Skip to main content
Log in

Fate of microplastics in a coastal wastewater treatment plant: Microfibers could partially break through the integrated membrane system

  • Research Article
  • Published:
Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Rare information on the fate of microplastics in the integrated membrane system (IMS) system in full-scale wastewater treatment plant was available. The fate of microplastics in IMS in a coastal reclaimed water plant was investigated. The removal rate of microplastics in the IMS system reached 93.2% after membrane bioreactor (MBR) treatment while that further increased to 98.0% after the reverse osmosis (RO) membrane process. The flux of microplastics in MBR effluent was reduced from 1.5 × 10 MPs/d to 10.2 × 1011 MPs/d while that of the RO treatment decreased to 2.7 × 1011 MPs/d. Small scale fiber plastics (< 200 μm) could break through RO system according to the size distribution analysis. The application of the IMS system in the reclaimed water plant could prevent most of the microplastics from being discharged in the coastal water. These findings suggested that the IMS system was more efficient than conventional activated sludge system (CAS) for the removal of microplastics, while the discharge of small scale fiber plastics through the IMS system should also not be neglected because small scale fiber plastics (< 200 μm) could break through IMS system equipped with the RO system.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Baldwin A K, Corsi S R, Mason S A (2016). Plastic debris in 29 great lakes tributaries: Relations to watershed attributes and hydrology. Environmental Science & Technology, 50(19): 10377–10385

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Browne M A, Crump P, Niven S J, Teuten E, Tonkin A, Galloway T, Thompson R (2011). Accumulation of microplastic on shorelines woldwide: Sources and sinks. Environmental Science & Technology, 45(21): 9175–9179

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Camacho M, Herrera A, Gómez M, Acosta-Dacal A, Martínez I, Henríquez-Hernández L A, Luzardo O P (2019). Organic pollutants in marine plastic debris from Canary Islands beaches. Science of the Total Environment, 662: 22–31

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Carr S A, Liu J, Tesoro A G (2016). Transport and fate of microplastic particles in wastewater treatment plants. Water Research, 91: 174–182

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Chaudhry R M, Nelson K L, Drewes J E (2015). Mechanisms of pathogenic virus removal in a full-scale membrane bioreactor. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(5): 2815–2822

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Chen Q, Zhang H, Allgeier A, Zhou Q, Ouellet J D, Crawford S E, Luo Y, Yang Y, Shi H, Hollert H (2019). Marine microplastics bound dioxin-like chemicals: Model explanation and risk assessment. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 364: 82–90

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ding A, Zhao Y, Yan Z, Bai L, Yang H, Liang H, Li G, Ren N (2020). Co-application of energy uncoupling and ultrafiltration in sludge treatment: Evaluations of sludge reduction, supernatant recovery and membrane fouling control. Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, 14(4): 59

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Gundogdu S, Çevik C, Guzel E, Kilercioglu S (2018). Microplastics in municipal wastewater treatment plants in Turkey: A comparison of the influent and secondary effluent concentrations. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 190(11): 626

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Guo X, Li C, Li C, Wei T, Tong L, Shao H, Zhou Q, Wang L, Liao Y (2019). G-CNTs/PVDF mixed matrix membranes with improved antifouling properties and filtration performance. Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, 13(6): 81

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jabeen K, Su L, Li J, Yang D, Tong C, Mu J, Shi H (2017). Microplastics and mesoplastics in fish from coastal and fresh waters of China. Environmental Pollution, 221: 141–149

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Koelmans A A, Besseling E, Wegner A, Foekema E M (2013). Plastic as a carrier of POPs to aquatic organisms: A model analysis. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(14): 7812–7820

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lares M, Ncibi M C, Sillanpää M, Sillanpää M (2018). Occurrence, identification and removal of microplastic particles and fibers in conventional activated sludge process and advanced MBR technology. Water Research, 133: 236–246

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Liu G, Zhu Z, Yang Y, Sun Y, Yu F, Ma J (2019). Sorption behavior and mechanism of hydrophilic organic chemicals to virgin and aged microplastics in freshwater and seawater. Environmental Pollution, 246: 26–33

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Liu X, Wang J (2020). Algae (Raphidocelis subcapitata) mitigate combined toxicity of microplastic and lead on Ceriodaphnia dubia. Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, 14(6): 97

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lu J, Lin Y, Wu J, Zhang C (2021a). Continental-scale spatial distribution, sources, and health risks of heavy metals in seafood: challenge for the water-food-energy nexus sustainability in coastal regions? Environmental Science and Pollution Research International

  • Lu J, Wu J, Wang J (2022). Metagenomic analysis on resistance genes in water and microplastics from a mariculture system. Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, 16(1): 4

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lu J, Wu J, Wu J, Zhang C, Luo Y (2020a). Adsorption and desorption of steroid hormones by microplastics in seawater. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

