Water & Wastewater Treatment

WWT February 2019

Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine

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Page 11 of 39

12 | XXXXX 20XX | WWT | www.wwtonline.co.uk The Works P lastic pollution is very much an issue of the moment. Images of sea life struggling through a floating morass of man-made material, as brought to the UK's TV screens by the BBC's Blue Planet last year, have done much to highlight the damage that plastics can cause in aquatic and marine environments. With synthetic polymers in plastics taking decades or even centuries to degrade, there is a clear concern that permanent damage might be being done to oceans and aquatic life, some of which could rebound on humans via the food chain. A particular focus for the water and wastewater sector is on microplastics – defined as pieces of plastic with a diameter of less than 5mm. Ranging from microscopic fibres to clearly visible beads and fragments, these smaller pieces of plastic have the potential to pass through wastewater treatment processes, are usu- ally buoyant in water and can easily be ingested by many organisms, including fish and others which might later be eaten by people. While the jury is out on just how much microplastics harm the invertebrates and vertebrates that swallow them – the extent to which chemicals are absorbed into tissues, as well as the possibility of the plastic physically blocking up their systems – it's clearly desirable that we understand where microplastic pollution is coming from, and can prevent it from entering the environment where possi- ble. So how much do we know about the sources of microplastics, and what can There is growing evidence that microplastics passed on through our wastewater have become widespread in aquatic environments, and even in the human food chain. How is the water industry seeking to address the issue? By James Brockett Plastics, plastics everywhere 12 | FEBRUARY 2019 | WWT | www.wwtonline.co.uk

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