Wastewater treatment protects the aquatic environment from microplastics

A sewage treatment facility

Research published by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) this week in Environmental Pollution shows that wastewater treatment processes remove 99.8% microplastics from the treated wastewater released to rivers, meaning that the majority do not enter rivers, and therefore do not reach the sea.

Drinking water treatment removes 99.99% microplastics

Research published this week shows that treating drinking water reduced the number of microplastic particles per litre by 99.99%.

New study estimates there is at least ten times more plastic in the Atlantic than previously thought

Dr Katsiaryna Pabortsava of the NOC, lead author of the paper

The mass of ‘invisible’ microplastics found in the upper waters of the Atlantic Ocean is approximately 12–21 million tonnes, according to research published in the journal Nature Communications.

Seafloor microplastic hotspots controlled by deep-sea currents

Simplified graphic showing how seafloor currents create microplastics hotspots in the deep-sea

New research has revealed the highest levels of microplastic yet recorded on the seafloor, with up to 1.9 million pieces in an area of just one square metre.

New insights into the transportation of microplastics across the deep seafloor

Diagram from the research paper

National Oceanography Centre (NOC) research has revealed for the first time how submarine sediment avalanches can transport microplastics from land into the deep ocean. The study also revealed that these flows are responsible for sorting different types of microplastics – burying some, and moving others vast distances across the sea floor. 

Microplastics accumulate in hotspots for deep-sea life

This diagram shows the likely sources, pathways and accumulation points for microplastics in the ocean.

Research published earlier in the week reveals that microplastics often accumulate on the deep sea floor in the same place as diverse and dense marine life communities.

Microplastics research at the National Oceanography Centre

Microplastics are the most dominant particulate contaminant identified in the global ocean.

Ocean circulation can impact on the effectiveness of marine protected areas

Researchers at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) studying the UK’s four largest Marine Protected Areas have found that, because of the ocean’s vigorous circulation, even remote, seemingly pristine habitats, are not isolated from human activities, and may be vulnerable to pollution and overfishing impacts.

International collaborative expedition to shed light on microplastics and ocean carbon

On Friday 14 April the RRS Discovery will leave Southampton for a research expedition to the Porcupine Abyssal Plain sustained ocean observatory (PAP-SO) in the Northeast Atlantic.

Microplastics discovered in the deep, open ocean

Microplastic research at NOC

This week researchers from NOC and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) have embarked on a collaborative research expedition to further understand how tiny pieces of plastic litter are spreading in the open ocean and affecting life within.