Heterogeneous weathering of polypropylene in the marine environment

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Polypropylene (PP) inkjet cartridges spilled during January 2014 in the northwest Atlantic Ocean from a container ship and subsequently retrieved from beaches around Europe and the Azores along with a matching reference cartridge that had not been exposed to the environment were physically and chemically characterized. Compared with the reference, the cartridges retrieved from the marine environment exhibited considerable cracking-fracturing, discoloration, surface roughness, loss of gloss and staining. Infrared analysis revealed that weathering was highly heterogeneous, with the carbonyl index ranging from <0.1 to >0.9 over areas of sub-mm-dimensions. The high degree of weathering was partly attributed to the presence, quality, and distribution of the titanium dioxide pigment, TiO2. Thus, in the absence of sufficient protection by encapsulation or addition of antioxidants, the ultraviolet light-absorbing pigment promoted the formation of free radicals and photocatalytic oxidation. The results of this study show that consumer plastics containing TiO2 for coloration or tinting purposes, when not designed for exterior use (in the absence of encapsulation or antioxidants), may experience accelerated weathering in the marine environment, and that estimates of plastic persistence should factor in the role of additives that promote photoactivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number152308
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022


  • Carbonyl index
  • Infrared mapping
  • Marine plastic
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Weathering
  • XRF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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