Concerns about the presence of microplastics in the environment has increased in recent years, prompting more attention from scientists. Thorough exposure studies using artificially produced microplastics containing additives are required to assess their potentially hazardous effects. Therefore, an efficient microplastic production and fractionation protocol was established using a cryogenic grinding and wet-sieving approach. The developed cryogenic grinding method was able to produce (20-40 g/h) polyvinyl chloride (PVC) microplastics having a volume-weighted mean particle size of 391 µm and a span of 2.12. Performing a second grinding cycle on the same particles resulted in microplastics which were smaller (volume-weighted mean size = 219 μm) and had a narrower particle size distribution (span = 1.59). In addition, the microplastics were also fractionated into different particle size ranges using a vibrating wet-sieving tower. The latter technique allowed separating 10 g of PVC microplastics into seven different fractions using six sieves (Ø 200 mm) for 30 min while shaking. By using the developed method, PVC microplastics could easily be made and fractionated into desired particle-size ranges. The proposed protocol could also be adjusted to produce and fractionate microplastics of other plastics.
Keywords: PVC; cryogenic grinding; microplastics; separation; wet sieving.