Extracting Microplastics with Olive Oil

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Today we are extracting and purifying microplastics from my native lake the usage of olive oil! This is a part of the #TeamSeas marketing campaign, to lift consciousness across the problems with plastic in our oceans, seashores and rivers.

All adsense income from this video will likely be donated to #TeamSeas, and you’ll donate without delay at

🔬Patreon if that is your jam:
☕Buy me a espresso?

==== Details ====
There are more than one techniques to extract microplastics for research, most commonly the usage of density separation. I attempted a method referred to as Oil Extraction Process. Because maximum plastics are Oleophilic (“oil-loving”), a mix of oil and water will separate plastic into the oil section. Everything else will settle into the water section, permitting you to gather the microplastics for futher find out about.

I accrued sediment from my native lake (Lake Champlain) and ran it during the OEP, with various ranges of good fortune. I ultimately were given a excellent pattern and used to be in a position to symbol it at the Scanning Electron Microscope. It’s onerous to grasp if any person piece is a microplastic, however we will be able to use morphology and EDS clues to assist come to a decision.

==== Oil Extraction Process citations ====
– Coppock, R. L., Cole, M., Lindeque, P. Okay., Queirós, A. M., & Galloway, T. S. (2017). A small-scale, moveable approach for extracting microplastics from marine sediments. Environmental Pollution, 230, 829–837. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2017.07.017
– Lechthaler, S., Hildebrandt, L., Stauch, G., & Schüttrumpf, H. (2020). Canola oil extraction in conjunction with a plastic unfastened separation unit optimises microplastics tracking in water and sediment. Analytical Methods. doi:10.1039/d0ay01574a
– Scopetani, C., Chelazzi, D., Mikola, J., Leiniö, V., Heikkinen, R., Cincinelli, A., & Pellinen, J. (2020). olive oil-based approach for the extraction, quantification and identity of microplastics in soil and compost samples. Science of The Total Environment, 733, 139338. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.139338

==== Alternative Non-profits to believe ====
– River Cleanup
– Mr. Trash Wheel
– Water Witch
– 5 Gyres
– Gulf of Alaska Keeper
– Papahānaumokuākea Marine Debris Project
– Ocean Voyages Institute

==== The Ocean Cleanup citations ====

– Falk-Andersson, J., Larsen Haarr, M., & Havas, V. (2020). Basic ideas for building and implementation of plastic clean-up applied sciences: What are we able to be informed from fisheries control? Science of The Total Environment, 745, 141117. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141117

==== Timecodes ====
0:00 #TeamSeas
1:00 What are microplastics?
2:13 Density separation
3:07 Oil extraction procedure
4:06 Running the protocol
4:55 Vacuum Filtration woes
6:36 First SEM effects
7:50 Scaling down the experiment
8:30 Alternatives to hoover filtration
11:16 Second spherical of SEM effects
15:27 #TeamSeas and non-profit companions

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Olive Oil Milling Machines Al-Sadoun

44 thoughts on “Extracting Microplastics with Olive Oil”

  1. Addendum
    – As many folks have pointed out already, the campaign's target (30m pounds of plastic) is basically a day's worth of plastic production that's going into the ocean. It's a rounding error. I agree, and cynically the campaign can be viewed as a distraction from real methods to effect change (legislation, removing single-use plastics, making companies more accountable for their packaging or plastic use, etc). I even recorded a monologue around this, but ultimately cut it in favor of the disclaimer about TOC since that felt like the greater immediate threat given how much good PR this campaign is going to generate for them. And because I didn't feel like I had the knowledge or authority to really speak to the political/economic side of the equation. Which is unfortunately where this needs to be solved imo – it's not a technical problem, but a political one….and global at that. My hope in making the video was to at least raise awareness about how insidious microplastics really are… you can't just scoop them up with a net. And perhaps that will have knock-on effects of encouraging more people to take vocal political and economic stances. Domain of Science just released a video that echos many of my thoughts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bL7WvdNdk3Y

    – I failed to mention oxidation of the organics, which was a gross oversight on my part. You can see that at 8:16 I added some bleach to help combat the biofilm/organics I was seeing in the first attempt. In the literature, some kind of oxidation procedure is often done to help digest organic materials and cleanup the plastics. Strong bases can be used but will degrade certain plastics, so typically a Fenton reaction (peroxide + iron) is performed instead. It can still affect plastics but tends to be more gentle. Enzymatic approaches are often done as well. These are especially nescessary if purifying from tissue extract (e.g. grinding up clams or mussels or whatever). It's almost always done as a cleaning step after a purification procedure like density separation, foam floation, oil, density centrifugation, etc.

    – My friend pointed out the irony of using nylon filters, cutting up plastic syringes, etc on a video about microplastics. Guilty as charged. I tried to use only metal/glass to start but it didn't quite go to plan. Will be disposing of the waste responsibly 😅

    – I glossed right over why microplastics are problematic: since they are relatively inert, is it any worse than just sand or other sediment?

    Plastics are mostly inert, but not entirely and a lot of additives (colorants, plasticizers, etc) can leach out of the plastic over time (or situations like the BPA kerfluffle a few years back, where it was discovered that polycarbonate can hydrolize into BPA which is notably more toxic). Plastics tend to absorb and concentrate heavier metals and other contaminants, so it might speed up pollution concentration in the food chain. Very small particles (approaching the nano scale of things) can cross into cells easily and it's not clear how bad that is, but they certainly aren't supposed to be there 🙂 There's a fair amount of evidence for example nanoparticles of teflon are fairly toxic, and could apply to many other plastics. Fibers can be problematic for plankton, which have a hard time passing them through their digestive system due to relative size and shape. Large pieces of plastic are problematic because animals expend energy eating them but derive no nutrition, and in some cases they can linger or remain permanently stuck in stomachs which slowly starve the animal.

