Will it float? Rising and settling velocities of common macroplastic foils

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Boaz Kuizenga, Tim van Emmerik , Kryss Waldschläger, Merel Kooi


Plastic accumulates in the environment because of insufficient waste handling and the materials' high durability. Better understanding of plastic behaviour in the aquatic environment is needed to estimate transport and accumulation, which can be used for monitoring strategies, prevention measures, and plastic clean-up activities. Plastic transport models benefit from accurate description of particle characteristics, such as rising and settling velocities. For macroplastics, these are however still scarce. In this research, the rising and settling behaviour of three different polymer types (PET, PP, and PE) was investigated, which are the most common in the environment. All of the plastic particles were foils of different surface areas. A new method for releasing rising plastics without interfering the flow and disturbing the column was used. Four models that estimate the velocity based on the characteristics of the plastics are discussed, of which three are from literature, and one is newly derived. These models are validated using the data generated in this research, and data from another study on rising and settling velocities of plastic. From the models that were discussed, the best results are from the newly introduced velocity model for foils (R^2 = 0.96 and 0.58, for both datasets). This model shows potential to estimate the rising and settling velocity of plastics, and should be examined further by using additional data. The results of our paper can be used to further explore the vertical distribution of plastics in rivers, lakes and oceans, which is crucial to optimize future monitoring and cleanup efforts.




Environmental Engineering, Hydraulic Engineering


hydrology, experimental, hydrodynamics, marine debris, environmental fluid mechanics


Published: 2021-06-15 09:22

Last Updated: 2021-06-15 12:22


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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