Ultrasmall particles of the most commonly used plastics tend to move through the water supply, especially in fresh water, settle out in wastewater treatment plants, or end up as sludge in landfills, according to a study, published in the journal Water Research.
The study examined what happens to these tiny, nanoscale plastics that are making their way into the aquatic environment. In their study, the scientists studied the fate of nanoparticles of polyethylene and polystyrene, which are used in a huge number of products, including plastic bags, personal care products, kitchen appliances, disposable drinking cups and packaging material. They assessed how the tiny particles behaved under various conditions, ranging from salty seawater to water containing organic material.
We are drinking lots of plastics
We are drinking almost a few grams of plastics every month or so. That is concerning because you don’t know what will happen after 20 years.
Every day about eight trillion pieces of microplastics go through wastewater treatment plants and end up in the aquatic environment. These little bits of plastic can come from the degradation of larger plastics or from microbeads that are used in personal care products.
While acidity of water has little impact on what happens to nanoscale plastics, the study found that salt and natural organic matter are important in determining how the plastics move or settle.