Adapted from Arocha’s Guidelines for sampling microplastics on sandy beaches

A stretch of beach at least 100m in length is recommended. The site should be divided into 10m segments, which can be marked using sticks of bamboo. Within each segment, a square of 50cm by 50cm should be selected at random and also marked using Saté sticks and string. Random site selection can be done using a random number generator such as the one at to give distances in meters to locate the site within each segment. A number between 1 and 10 should be selected for the location along the beach, and a number between 1 and ~50 for the distance from the ocean (depending on the width of the beach, it should be before vegetation starts).



  • 2 buckets
  • Water filter fabric (with 100-300 μm mesh)  
  • Elastics
  • Measuring tape
  • Saté bamboo grill sticks
  • String
  • Small metal shovel
  • Metal sieve 5mm mesh
  • Metal sieve 1mm mesh
  • Metal Tweezers
  • Magnifying glass
  • Glass jar with a date & location
  • Clipboard & form
  • Cotton towel


  1. Filter sea water  
    • Cover the filter fabric over one bucket and hold it in place with an elastic
    • Slowly pour ocean water into the bucket to filter out any micro plastics
    • Once done cover the bucket
  2. Prepare the research area
    • Locate and mark your sampling location with a bamboo stick
    • Stand downwind from the sampling location
    • Using the stick as the top right corner, measure and mark a 50cm by 50cm square with bamboo sticks and string
    • Pour filtered water over the square to hold the sand in place
  3. Collect sample
    • Use a small metal shovel to dig 5 cm deep
    • Put the top 5cm of sand into a bucket
    • Take out pebbles, shells, wood or seaweed and wash them with filtered seawater using the fine mesh strainer to catch any micro plastics
    • Use a magnifying glass to double check for any remaining microplastics
    • Put the large items back at the beach and any micro plastics into the glass collection jar
  4. Filter sample
    • Place a 5mm mesh on top of a 1mm mesh
    • Use a metal spoon to put sand in the 5mm mesh and wash the sand through with filtered seawater
    • Whatever gets through the 1mm filter stays at the beach
    • Put what is left in the 1mm filter into the glass collection jar
    • Check the top 5mm filter for micro plastic
    • Take them out with tweezers
    • Put them in the glass collection jar
    • Throw the rest of the sand back on the beach



  • For analysis:
  • Glass dishes
  • Black and white paper cards
  • Light
  • Magnifying glass
  • Tweezers
  • Teasing needles
  • Saté sticks
  • Microscope
  • Ruler
  • Glass storage jar
  • Labels
  • Marker / pencil
  • Data sheet
  • Camera


  1. Put the sand from the jar in a glass bowl with filtered sea water  
  2. Stir the dish to release pieces from each other
    • The microplastics should float
  3. Place black and white paper under the bowl to see different plastics
  4. Shine a light over the water to see transparent films
  5. Take out pieces with metal tweezers and place them in a petri dish
    • Organic pieces may disintegrate when prodded
  6. Identify micro plastics under a microscope or magnifying glass
    • Classify micro plastics according to the photo guide below
    • If you see cell structures under a microscope it is organic and not plastic
  7. Take a picture of each piece and overall collection
  8. Record findings in form below

Shapes of typical microplastics collected from inland waters Qinghai Lake and Three Gorges Reservoir in China|Shapes of typical microplastics collected from inland waters (Qinghai Lake and Three Gorges Reservoir) in China (a, sheet; b, film; c, line/fiber; d, fragment; e, pellet/granule; f, foam)<ref>Microplastic Pollution in Inland Waters Focusing on Asia – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: [accessed 3 Sep, 2019]</ref>]]

Category labelType of plasticQuantity found

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