  • Lu J, Zhang C, Wu J (2021b). Removal of steroid hormones from mariculture system using seaweed Caulerpa lentillifera. Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, 16(2): 15

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lu J, Zhang Y, Wu J, Luo Y (2019). Effects of microplastics on distribution of antibiotic resistance genes in recirculating aquaculture system. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 184: 109631

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lu J, Zhang Y, Wu J, Wang J, Cai Y (2020b). Fate of antibiotic resistance genes in reclaimed water reuse system with integrated membrane process. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 382: 121025

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Mintenig S M, Int-Veen I, Löder M G J, Primpke S, Gerdts G (2017). Identification of microplastic in effluents of waste water treatment plants using focal plane array-based micro-Fourier-transform infrared imaging. Water Research, 108: 365–372

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Qu H, Ma R, Wang B, Zhang Y, Yin L, Yu G, Deng S, Huang J, Wang Y (2018). Effects of microplastics on the uptake, distribution and biotransformation of chiral antidepressant venlafaxine in aquatic ecosystem. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 359: 104–112

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Shi X, Chen Z, Lu Y, Shi Q, Wu Y, Hu H (2021). Significant increase of assimilable organic carbon (AOC) levels in MBR effluents followed by coagulation, ozonation and combined treatments: Implications for biostability control of reclaimed water. Science of the Total Environment, 15(4):68

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Sun Y, Shen Y X, Liang P, Zhou J, Yang Y, Huang X (2014). Linkages between microbial functional potential and wastewater constituents in large-scale membrane bioreactors for municipal wastewater treatment. Water Research, 56: 162–171

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Taylor M L, Gwinnett C, Robinson L F, Woodall L C (2016). Plastic microfibre ingestion by deep-sea organisms. Scientific Reports, 6(1): 33997

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • van Weert S, Redondo-Hasselerharm P E, Diepens N J, Koelmans A A (2019). Effects of nanoplastics and microplastics on the growth of sediment-rooted macrophytes. Science of the Total Environment, 654: 1040–1047

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wang Z, Huo J, Duan Y (2020). The impact of government incentives and penalties on willingness to recycle plastic waste: An evolutionary game theory perspective. Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, 14(2): 29

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wu P, Cai Z, Jin H, Tang Y (2019). Adsorption mechanisms of five bisphenol analogues on PVC microplastics. Science of the Total Environment, 650(Pt 1): 671–678

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Xu E G, Ren Z J (2021). Preventing masks from becoming the next plastic problem. Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, 15(6): 125

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Xue S, Sun S, Qing W, Huang T, Liu W, Lin C, Yao H, Zhang W (2021). Experimental and computational assessment of 1,4-Dioxane degradation in a photo-Fenton reactive ceramic membrane filtration process. Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering, 15(5): 95

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Zhang Y, Lu J, Wu J, Wang J, Luo Y (2020a). Potential risks of microplastics combined with superbugs: Enrichment of antibiotic resistant bacteria on the surface of microplastics in mariculture system. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 187: 109852

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Zhang Y, Wang J, Lu J, Wu J (2020b). Antibiotic resistance genes might serve as new indicators for wastewater contamination of coastal waters: Spatial distribution and source apportionment of antibiotic resistance genes in a coastal bay. Ecological Indicators, 114: 106299

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ziajahromi S, Neale P A, Rintoul L, Leusch F D L (2017). Wastewater treatment plants as a pathway for microplastics: Development of a new approach to sample wastewater-based microplastics. Water Research, 112: 93–99

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Zuo L Z, Li H X, Lin L, Sun Y X, Diao Z H, Liu S, Zhang Z Y, Xu X R (2019). Sorption and desorption of phenanthrene on biodegradable poly(butylene adipate co-terephtalate) microplastics. Chemosphere, 215: 25–32

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41877131), Taishan Scholar Program of Shandong Province (China) (No. tsqn201812116), Science and Technology Service Network Initiative of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KFJ-STS-QYZX-114), Two-Hundred Talents Plan of Yantai (China) (Y739011021), and Wanhua Chemical Group Co. Ltd. (China).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jian Lu.

Additional information

Highlights

• Fate of microplastics in integrated membrane system for water reuse was investigated.

• Integrated membrane system has high removal efficiency (>98%) for microplastics.

• Microplastics (>93%) were mainly removed through membrane bioreactor treatment.

• Small scale fiber plastics (< 200 μm) could break through reverse osmosis (RO) system.

• The flux of microplastics maintained at 2.7 × 1011 MPs/d after the RO treatment.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cai, Y., Wu, J., Lu, J. et al. Fate of microplastics in a coastal wastewater treatment plant: Microfibers could partially break through the integrated membrane system. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng. 16, 96 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11783-021-1517-0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11783-021-1517-0

Keywords

Navigation