microplastics in mussels by enzyme digestion of soft tissues, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 36(4), 947-951,
  11. [11]  Choy, C.A., Robison, B.H., Gagne, T.O., Erwin, B., Firl, E., Halden, R.U., Hamilton, J.A., Katija, K., Lisin, S.E., Rolsky, C., and S. Van Houtan, K. (2019), The vertical distribution and biological transport of marine microplastics across the epipelagic and mesopelagic water column, Scientific Reports, 9(1), 7843.
  12. [12]  Cincinelli, A., Martellini, T., Guerranti, C., Scopetani, C., Chelazzi, D., and Giarrizzo, T. (2019), A potpourri of microplastics in the sea surface and water column of the Mediterranean Sea, TrAC - Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 110, 321-326.
  13. [13]  Claessens, M., De Meester, S., Van Landuyt, L., De Clerck, K., and Janssen, C.R. (2011), Occurrence and distribution of microplastics in marine sediments along the Belgian coast, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 62(10), 2199-2204,
  14. [14]  Claessens, M., Van Cauwenberghe, L., Vandegehuchte, M.B., and Janssen, C.R. (2013), New techniques for the detection of microplastics in sediments and field collected organisms, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 70(1-2), 227-233,
  15. [15]  Cole, M., Webb, H., Lindeque, P.K., Fileman, E.S., Halsband, C., and Galloway, T.S. (2014), Isolation of microplastics in biota-rich seawater samples and marine organisms, Scientific Reports, 4, 1-8,
  16. [16]  Courtene-Jones, W., Quinn, B., Gary, S.F., Mogg, A.O.M., and Narayanaswamy, B.E. (2017), Microplastic pollution identified in deep-sea water and ingested by benthic invertebrates in the Rockall Trough, North Atlantic Ocean, Environmental Pollution, 231, 271-280,
  17. [17]  Cowger, W., Booth, A.M., Hamilton, B.M., Thaysen, C., Primpke, S., Munno, K., Lusher, A.L., Dehaut, A., Vaz, V.P., Liboiron, M., Devriese, L.I., Hermabessiere, L., Rochman, C., Athey, S.N., Lynch, J.M., De Frond, H., Gray, A., Jones, O.A. H., Brander, S., and Nel, H. (2020), Reporting Guidelines to Increase the Reproducibility and Comparability of Research on Microplastics, Applied Spectroscopy, 0(0), 1-12,
  18. [18]  Crichton, E.M., No\"{e}l, M., Gies, E.A., and Ross, P.S. (2017), A novel, density-independent and FTIR-compatible approach for the rapid extraction of microplastics from aquatic sediments, Anal. Methods, 9, 1419-1428,
  19. [19]  de Carvalho, D.G. and Baptista Neto, J.A. (2016), Microplastic pollution of the beaches of Guanabara Bay, Southeast Brazil, Ocean $\&$ Coastal Management, 128, 10-17,
  20. [20]  Dehaut, A., Cassone, A.L., Fr\`{e}re, L., Hermabessiere, L., Himber, C., Rinnert, E., Rivi\`{e}re, G., Lambert, C., Soudant, P., Huvet, A., Guillaume, D., and Paul-Pont, I. (2016), Microplastics in Seafood: Identifying a Protocol for Their Extraction and Characterization, Fate and Impact of Microplastics in Marine Ecosystems, 215(August), 74,
  21. [21]  Desforges, J.P.W., Galbraith, M., Dangerfield, N., and Ross, P.S. (2014), Widespread distribution of microplastics in subsurface seawater in the NE Pacific Ocean, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 79(1-2), 94-99, j.marpolbul.2013.12.035.
  22. [22]  Devriese, L.I., Meulen, M.D. Van Der, Maes, T., Bekaert, K., Paul-pont, I., Fr\`{e}re, L., Robbens, J., and Vethaak, A.D. (2015), Microplastic contamination in brown shrimp (Crangon crangon, Linnaeus 1758) from coastal waters of the Southern North Sea and Channel area, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 98(1-2), 179-187, j.marpolbul.2015.06.051.
  23. [23]  Dubaish, F. and Liebezeit, G. (2013), Suspended microplastics and black carbon particles in the Jade system, southern North Sea, Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 224(2),
  24. [24]  Dyachenko, A., Mitchell, J., and Arsem, N. (2017), Extraction and identification of microplastic particles from secondary wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent, Analytical Methods, 9(9), 1412-1418, c6ay02397e.
  25. [25]  Eerkes-Medrano, D. and Thompson, R. (2018), Occurrence, fate, and effect of microplastics in freshwater systems, In Microplastic Contamination in Aquatic Environments, (pp. 95-132), Elsevier,
  26. [26]  Enders, K., Lenz, R., Stedmon, C.A., and Nielsen, T.G. (2010), Abundance, size and polymer composition of marine microplastics $\ge10$ $\mu$m in the Atlantic Ocean and their mod- elled vertical distribution, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 100, 70-81, j.marpolbul.2015.09.027.
