Microplastics enter water bodies through different pathways, including atmospheric deposition, run-off from contaminated land or through municipal wastewater.
Microplastics come in a large variety of sizes, colours and chemical compositions, and include fibres, fragments, pellets, flakes, sheets or foams.
Microfibres, which have been reported as the most abundant type of microplastics in wastewater and freshwaters, are of particular concern. They have been identified in the intestinal tract of zooplankton, river-bed organisms, and mussels.
An ongoing study, provisionally titled ‘Assessing available technologies and providing a toolkit of options of technologies to remove plastic, microplastic and microfibres from wastewater and sludge’ is a collaboration between UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Water Management Institute.
The study will be launched later this year.