A review of the environments, biota, and methods used in microplastics research in South Africa





fresh water, marine, biota, Africa, plastics pollution


Microplastics are small plastic materials often defined as those between 5 mm and 0.05 mm in size. Microplastics can have toxicological impacts on various biota, from gut blockages to the transport or leaching of toxicants used in their production or absorbed from the surrounding environment. Although microplastic research has increased significantly, microplastic research in Africa lags behind that of developed countries. South Africa is the African nation with the highest number of microplastic publications. We aimed to determine the current state of microplastic research in South Africa. A total of 46 publications on microplastics in South Africa have been produced. However, many of these publications use methods that might not be accurate in determining holistic descriptions of microplastics in the aquatic environment. Similarly, many ecologically relevant environments and species have not been investigated for microplastics in the country, including any atmospheric or terrestrial environment. We conclude that, although the research being produced in South Africa can be considered adequate, a singular standard method for sampling and assessing microplastics in South African environments is required. The production of such a standard method would be critical to use as a monitoring tool to determine and compare microplastic abundances across the country and globally.


  • More than 40 publications on microplastics have been produced in South Africa.
  • Microplastics have been discovered in multiple aquatic environments in South Africa, but have not been investigated in atmospheric or terrestrial environments.
  • Polymer analysis was limited in published research.
  • A standard method is required for comparing between studies.
  • Terrestrial and atmospheric microplastic studies are required.


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How to Cite

Dahms, H. T., & Greenfield, R. (2024). A review of the environments, biota, and methods used in microplastics research in South Africa. South African Journal of Science, 120(5/6). https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2024/16669



Review Article

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