  27. [27]  Everaert, G., Van Cauwenberghe, L., De Rijcke, M., Koelmans, A.A., Mees, J., Vandegehuchte, M., and Janssen, C.R. (2018), Risk assessment of microplastics in the ocean: Modelling approach and first conclusions, Environmental Pollution, 242(July), 1930-1938,
  28. [28]  Faghmous, J.H. and Kumar, V. (2014), A big data guide to understanding climate change: The case for theory-guided data science, Big Data, 2(3), 155-163,
  29. [29]  Frias, J. and Pagter, E. (2018), Standardised protocol for monitoring microplastics in sediments TRAMIS-Translocation of Microplastic in Fish Filet View project Microplastic pollution and toxicity in marine and freshwater environments View project.
  30. [30]  Frias, J.P.G.L. and Nash, R. (2019), Microplastics: Finding a consensus on the definition, 138, 145-147.
  31. [31]  Fuller, S. and Gautam, A. (2016), A procedure for measuring microplastics using pressurized fluid extraction, and Environ, Sci. Technol., 50, 5774-5780. acs.est.6b00816.
  32. [32]  Gago, J., Filgueiras, A., Pedrotti, M.L., Caetano, M., and Frias, J. (2019), Standardised protocol for monitoring microplastics in seawater. (February).
  33. [33]  Gallagher, A., Rees, A., Rowe, R., Stevens, J., and Wright, P. (2016), Microplastics in the Solent estuarine complex, UK: an initial assessment, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 102, 243-249,
  34. [34]  Galloway, T.S., Cole, M., and Lewis, C. (2017, April 20), Interactions of microplastic debris throughout the marine ecosystem, Nature Ecology and Evolution, 1,
  35. [35]  Guven, O., Gokdag, K., Jovanovic, B., and Kideys, A.E. (2017), Microplastic litter composition of the Turkish territorial waters of the Mediterranean Sea, and its occurrence in the gastrointestinal tract of fish, Environ. Pollut., 223, 286-294, 1016/j.envpol.2017.01.025.
  36. [36]  Haegerbaeumer, A., Mueller, M.T., Fueser, H., and Traunspurger, W. (2019), Impacts of micro- and nano-sized plastic particles on benthic invertebrates: A literature review and gap analysis, Frontiers in Environmental Science, 7(FEB).
  37. [37]  Hartmann, N.B., H\"{u}ffer, T., Thompson, R.C., Hassell\"{o}v, M., Verschoor, A., Daugaard, A.E., Rist, S., Karlsson, T., Brennholt, N., Cole, M., Herrling, M.P., Hess, M.C., Ivleva, N.P., Lusher, A.L., and Wagner, M. (2019), Environmental Science $\& $ Technology, 53(3), 1039-1047, DOI:10.1021/acs.est.8b05297.
  38. [38]  Hall, N.M., Berry, K.L.E., Rintoul, L., and Hoogenboom, M.O. (2015), Microplastic ingestion by scleractinian corals, Mar. Biol., 162, 725-732, 015-2619-7.
  39. [39]  Horton, A.A., Svendsen, C., Williams, R.J., Spurgeon, D.J., and Lahive, E. (2017), Large mi- croplastic particles in sediments of tributaries of the River Thames, UK - abundance, sources and methods for effective quantification, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 114, 218-226,
  40. [40]  Ivar do Sul, J.A., Costa, M.F., and Fillmann, G. (2014), Microplastics in the pelagic environ- ment around oceanic islands of the western tropical Atlantic Ocean, Water Air Soil Pollut., 225,
  41. [41]  Jamieson, A.J., Brooks, L.S.R., Reid, W.D.K., Piertney, S.B., Narayanaswamy, B.E., and Linley, T.D. (2019), Microplastics and synthetic particles ingested by deep-sea amphipods in six of the deepest marine ecosystems on Earth, Royal Society Open Science, 6(2),
  42. [42]  Kedzierski, M., Falcou-Pr{e}fol, M., Kerros, M.E., Henry, M., Pedrotti, M.L., and Bruzaud, S. (2019), A machine learning algorithm for high throughput identification of FTIR spectra: Application on microplastics collected in the Mediterranean Sea. Chemosphere.
