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Current research trends on microplastic pollution from wastewater systems: a critical review

  • Yulin HuEmail author
  • Mengyue Gong
  • Jiayi Wang
  • Amarjeet Bassi
review paper
  • 84 Downloads

Abstract

Microplastics have been widely considered as contaminants for the environment and biota. Till now, most previous studies have focused on the identification and characterization of microplastics in freshwater, sea water, and the terrestrial environment. Although microplastics have been extensively detected in the wastewater, research in this area is still lacking and not thoroughly understood. To fill this knowledge gap, the current review article covers the analytical methods of microplastics originating from wastewater streams and describes their sources and occurrences in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Studies indicated that microplastic pollution caused by domestic washing of synthetic fibers could be detected in the effluent; however, most microplastics from personal care and cosmetic products (PCCPs) can be efficiently removed during wastewater treatment. Moreover, various techniques for sampling and analyzing microplastics from wastewater systems are reviewed; while, the implementation of standardized protocols for microplastics is required. Finally, the fate of microplastics during wastewater treatments and the environmental contamination of effluent to environment are presented. Previous studies reported that the advanced wastewater treatment (e.g., membrane bioreactor) is needed for improving the removal efficiency of small-sized microplastics (< 100 µm). Although the role of microplastics as transport vectors for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) is still under debate, they have demonstrated abilities to absorb harmful agents like pharmaceuticals.

Keywords

Microplastics Wastewater systems Analytical techniques Wastewater treatment plant Environmental contamination 

Abbreviations

ATR

Attenuated total reflectance

CaCl2

Calcium chloride

FTIR

Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy

Fe

Iron

FeSO4

Iron (II) sulfate

FPA

Focal plane array

H2O2

Hydrogen peroxide

HNO3

Nitric acid

HDPE

High density polyethylene

KOH

Potassium hydroxide

KI

Potassium iodide

NaCl

Sodium chloride

NaI

Sodium iodide

POP

Persistent organic pollutant

PCCP

Personal care and cosmetic product

PE

Polyethylene

PEST

Polyester

PVC

Polyvinyl chloride

PS

Polystyrene

POM

Polyoxymethylene

PP

Polypropylene

PET

Polyethylene terephthalate

PC

Polycarbonate

PU

Polyurethane

PEVA

Poly(ethylene–vinyl acetate)

PA

Polyamide

Py–GC/MS

Pyrolysis–gas chromatography/mass spectrometry

PO

Polyolefin

PAH

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon

PCB

Polychlorinated biphenyl

SPT

Sodium polytungstate

TGA–DSC

Thermogravimetric analysis–differential scanning calorimetry

UV

Ultraviolet

WWTP

Wastewater treatment plant

WPO

Wet peroxide oxidation

ZnCl2

Zinc chloride

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the funding from NSERC through the Discovery Grant awarded to Dr. Amarjeet Bassi. In this article, copyright permission has been obtained for the following figures: Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4 and  7 from their original publishers: Elsevier and ACS Publication respectively. The documents for the permission are available upon request.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical and Biochemical EngineeringUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada
  2. 2.School of Food Science and TechnologyJiangnan UniversityWuxiPeople’s Republic of China

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