    Basically, no one is quite sure just how bad it is. There's just so much microplastic around the world (and literally no organism evolved to ingest plastic) so it's kind of a brave new world. Just not really sure what the long term effects are, but it could be quite bad. Asbestos is quite inert too, but you definitely don't want to eat or breathe it due to the size and shape.

    This is a pretty good and accessible article if you want to read more: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01143-3

  2. I wouldn't call it a distraction as much as silly posturing and about as meaningful as the giant elephant's toothpaste stunts. It gets eyes on the videos. Silly because all the plastics in the oceans comes essentially from China and Indonesia river and ocean dumping. The plastics that originate from the Americas are mostly accidental from hurricanes/flooding. I seriously don't think you can collect it as fast as the Chinese dump, even with a huge fleet. While you are working on that the Chinese have just announced they are increasing coal production to meet electrical demand. How much? More than the amount burned in all of the EU every year. So, whatever comes out of Glasgow this week has been undone before they start.

  3. in the oil extraction process demonstration you should have initially put the plastic bits into water and then show that they could be pulled into oil if you mix them. putting plastic into oil to start with is kinda like cheating

  4. When it comes to solutions to large problems, not everything is always agreed upon. That said, awareness alone probably makes this campaign worth it, the funding being almost a useful bonus.

  5. This may sound like a silly idea, but why not use one of the best natural filters every human has – your body?

    Strain the water, boil it, then drink only that for a day. Then centrifuge your pee! The claim stands that a bunch of microplastics come out that way, and they'll certainly be small and unaffected by stomach acid.

  6. raise awareness lol. I dont think people have the attention span for that to do anything. Awareness gets raised, people get upset, then they move onto the next problem du jour

  7. With the freezing method you could try alcohol or salt to raise the freezing point of the water but not the oil.. Would let you analyze multiple samples at scale a bit more quickly possibly. Really interesting problems.

    The diatoms make me think that https://www.youtube.com/user/Hystricine might actually know a thing or two about some filtration & indemnification tips, they are an interesting person overall more watched on twitch than YouTube however.

  8. I think you may have come down a bit hard on the ocean cleanup. I've read some articles about it and it really sounds like biologists and journalists talking about a system they know nothing about. They like to just call it a trawling net or deep sea fishing like you said. But in reality the actual net opening is a small fraction of the overall collection swath. They also spent a lot of the original money trying to make it autonomous wind and wave powered. They built a prototype and found out that it just wasn't going to work so they made the right decision and pivoted to a powered system for now to start collecting plastic and improve the design later. They had a plan and that plan turned out not to work but they quickly pivoted and got a baseline design that works. Id hardly say they are wasting money because they could still be chasing the original design and have nothing collected.

  9. A centrifuge does not seperate into solids and liquids! By spinning you separate by density. So that thin white solid layer is lighter than water but heavier than the oil. So that was perhaps mostly plastic?

  10. HDPE mentioned at 2:56 is actually a relatively low density plastic (it is still polyethylene) and would float in just normal water, but especially salt water. Teflon (PTFE) is quite dense, but "high density polyethylene" is kind of a misnomer, or at least a misleading name.

  11. UV breaks them down – as a side note, in the future these small polymers in our bodies may serve as an Earth ID indicator – just in case those aliens from a different world attack! Plastic/polymers are best exaimined using FTIR.

  12. I am glad you mentioned the problems with the fundraiser. After the team trees disaster (There are other orgs that plant 10x as many trees per $ among other things) I looked at the financials of both of these organizations and came to the same conclusions you did. It still seems more like a publicity stunt for Mr beast to rehabilitate his own image after the controversy he was wrapped up in (being a spoiled dickhead). A lot of times these fundraisers also act like they donated so much while personally donating very little (if anything after tax deductions) and in reality the money is coming from their many viewers who get zero recognition (or tax write-offs).

  13. Actually, the fibers you see could be microplastic. We wear a lot of "polyester" fabrics today, which is just a nice name for PET. Those clothes loose fiber fragments during their use (or during washing). Nice video, as always – thank you 🙂

  14. Can use fiber glass to filter if can find a fine enough mesh.
    🤔 could use the contaminants to color glass when the plastics in the filters, some metals can color the glass, and the plastics would be destroyed, could even make glass gifts ya can sell to help your funding 🤔

    All that aside, many companies moving to mushroom mycelium packaging and products?

    government's can bestowal of money grants, tax breaks, or other special favorable treatment for corporations, to achieve this.

    And on the other side, plastic tariffs and tax for the importation and or production and sales of plastics.

    An anchored glass fiber filter net could be used with glass floats to collect the micro plastics. Then
    Recycled and melted down and reused.
    But not really feasible,
    How is the effectiveness of microbes going at fixing the mess?
    Can do so.e exsperment, tests, Andale a video on the results, and run some calculations for the foreseeable future.

    Interesting video. ♡
    Just think of the money they could have for cleaning their mess up, if they had done so from the start..

  15. yeah microplastics are hot these days. so many researches about them existence.
    at the same time non of those researches can say that microplastics do any harm but who cares wright ?
    – geive us money asap. we save you from horrifying MICROPLASTICS (and from money)

    microplastics is the safe end product of a plastics life cycle. like with any other chemically stable substance which degrade by braking into pieces.
    we are always surrounded by a small particles of something.

  16. The olive oil you used for your experiments seems to be from a plastic bottle, have you checked the olive oil by itself before the experiment to see if there's already microplastics in the oilve oil?

  17. Oh good we're forming committees to oversee the formation of committees to discuss the potential for a committee on establishing a timeline for a committee tasked with investigating actions to be taken. And here I was afraid something might get done…

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