  43. [43]  Khatmullina, L. and Chubarenko, I. (2019), Transport of marine microplastic particles: Why is it so difficult to predict? Anthropocene Coasts, 2(1), 293-305,
  44. [44]  Li, J., Qu, X., Su, L., Zhang, W., Yang, D., Kolandhasamy, P., Li, D., and Shi, H. (2016), Microplastics in mussels along the coastal waters of China, Environmental Pollution, 214, 177-184,
  45. [45]  Li, W.C. (2018), The occurrence, fate, and effects of microplastics in the marine environment, In Microplastic Contamination in Aquatic Environments, (pp. 133-173), Elsevier,
  46. [46]  Lima, A.R., Costa, M.F., and Barletta, M. (2014), Distribution patterns of microplastics within the plankton of a tropical estuary, Environ. Res., 132, 146-155, 1016/j.envres.2014.03.031.
  47. [47]  Lusher, A.L., Welden, N.A., Sobral, P., and Cole, M. (2017), Sampling, isolating and identifying microplastics ingested by fish and invertebrates, Analytical Methods, 9(9), 1346-1360.
  48. [48]  Maes, T., Jessop, R., Wellner, N., Haupt, K., and Mayes, A.G. (2017a), A rapid-screening approach to detect and quantify microplastics based on fluorescent tagging with Nile red, Sci Rep, 7, 44501.
  49. [49]  Maes, T., Van der Meulen, M.D., Devriese, L.I., Leslie, H.A., Huvet, A., Fr\`{e}re, L., Robbens, J., and Vethaak, A.D. (2017b), Microplastics baseline surveys at the water surface and in sediments of the North-East Atlantic, Front. Mar. Sci., 4,
  50. [50]  Majewsky, M., Bitter, H., Eiche, E., and Horn, H. (2016), Determination of microplastic polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) in environmental samples using thermal analysis (TGA-DSC), Sci. Total Environ., 568, 507-511, scitotenv.2016.06.017.
  51. [51]  Martins, J. and Sobral, P. (2011), Plastic marine debris on the Portuguese coastline: a matter of size? Mar. Pollut. Bull., 62, 2649-2653, 09.028.
  52. [52]  Masura, J., Baker, J., Foster, G., and Arthur, C. (2015), Laboratory Methods for the Analysis of Microplastics in the Marine Environment: Recommendations for Quantifying the Synthetic Particles in Water and Sediments. NOAA Marine Debris Division, Silver Spring, USA.
  53. [53]  Mathalon, A. and Hill, P. (2014), Microplastic fibers in the intertidal ecosystem surrounding Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 81(1), 69-79,
  54. [54]  McCormick, A., Hoellein, T.J., Mason, S.A., Schluep, J., and Kelly, J.J. (2014), Microplastic is an abundant and distinct microbial habitat in an urban river, Environ. Sci. Technol., 48, 11863-11871,
  55. [55]  Mintenig, S.M., Int-Veen, I., Loder, M.G., Primpke, S., and Gerdts, G. (2017), Identification of microplastic in effluents of waste water treatment plants using focal plane array- based micro-Fourier-transform infrared imaging, Water Res., 108, 365-372,
  56. [56]  Miller, M.E., Kroon, F.J., and Motti, C.A. (2017), Recovering microplastics from marine samples: A review of current practices, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 123(1-2), 6-18.
  57. [57]  NASA (2018), Ocean Biology Processing Group (OBPG), EarthData, MODIS-Aqua, Esri. Chlorophyl-a. [Imagery Layer] Living Atlas of the World. Esri.
  58. [58]  Nor, N.H. and Obbard, J.P. (2014), Microplastics in Singapore's coastal mangrove ecosystems, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 79, 278-283,
  59. [59]  Pauna V.H., Picone F., Le Guyader G., Buonocore E., and Franzese P.P. (2018), The scientific research on ecosystem services: A bibliometric analysis, Ecological Questions, 29(3), 53-62.
  60. [60]  Pauna V.H., Buonocore E., Renzi M., Russo G.F., and Franzese P.P. (2019), The issue of microplastics in marine ecosystems: A bibliometric network analysis, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 149, 110612.
  61. [61]  Porter, A., Lyons, B.P., Galloway, T.S., and Lewis, C. (2018), Role of marine snows in microplastic fate and bioavailability, Environmental Science and Technology, 52(12), 7111-7119,
  62. [62]  Prata, J.C., da Costa, J.P., Duarte, A.C., and Rocha-Santos, T. (2019), Methods for sampling and detection of microplastics in water and sediment: A critical review, TrAC - Trends in Analytical Chemistry, 110, 150-159,
  63. [63]  Qiu, Q., Tan, Z., Wang, J., Peng, J., Li, M., and Zhan, Z. (2016), Extraction, enumeration and identification methods for monitoring microplastics in the environment, Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 176, 102-109, 10.1016/j.ecss.2016.04.012.
  64. [64]  Quinn, B., Murphy, F., and Ewins, C. (2017), Validation of density separation for the rapid recovery of microplastics from sediment, Anal. Methods, 9, 1491-1498, http://dx.doi. org/10.1039/c6ay02542k.
