Researchers have developed a new way to treat wastewater that degrades microplastics at the source.
Microplastics are small particles of less than 5mm which can come from our clothes usually as microfibers. Wastewater can carry high concentrations of these microplastics, transferring them into the natural environment.
In a bid to reduce the number of microplastics in the environment, researchers from the Institut national de la recherche Scientifique (INRS) have developed a process which uses electrodes to attack the microplastics at the source.
According to the researchers, this process is environmentally friendly because it breaks the microplastics down into carbon dioxide and water molecules, which are non-toxic to the ecosystem.
Professor Drogui, the lead author of this study, said he envisions this technology being used at the exit of commercial laundries.
Normally, when commercial laundry water arrives at the wastewater treatment plant, it is mixed with large quantities of water, meaning that the pollutants are diluted and therefore more difficult to degrade.
The researchers have said that by acting at the source, the concentration of microplastics is higher and thus more accessible for electrolytic degradation.
Laboratory tests conducted on water artificially contaminated with polystyrene showed a degradation efficiency of 89%.
The team plans to move on to experiments on real water. Real water contains other materials that can affect the degradation process, such as carbonates and phosphates, which can trap radicals and reduce the performance of the oxidation process.
If the technology demonstrates its effectiveness on real commercial laundry water, the research group intends to conduct a study to determine the cost of treatment and the adaptation of the technology to treat larger quantities of wastewater. Within a few years, the researchers hope that this technology could be implemented in laundry facilities.
In related news, microplastics have been found on the top of Mount Everest, 8,440 meters above sea level.
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