We recently shared a story about balls of seaweed that help collect plastic from the seafloor, but the question still remains, what do we do with this plastic once we collect it? Researchers from Quebec’s Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) may have an answer with their new microplastic treatment technique.
Led by a team of researchers a process known as electrolytic oxidation in which hydroxyl radicals are introduced to wastewater to break down microplastics into non-toxic carbon dioxide and water molecules. Specifically, the technique targets the microfibers produced by laundry processes.
In trial runs, the process has been able to degrade up to 89 percent of polystyrene particles. The next step is to introduce the technique to actual laundry facilities to test its functionality in a real-world setting.
Although successful in trials, real-world applications do present the challenge of carbonates and phosphates present in wastewater that could influence the efficacy of the system. Once the team has worked out these kinks, it plans to pursue technology to make the process scalable. If affordable and effective, this system could be added to laundry machines around the world to greatly reduce textile microplastics.