Visual and chemical analysis of the artificial nesting material

The seven gannet nests removed in December 2015 will now be examined in detail for their composition. In addition, the amount and percentage composition of the artificial material found will be used to determine the proportion of plastic waste in the nests of the Heligoland gannet colony and which material is most frequently incorporated into the nests.
For this purpose, the extracted plastic will be sorted and divided into categories by visual characterization. Chemical analyses of the composition of the plastic waste in seabird nests have not yet been performed. However, in order to be able to draw conclusions as to where the plastic waste in the nests comes from, it is of great importance to analyse the plastic residues and compare them with corresponding, new materials from industry. For this reason, the material will be chemically analyzed by ATR-FT-IR spectroscopy (Attenuated Total Reflectance Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy) and color value analysis.
The aim of the investigations is to be able to make a clear statement for the first time about where the artificial rivet material comes from.

First results

The laboratory work has been almost completed. A total of more than 600 synthetic fibers have been analyzed for their composition. In total, a complete gannet nest was examined.

Gannet nest

  • Total dry weight of nest: 23.7 kilograms
  • Proportion of plastic: 1.2 kilograms (= 4.9 %)
  • Plastic types of synthetic fibers: primarily polyethylene(> 85%) and polypropylene
  • Colors: primarily orange, blue, green/turquoise, black

Next steps:

  • Procurement and measurement of potential polluters.

=> among others shipping, fishing, packaging industry, agriculture

  • Color value analysis of the fibers
  • Evaluation and publication of data