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Microplastics pollution and reduction strategies

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Microplastic particles smaller than 5 mm in size are of increasing concern, especially in aquatic environments, such as the ocean. Primary source is microbeads (<1 mm) used in cosmetics and cleaning agents and fiber fragments from washing of clothes, and secondary source such as broken down plastic litter and debris. These particles are mostly made from polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyesters. They are ingested by diverse marine fauna, including zooplanktons, mussel, oyster, shrimp, fish etc. and can enter human food chains via several pathways. Strategy for control of microplastics pollution should primarily focus on source reduction and subsequently on the development of cost-effective clean up and remediation technologies. Recent research results on biodegradation of plastics have revealed a potential for microbial biodegradation and bioremediation of plastic pollutants, such as PE, PS and PET under appropriate conditions.

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The authors thank Ms. Andria T. Wu, DePaul University for figure preparation and Ms. Anja Malawi Brandon, Stanford University, for photograph. This work was supported by the Stanford Woods Institute for Environment (1197667-10-WTAZB).

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Correspondence to Wei-Min Wu.

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Wu, WM., Yang, J. & Criddle, C.S. Microplastics pollution and reduction strategies. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng. 11, 6 (2017).

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