Efficiency and Effectiveness of a Low-Cost, Self-Cleaning Microplastic Filtering System for Wastewater Treatment Plants

Alec Beljanski


Numerous studies have shown that marine life readily ingest microplastics that have adsorbed toxic pollutants in the environment, introducing them into the food chain. Microplastics are commonly released into the marine environment due to degradation of larger plastic debris, as microbeads in beauty products, as microfibers washed off of clothing, or by the breakdown of fishing nets and equipment, which is problematic because they are highly resistant to degradation. Because of their small size and density, which is similar to water, microplastics are currently not being filtered through most existing wastewater treatment plants. This research project aims to produce an easy, practical, and inexpensive engineering solution to be implemented in wastewater treatment facilities. The effect of varying the filtration material, water pressure, and filter orientation on the flow rate and microplastic recovery of the system was the main focus of this study. The gravity-powered filtration testing system contains a constant pressure basin and a mixer to try and simulate conditions inside a wastewater treatment plant. Analysis of testing shall include several statistical measures (for example: error bounds) that will provide guidance towards the design of a backflushing apparatus. Based on the test results of the previous undergraduate research microplastics team, a 3D filter at an angle of 90 degrees to the pipe with 1.68 kPa of water pressure shall provide the best flow rate for our system, but more tests will be needed to validate this data. If successful, this system will greatly assist the health of the marine ecosystem, by reducing transmission of toxins across the food chain.


microplastics; wastewater treatment plant; filtration

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