Occurrence and distribution of microplastics in marine sediments along the Belgian coast

Mar Pollut Bull. 2011 Oct;62(10):2199-204. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.06.030. Epub 2011 Jul 28.


Plastic debris is known to undergo fragmentation at sea, which leads to the formation of microscopic particles of plastic; the so called 'microplastics'. Due to their buoyant and persistent properties, these microplastics have the potential to become widely dispersed in the marine environment through hydrodynamic processes and ocean currents. In this study, the occurrence and distribution of microplastics was investigated in Belgian marine sediments from different locations (coastal harbours, beaches and sublittoral areas). Particles were found in large numbers in all samples, showing the wide distribution of microplastics in Belgian coastal waters. The highest concentrations were found in the harbours where total microplastic concentrations of up to 390 particles kg(-1) dry sediment were observed, which is 15-50 times higher than reported maximum concentrations of other, similar study areas. The depth profile of sediment cores suggested that microplastic concentrations on the beaches reflect the global plastic production increase.

MeSH terms

  • Belgium
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Plastics / analysis*
  • Seawater / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Pollution, Chemical / statistics & numerical data


  • Plastics
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical