21 Dec 2015

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, assesses the type and concentration of microplastics found in the Rhine

Basel, Switzerland – Intertek, a leading provider of quality solutions worldwide have completed a study supporting researchers from the University of Basel to evaluate plastic debris in the River Rhine. The study, which was recently published in the journal, Scientific Reports, represents the first scientific study of microplastics over the length of a major river.

Tiny plastic particles, smaller than five millimeters, known as microplastics, are found in almost all rivers, lakes and oceans. They can result from fragmentation of plastic waste, textile fibres or occur as intermediate products in plastic production or as small pellets that are used in personal care products. The University of Basel researchers collected many samples from the Rhine and partnered with Intertek’s Basel laboratory to understand the type and concentration of microplastics found in the samples.

Intertek’s polymer testing experts developed a process which would enable the handling and grouping of the thousands of particles which make up the samples in a manageable way and then investigated the many plastic particles using a technique called infra-red spectroscopy.

Ulrich Walter, Intertek’s polymer testing expert shared “Working with the University of Basel, we applied our many years of knowledge of polymer materials and laboratory testing to determine the composition of microplastics found in the river Rhine. We devised a screening model for targeting particles to help determine morphology and type of polymer, which utilized state of the art spectroscopic methodology. This information can give first insights into the origin and former use of the plastics debris which, in turn, could help to reduce the levels of microplastics. The results revealed that these microplastics could have originated from a wide range of applications such as packaging, personal care products, office equipment, vehicle construction and numerous more. We plan to continue our collaboration with University Basel and to support further characterization of microplastics and their origins.”

Intertek polymer engineers, chemists and regulatory experts work with clients to help identify and characterise polymer and plastic materials and support the development of new materials and products through advanced analytics, problem solving, pilot plant injection moulding, film extrusion and compounding pilot line facilities.

More information: Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 17988 (2015)

Learn more about Intertek polymer testing expertise:


Dr Lorna Kettle
Marketing & Communications - Life Sciences
Tel: +44 161 721 1476
Email: lorna.kettle@intertek.com

Christian Kleinert
Director, Marketing & Communications
DACH Intertek Holding Deutschland GmbH
Tel:  +49 711 27311 449
Email: christian.kleinert@intertek.com

About Intertek

Intertek is a leading quality solutions provider to industries worldwide. From auditing and inspection, to testing, training, advisory, quality assurance and certification, Intertek adds value for its customers by helping improve the quality and safety of their products, assets and processes. With a network of more than 1,000 laboratories and offices and over 38,000 people in more than 100 countries, Intertek supports companies’ success in the global marketplace, by helping customers to meet end users’ expectations for safety, sustainability, performance, integrity and desirability in virtually any market worldwide. Visit www.intertek.com.