Long-term assessment of nanoplastic particle and microplastic fiber flux through a pilot wastewater treatment plant using metal-doped plastics

Catégorie : Collecte et Nettoyage des Débris Plastiques marins et aquatiques
Date :2 octobre 2020
Frehland, Stefan; Kaegi, Ralf; Hufenus, Rudolf; Mitrano, Denise M.
Water Research : 182
In recent years, several studies have investigated the flux of particulate plastic through municipal waste water treatment plants (WWTP). Challenges related to time consuming analytical methods have limited the number of sampling points and detection limits have hampered quantification of nanoplastic and microplastic fiber fluxes through WWTPs. By synthesizing nanoplastic particles and microplastic fibers labeled with a rare metal (Pd and In, respectively) which can be measured as a proxy for the plastic itself, we have circumvented major analytical pitfalls associated with (micro)plastic measurements. In this study, we spiked the labeled materials to a pilot WWTP mimicking the activated sludge process (nitrification, de-nitrification and secondary clarification). Using a mass flow model for WWTP sludge, we assessed the behavior of particulate plastic in relation to the removal of organic matter. Triplicate samples were collected from the mixed liquor and from the effluent at least twice weekly over the entire experimental run time of 40 d. Our findings show that in discrete grab samples during steady state conditions, at least 98% of particulate plastics were associated with the biosolids. A positive correlation between total suspended solids (TSS) and plastic concentrations was observed in the sludge as well as in the effluent. Because of the strong association between particulate plastic and TSS, TSS removal is likely a good indicator of plastic removal in a full scale WWTP. Therefore, additional process steps in a full-scale WWTP which further reduce the TSS load will likely retain nanoplastic particles and microplastic fibers effectively and consequently increase the removal rates. (C) 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.