Polyvinyl Chloride Microplastics Affect Methane Production from the Anaerobic Digestion of Waste Activated Sludge through Leaching Toxic Bisphenol-A

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Environmental Science and Technology, 2019, 53 (5), pp. 2509 - 2517
Issue Date:
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© 2019 American Chemical Society. The retention of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) microplastics in sewage sludge during wastewater treatment raises concerns. However, the effects of PVC microplastics on methane production from anaerobic digestion of waste activated sludge (WAS) have never been documented. In this work, the effects of PVC microplastics (1 mm, 10-60 particles/g TS) on anaerobic methane production from WAS were investigated. The presence of 10 particles/g TS of PVC microplastics significantly (P = 0.041) increased methane production by 5.9 ± 0.1%, but higher levels of PVC microplastics (i.e., 20, 40, and 60 particles/g TS) inhibited methane production to 90.6 ± 0.3%, 80.5 ± 0.1%, and 75.8 ± 0.2% of the control, respectively. Model-based analysis indicated that PVC microplastics at >20 particles/g TS decreased both methane potential (B0) and hydrolysis coefficient (k) of WAS. The mechanistic studies showed that bisphenol A (BPA) leaching from PVC microplastics was the primary reason for the decreased methane production, causing significant (P = 0.037, 0.01, 0.004) inhibitory effects on the hydrolysis-acidification process. The long-term effects of PVC microplastics revealed that the microbial community was shifted in the direction against hydrolysis-acidification and methanation. In conclusion, PVC microplastic caused negative effects on WAS anaerobic digestion through leaching the toxic BPA.
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