Microplastics in wastewater treatment plants: Detection, occurrence and removal

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Journal Article
Water Research, 2019, 152 pp. 21 - 37
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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd Microplastics have aroused increasing concern as they pose threats to aquatic species as well as human beings. They do not only contribute to accumulation of plastics in the environment, but due to absorption they can also contribute to spreading of micropollutants in the environment. Studies indicated that wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) play an important role in releasing microplastics to the environment. Therefore, effective detection of the microplastics and understanding their occurrence and fate in WWTPs are of great importance towards microplastics control. In this review, the up-to-date status on the detection, occurrence and removal of microplastics in WWTPs are comprehensively reviewed. Specifically, the different techniques used for collecting microplastics from both wastewater and sewage sludge, and their pretreatment and characterization methods are reviewed and analyzed. The key aspects regarding microplastics occurrence in WWTPs, such as concentrations, total discharges, materials, shapes and sizes are summarized and compared. Microplastics removal in different treatment stages and their retention in sewage sludge are explored. The development of potential microplastics-targeted treatment technologies is also presented. Although previous researches in microplastics have undoubtedly improved our level of understanding, it is clear that much remains to be learned about microplastics in WWTPs, as many unanswered questions and thereby concerns still remain; some of these important future research areas are outlined. The key challenges appear to be to harmonize detection methods as well as microplastics mitigation from wastewater and sewage sludge.
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