Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 14, pp 14059–14072 | Cite as

Distribution and composition of plastic debris along the river shore in the Selenga River basin in Mongolia

  • Batdulam Battulga
  • Masayuki KawahigashiEmail author
  • Bolormaa Oyuntsetseg
Research Article


Plastic pollution in aquatic environments is one of the most fatal environmental issues in the world. Although the distribution of plastic debris in the sea and at coasts has been addressed, the transportation of plastics through a river system is unclear but important. The distribution of plastic debris in the Selenga River system is responsible for the environmental pollution of Lake Baikal. Twelve sampling sites along the river shore of the Selenga River system have been surveyed considering the industrial activity and population density. The number of plastics significantly correlates with the population density. The higher the number of plastics is, the smaller is the average size. The size fractions of foam and film plastics show a significant relationship, suggesting that the plastic debris fragmented on-site on the river shores. The most abundant plastic debris is polystyrene foam (PSF), which is usually used for construction and packaging. Plastic debris occurs due to insufficient plastic waste management. Its distribution is affected by seasonal changes of the water level and flow rate of tributaries. Furthermore, the fragmentation of plastic debris is related to temperature changes associated with freeze and thaw cycles, solar radiation, and mechanical abrasion. Smaller microplastics with microscopic sizes were detected in PSF debris. Based on micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, these microplastics are polystyrene and polyethylene. This study proves that invisible and visible microplastics are transported together.


Microplastics Micro-FTIR Plastic fragmentation Polystyrene foam Adsorption 



Authors would like to thank for Mongolian National Waste Recycling Association and Tuul River Basin Authority for their supply of statistical data and information about Mongolian waste management.


This study was financially supported by the National University of Mongolia and partly supported by the Sumitomo environmental foundation, no. 173495.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_4632_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.3 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 2400 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyTokyo Metropolitan UniversityTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryNational University of MongoliaUlaanbaatarMongolia

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