Technology against microplastics

Microplastics are, unfortunately, already present in large quantities in the terrestrial and marine environment and we need policies and systems to stem now and then reclaim ecosystems. In our rescue there are technologies in continuous evolution to solve this problem.

Plastic pollution of the aquatic environment should be taken into serious consideration for its repercussions on the environment and human beings. The significant and continuous increase in plastic production causes an enormous amount of plastic waste on land entering the aquatic environment (read here).

A major threat is posed by microplastics: plastic fragments of less than 5mm entering the food chain as non-degradable contaminants and accumulating in animal tissue (read here).

However, there are different technologies for filtering water to remove plastic particles and other substances. Over time different types of filters have been developed such as

  • Granular activated carbon filters able to filter contaminants up to 5 micrometers.
  • Carbon block filters that can filter contaminants down to 0.5 micrometers, or micrometers.
  • Reverse osmosis filters with the ability to filter particles as small as 0.001 microns. Reverse osmosis filters are the most effective for the removal of microplastics although more complex and expensive.

These technologies are also used, often in synergy, in wastewater treatment plants, since they are indicated as the main source of microplastics in watercourses. The application of advanced wastewater treatment technologies is mandatory to avoid contamination of effluents by plastics.

According to a recent study[1], a concrete solution can be represented by technologies involving a selective filter membrane as an additional effluent treatment step in integrated wastewater treatment systems, particularly for smaller plastic particles (< 100 nm).

Moreover, the study highlights the lack of a more detailed and uniform chemical-physical characterization of plastics. This knowledge is mandatory to select appropriate methodologies to ensure more efficient removal of plastics from effluents.

River Cleaning is also a cutting-edge technology to stop this form of pollution: the continuous research and development of increasingly high-performance systems is at the heart of the innovation of this ambitious project.

But technology alone is not enough: to reduce the release of plastic into nature, and in particular into watercourses, everyone’s awareness and cooperation is needed. Avoiding disposable plastic products and implementing recycling and reuse are good ways to reduce the formation and ingress of microplastics into water.

The constructive actions for the reduction of microplastics pollution that can act in synergy are the implementation of an environmental pollution awareness policy leading to a reduction in the use of disposable plastic materials and the design of operational and production processes based on the use of biodegradable materials to prevent accumulation in the environment.

1 Membrane Processes for Microplastic Removal; Teresa Poerio, Emma Piacentini, Rosalinda Mazzei. Molecules. 2019 Nov; 24(22): 4148 DOI: 10.3390/molecules24224148

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