Italian Pellet Watch (ItPW): monitoring resin pellets

During 2019, the LEGAMBIENTE conducted a marine litter survey collecting 2270 pellets from 73 Italian beaches along the peninsula within a citizen science campaign. The geographical regions sampled were: Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Liguria, Marche, Molise, Puglia, Sardegna, Sicilia, Toscana e Veneto.

The sampling procedure consists in collecting items considering the part of the beach that undergo the dynamics of the undertow (about 5 meters of depths for all selected beaches), avoiding the back part of the beaches, as dunes or limiting structures, where pellets eventually deposited during strong storms or swells can no more be subject to sea water effect. The sampling protocol used aims to decrease the likelihood of collecting pellets that have spent most of their time out of the water, and whose aging process may have been caused by phenomena not considered in our study. During the survey, pellets with visible dye added were discarded, meanwhile all possible pellets shade were included. Then, pellets have been classified by colour using the Fanini [1] colour scale. The classification led to label shades from 1 to 14 as Light colour, from 15 to 27 as Medium coloured and from 28 to 36 as Dark coloured. Then, a sub sample of pellets (30 pellets from Tyrrhenian coast beaches) was analysed using the double-pulse micro-Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (DP-LIBS) technique.

To perform POPs extraction from pellets, we create a subsample considering beaches belonging to different regions of Italian peninsula, from south to north. The pellets from the various selected beaches were grouped together by colour categories, without considering the fouling or porosity parameters, as they are irrelevant for the purpose of the ongoing analysis.

Table 1 reports the complete pellets classification also considering the presence of the porosity and fouling of the samples.

Table 2 reports the spectra lines obtained using LIBS techniques [2] to detect metals/compounds on the pellets surfaces. Pellets of this sub sample have been selected, among the ones of ItPW sample, considering that they have relevant fouling on their surface. We selected 15 pellets for TUSCANY (8L, 5M and 2D); 10 for SARDINIA (4L, 4M and 2D); 4 for SICILY (2L, 1M and 1 PP pellet); 4 for LIGURIA (3L and 1D) and 5 for CAMPANIA (4L and 1M). All are PE pellets except the one of line 17 that is a PP pellet.

Table 3 reports the median value of PAHs and PCB extracted from resin pellets.


[1] Fanini, L., & Bozzeda, F. (2018). Dynamics of plastic resin pellets deposition on a microtidal sandy beach: Informative variables and potential integration into sandy beach studies. Ecological Indicators, 89, 309–316.

[2] Giugliano, R., Cocciaro, B., Poggialini, F., Legnaioli, S., Palleschi, V., Locritani, M., & Merlino, S. (2022). Rapid Identification of Beached Marine Plastics Pellets Using Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy: A Promising Tool for the Quantification of Coastal Pollution. Sensors 2022, Vol. 22, Page 6910, 22(18), 6910.


Environment, Chemical oceanography


resin pellets, marine pollution, no-leaving proxy, metal contamination, plastic aging


46.030913N, 36.261733S, 19.736876E, 5.429302W


Metals and compounds absorbed on pellet surface were detected using the μ-MODì instrument. The instruments has a double pulse Nd:YAG laser, capable of generating two collinear pulses at the fundamental wavelength (1064 nm), with energy of 10 mJ and 30 mJ, respectively and 20 ns Full-Width at Half Maximum (FWHM), suitably delayed from 0 (single pulse) to 50 μs (delay between the two pulses was set to 1 microsecond).

Plastic types were characterized using the attenuated total reflectance (ATR). The spectra were registered using a Fourier Transform —InfraRed Jasco 6200 (Jasco, Tokyo, Japan) equipped with a PIKE MIRacle (Madison, WT, USA) accessory. Each sample underwent 64 scans from 4000 to 650 cm−1, after the collection of background data.

Porosity and fouling were detected using a stereoscopic microscope (MZAPO; Leica, Heerbrugg, Switzerland).

POPs analysis was performed using GC-MS/MS (Thermo SCIENTIFIC TRACE coupled with 1300 Thermo SCIENTIFIC TSQ 8000 Evo) and HPLC-FLD 1100 Series quaternary pump (Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA, USA).


FileSizeFormatProcessingAccessend of embargo
: Italian Pellets Watch (ItPW) data. The survey has been performed in 2019 by LEGAMBIENTE Italian NGO. In several cases where the number of pellets per beach was too low, beaches were merged within th
29 KoXLS, XLSXRaw data 2025-12-31
Elemental peak signals of the lines considered (arbitrary units) at the surface of the pellets analysed in this work. Spectroscopic lines detected in LIBS (Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy) are re
14 KoXLS, XLSXProcessed data 2025-12-31
Median Value of PAHs and PCB obtained by means of n-hexane extraction for the 218 PE pellets of the selected 8 regions. Colour class: L(Light); M (Medium); D (Dark).
33 KoXLS, XLSXProcessed data 2025-12-31
How to cite
Giugliano Roberta, Casani Claudio, Locritani Marina, Palleschi Vincenzo, Poggialini Francesco, Cocciaro Bruno, Ricci Lucia, Bronco Simona, de Monte Cristina, Arrighetti Leonardo, Ferro Marta, Merlino Silvia (2024). Italian Pellet Watch (ItPW): monitoring resin pellets. SEANOE.

Copy this text