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Removal of microplastics from the environment. A review


The production of fossil fuel-derived, synthetic plastics is continually increasing, while poor plastic waste management has recently induced severe pollution issues. Microplastics are plastic particles smaller than 5 mm. Microplastics are ubiquitous and slowly-degrading contaminants in waters and soils. Microplastics have long residence time, high stability, high potential of being fragmented and can adsorb other contaminants. Many aquatic species contain microplastics, which are in particular easily accumulated by planktonic and invertebrate organisms. Then, microplastics are transferred along food chains, leading to physical damages, decrease in nutritional diet value and exposure of the living organism to pathogens. Raw plastics contain chemical additives such as phthalates, bisphenol A and polybrominated diphenyl ethers that may induce toxic effects after ingestion by living organisms. Furthermore, the adsorption capability of microplastics makes them prone to carry several contaminants. Methods to remove microplastics from water and other media are actually needed. Here, we review microplastics occurrence, transport, raw polymers and additives, toxicity and methods of removal. Removal methods include physical sorption and filtration, biological removal and ingestion, and chemical treatments. Mechanisms, efficiency, advantages, and drawbacks of various removal methods are discussed.

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This work is financially supported by SAFEA of China (High-End Foreign Expert Project # G20190241013) and the scientific research startup fund of Shaanxi University of Science and Technology.

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Correspondence to Mohsen Padervand or Chuanyi Wang.

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Padervand, M., Lichtfouse, E., Robert, D. et al. Removal of microplastics from the environment. A review. Environ Chem Lett 18, 807–828 (2020).

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  • Microplastic pollution
  • Environment
  • Removal method