Transport and fate of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants: implications to environmental health

Abstract

Global studies of microplastic (MP) pollution confirm wastewater treatment plants serve as pathways for microplastics entering terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The behaviour, transport and fate of microplastics in wastewater effluents remain mostly unknown, rendering wastewater-derived microplastics as a contaminant of significant concern. We critically examine the literature to understand the sources and fate of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and the implications of treated effluents admitted to soil and aquatic systems. The transport of chemical and biological contaminants is also discussed in detail, using fundamental principles of vector relationships. For the removal and reduction of microplastics, profound knowledge is required from source to solution. This review presents a comprehensive overview of the significance of microplastics as a vector of water-borne contaminants in WWTPs.

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Abbreviations

ATR:

Attenuated total reflectance

Ag:

Silver

Al:

Aluminum

Cd:

Cadmium

Co:

Cobalt

Cu:

Copper

dm:

Diameter

dw:

Dry weight

FTIR:

Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy

Fe:

Iron

HDPE:

High-density polyethylene

Mn:

Manganese

Mo:

Molybdenum

Ni:

Nickel

PA:

Polyamide

Pb:

Lead

PC:

Acrylic fibres

PE:

Polyethylene

PET:

Polyethylene terephthalate

PEST:

Polyester

PP:

Polypropylene

PPS:

Polyphenylene sulfide

PS:

Polystyrene

PVC:

Polyvinyl Chloride

PU:

Polyurethane

SEM:

Scanning Electron Microscopy

Sb:

Antimony

Sn:

Tin

Sr:

Strontium

ww:

Wet weight

WWTPs:

Wastewater treatment plants

Zn:

Zinc

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to acknowledge the Hunter Water Corporation and The University of Newcastle, Australia for the financial support through the Industry-University Engagement Scholarship. Authors also wish to thank Dr. Anna Lundmark, Mrs. Zoe Rogers and Mr. Bruce Cole from Hunter Water Corporation for providing water industry perspectives to set this research focus.

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Correspondence to Palanisami Thavamani.

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Raju, S., Carbery, M., Kuttykattil, A. et al. Transport and fate of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants: implications to environmental health. Rev Environ Sci Biotechnol 17, 637–653 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11157-018-9480-3

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Keywords

  • Wastewater
  • Treatment plant
  • Microplastics
  • Chemical transport
  • Antibiotic-resistant genes
  • Vector relationship