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Identification and removal of microplastics from contaminated semi-urban agricultural soil using electrochemical treatment technology

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The persistence of microplastics (MPs) in agricultural lands using plastic mulch will be an issue of major environmental concern in meeting the sustainable development goals (SGDs) of the near future. This research work aims at identifying and removal of MPs from rainfall runoff water (RRW) from MP-contaminated agricultural lands using the novel electrochemical coagulation (ECC) treatment technology. The MPs were extracted from the soil samples before identification. The pH, moisture content, MP abundance in soil, and particle size were determined. The RRW from the agricultural land loaded with MPs was treated using stainless steel (SS) electrodes in an electrochemical reactor. The removal efficiency of MPs, COD, chloride, and TDS at 45 min electrolyzing time was 98%, 46%, and 48%, respectively. Higher percentages of MP removal were achieved for increased MP concentrations in RRW. The difference in dry sludge generated during ECC for raw RRW and MP-loaded RRW was 2.42–4.09 kg/m3 of RRW treated. SEM, EDS, and ATR-FTIR spectroscopy analysis revealed the disintegration pattern of MPs into nano-sized particles. EDS of agricultural soil showed 8.2% carbon and 48.1% oxygen, whereas MP particles showed 62–64% carbon and 20–22% oxygen, respectively. The ATR-FTIR spectra for both spiked and extracted MP particle from the contaminated soil showed C–H stretch, CH2 bends, etc.; the MP particle was identified as LDPE-type plastic mulch. The EDS of ECC sludge showed loads of MPs with 47% C, 35% O, 1.6–2.3% Al, 2–2.6% Si and 10.3–12.9% Fe. The ECC process showed its effectiveness in 98% MP removal from the RRW in a short hydraulic retention time (HRT) of < 45 min.

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This research was financially supported by the Institution of Engineers India (IEI) in the scope of funding undergraduate (UG) research program: Project ID UG2022006, Ref: R.4/2/UG/2021-22. We gratefully thank IEI Kolkata, India, for sponsoring this novel research work. We acknowledge JSS Mahavidyapeetha, Suttur Sri Kshetra in Karnataka State, for providing research space in the electrochemical laboratory of the Department of Environmental Engineering, Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering, JSS Science and Technology University, JSSTI Campus, Mysuru.


This study was funded by the Institution of Engineers (India), Kolkata, India, in the scope of funding undergraduate (UG) research program: Project ID UG2022006, Ref: R.4/2/UG/2021–22.

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MS: Conceptualization of outcome-based research, work methodology, funding acquisition, writing original manuscript, select graphical plots, reviewing and editing, etc. NKG: conceptualization, analysis and laboratory investigations, funding acquisition, writing, analytics. SM: interpretation of data, reviewing manuscript, correction in Introduction and Materials and methods.

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Correspondence to Nisarga K. Gowda.

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Shivaswamy, M., Gowda, N.K. & Mahesh, S. Identification and removal of microplastics from contaminated semi-urban agricultural soil using electrochemical treatment technology. Chem. Pap. 77, 2125–2139 (2023).

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