Revealing the fate of microplastics in a coastal wastewater treatment plant thanks to an integrated membrane system

Microplastics (defined as smaller than 5nm) are a growing environmental pollution problem. The increase in plastic waste from the plastic industry or personal care products could lead to the accumulation of microplastics in various ecosystems and environments. Microplastics are ubiquitous and have been detected in over 2,000 marine organisms. The large amount of chemicals released by microplastics can affect living organisms and threaten their health. In addition, hydrophobic microplastics could adsorb on endocrine disruptors, antibiotics and other organic pollutants present in the water, which undoubtedly aggravated the pollution of the aquatic environment. Therefore, how to prevent microplastics from entering the environment remains a challenge.

Various studies have shown that the waste treatment plant is the most important medium for the release of various emerging contaminants, including microplastics, into the environment. Among them, fast-growing membrane technology is a prospective treatment method for the removal of various pollutants in the wastewater treatment process. Membrane technology has excellent removal rate for COD, NH4+-N, bacteria, organic pollutants and antibiotic resistance genes. With the scarcity of water resources and water pollution, Integrated Membrane System (IMS) technology for reclaimed water reuse has attracted more and more attention. Can the wastewater treatment plant prevent microplastics from entering the marine environment? And what happens to microplastics in the IMS system used for water recovery?

To answer these questions, Professor Jian Lu and Dr Ying Cai from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and their team members worked together and systematically studied the fate of microplastics in the conventional activated sludge system (CAS) and the IMS system at a coastal reclaimed water station. . Their work identified that the IMS system could prevent the reintroduction of most microplastics into the marine environment and convert wastewater into renewable water, which can then reduce ocean pollution and solve water resource scarcity. . This study titled “Fate of microplastics in a shorewater waste treatment plant: Microfibers could partially break through the integrated membrane system” is published online in Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering in 2022.

In this study, 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 the membrane bioreactor (MBR) treatment, while it further increased to 98.0% after the membrane reverse osmosis (RO) process. ). The flux of microplastics in MBR effluent has been reduced by 1.5×1013 MP/d at 10.2 ×1011 MPs/d while that of RO treatment decreased to 2.7×1011 Deputies/d. The application of the IMS system in the reclaimed water plant could prevent most microplastics from being discharged into coastal waters. These results suggest that the IMS system is more effective than CAS in removing microplastics. However, small-scale fiber-based plastics (

This study comprehensively and systematically investigated the fate of microplastics in the traditional water treatment process and in the membrane technology of a typical coastal reclaimed water plant. The results show that the removal rate of microplastics by IMS is much higher than that obtained by the traditional wastewater treatment process. Introducing IMS to coastal sewage treatment plants could prevent the reintroduction of most microplastics into the marine environment and convert sewage into renewable water, which can then reduce ocean pollution and solve scarcity of water resources.

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