SciFest National Final 2023

Stand 14

Which Beach Sand in Co. Louth has the Most Microplastics?

Student Lorcán Garvin
School Coláiste Chú Chulainn, Marshes Lower, Dundalk, Co. Louth
Teacher Deirdre Dunford
Venue Dundalk IT

In recent years, plastic pollution has been a large point of contention due to its effects on the environment. The intention for this project was to compare the microplastic content of the sand at different beaches across Co. Louth to determine which beach-sand had the highest and lowest microplastic content. Six beaches were chosen: Templetown, Blackrock, Annagassan, Lurganboy, Clogher Head and Termonfeckin.

The null hypothesis for this project was that there would be no observable difference in microplastic content between the beaches. The alternate hypothesis was that proximity to urban areas would increase microplastic content creating an observable difference.

The analysis of the microplastic content was done through the sampling of sand across the different beaches, the treatment of the beach-sand samples with a flocculation solution to separate the plastic particles, and the use of a magnifying lens to count the number of microplastic particles in each sample.

After counting the particles from each sand sample, eliminating the outlier from each beach’s dataset and taking the average of number of plastic particles counted, the beaches were ordered from most polluted to least polluted:

  • Blackrock
  • Clogher Head
  • Annagassan
  • Termonfeckin
  • Lurganboy
  • Templetown

The results from the experiment showed that Blackrock beach and Clogher Head beach, the closest to dense urban areas, had the highest microplastic content compared to the other locations. This supported the alternate hypothesis and from this it was concluded that there was positive correlation between proximity to urban areas and the microplastic content of the beach-sand.

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SciFest National Final 2023
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