  65. [65]  RAL PLASTICS (2020), Retrieved from overview-ral-plastics-colours.html Last accessed 16 October 2020.
  66. [66]  Ramon, H., Peeters, J., Beerten, C., Antico, L., Duflou, J.R., and Dewulf, W. (2018), Evaluating the Size and Colour Distribution of Mixed Plastic Recyclates Using Computer Vision. KU Leuven,~Leuven, Belgium. Google Scholar.
  67. [67]  Remy, F., Collard, F., Gilbert, B., Comp\`{e}re, P., Eppe, G., and Lepoint, G. (2015), When Microplastic is not plastic: The ingestion of artificial cellulose fibers by Macrofauna living in seagrass macrophytodetritus, Environmental Science and Technology, 49(18), 11158-11166,
  68. [68]  Renzi, M., Bla\v{s}kovi{c}, A., Bernardi, G., and Russo, G.F. (2018), Plastic litter transfer from sediments towards marine trophic webs: A case study on holothurians, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 135, 376-385.
  69. [69]  Reisser, J., Shaw, J., Wilcox, C., Hardesty, B.D., Proietti, M., Thums, M., and Pattiaratchi, C. (2013), Marine plastic pollution in waters around Australia: characteristics, concentrations, and pathways, PLoS One, 8, e80466, pone.0080466.
  70. [70]  Santana, M.F.M., Ascer, L.G., Cust{o}dio, M.R., Moreira, F.T., and Turra, A. (2016), Microplastic contamination in natural mussel beds from a Brazilian urbanized coastal region: Rapid evaluation through bioassessment, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 106(1-2), 183-189.
  71. [71]  Sharma, S. and Chatterjee, S. (2017), Microplastic pollution, a threat to marine ecosystem and human health: a short review, Environ Sci Pollut Res, 24, 21530.
  72. [72]  Suaria, G., Avio, C.G., Regoli, F., and Aliani, S. (2018), Proceedings of the international conference on microplastic pollution in the Mediterranean sea, International Conference on Microplastic Pollution in the Mediterranean Sea, 22(5), 238.
  73. [73]  Sutton, R., Mason, S.A., Stanek, S.K., Willis-Norton, E., Wren, I.F., and Box, C. (2016), Microplastic contamination in the San Francisco Bay, California, USA, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 109, 230-235, 2016.05.077.
  74. [74]  Taylor, M.L., Gwinnett, C., Robinson, L.F., and Woodall, L.C. (2016), Plastic microfibre ingestion by deep-sea organisms, Scientific Reports, 6(May), 1-9.
  75. [75]  Thompson, R.C., Olson, Y., Mitchell, R.P., Davis, A., Rowland, S.J., John, A.W.G., McGonigle, D., and Russell, A.E. (2004), Lost at sea: Where is all the plastic? Science, 304(5672), 838,
  76. [76]  Todorova, S., Lichte, R., Olsson, A., and Breidenich, C. (2003), National greenhouse gas inventories?: application of the principles of transparency, consistency, comparability, completeness and accuracy, 1-14, conference/ei12/poster/todorova.pdf
  77. [77]  Van Cauwenberghe, L. and Janssen, C.R. (2014), Microplastics in bivalves cultured for human consumption, Environmental Pollution, 193, 65-70.
  78. [78]  Villarrubia-G{o}mez, P., Cornell, S.E., and Fabres, J. (2018), Marine plastic pollution as a planetary boundary threat - The drifting piece in the sustainability puzzle, Marine Policy, 96(November), 213-220.
  79. [79]  Von Moos, N., Burkhardt-Holm, P., and K\"{o}hler, A. (2012), Uptake and effects of microplastics on cells and tissue of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis L. after an experimental exposure, Environmental Science and Technology, 46(20), 11327-11335.
  80. [80]  Wagner, M. and Lambert, S. (2018), Freshwater microplastics - The handbook of environmental chemistry, 58,
  81. [81]  Watson, R.T., Rodhe, H., Oeschger, H., Siegenthalerk, U., Shine P., Derwent, R.G et al. (1990), Final Report of Working Group I: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate Change, p. 414.
  82. [82]  Wessel, C.C., Lockridge, G.R., Battiste, D., and Cebrian, J. (2016), Abundance and characteristics of microplastics in beach sediments: insights into microplastic accumulation in northern Gulf of Mexico estuaries, Mar. Pollut. Bull., 109, 178-183,
  83. [83]  World Economic Forum, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey \& Company, (2016), The New Plastics Economy -- Rethinking the future of plastics,
  84. [84]  Wu, C., Zhang, K., and Xiong, X. (2018), Microplastic pollution in inland waters focusing on Asia. In: Freshwater Microplastics. Springer, Cham, pp. 85-99.