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Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering

ISSN 2095-2201

ISSN 2095-221X(Online)

CN 10-1013/X

Postal Subscription Code 80-973

2018 Impact Factor: 3.883

Front. Environ. Sci. Eng.    2017, Vol. 11 Issue (1) : 6
Microplastics pollution and reduction strategies
Wei-Min Wu1(),Jun Yang2,Craig S. Criddle1
1. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, William & Cloy Codiga Resource Recovery Center, Center for Sustainable Development & Global Competitiveness, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-4020, USA
2. School of Chemistry and Environment, Beihang University, Beijing 100191, China
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Microplastic particles smaller than 5 mm in size are of increasing concern, especially in aquatic environments, such as the ocean. Primary source is microbeads (<1 mm) used in cosmetics and cleaning agents and fiber fragments from washing of clothes, and secondary source such as broken down plastic litter and debris. These particles are mostly made from polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyesters. They are ingested by diverse marine fauna, including zooplanktons, mussel, oyster, shrimp, fish etc. and can enter human food chains via several pathways. Strategy for control of microplastics pollution should primarily focus on source reduction and subsequently on the development of cost-effective clean up and remediation technologies. Recent research results on biodegradation of plastics have revealed a potential for microbial biodegradation and bioremediation of plastic pollutants, such as PE, PS and PET under appropriate conditions.

Keywords microplastics      plastic microbeads      environmental pollution      biodegradation     
Corresponding Authors: Wei-Min Wu   
Issue Date: 30 December 2016
 Cite this article:   
Wei-Min Wu,Jun Yang,Craig S. Criddle. Microplastics pollution and reduction strategies[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2017, 11(1): 6.
Fig.1  (Left) Microplastic pollution in aquatic environments and impacts on food chains. (Right) PE microbeads in personal care products
Polymer type Short Chemical
Biodegradation Molecular structure Recycle
ID code
High density polyethylene HDPE (C2H4)n 0.917–0.965 Not reported <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_Images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1fig1.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject> <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig2.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject>
Low density polyethylene LDPE Bacteria, fungi, waxworms, mealworms <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig3.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject>
Linear low density
Polypropylene PP (C3H6)n 0.90–0.91 Not reported <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig4.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject> <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig5.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject>
Polystyrene PS (C8H8)n 1.04–1.1 Bacteria, mealworms <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig6.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject> <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig7.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject>
Polyvinylchloride PVC (C2H3Cl)n 1.16–1.58 Fungi <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig8.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject> <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig9.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject>
Polymethylacrylate PMA (C4H6O2)n 1.17–1.2 Cyanobacteria <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig10.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject> <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig11.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject>
PET (C10H8O4)n 1.37–1.45 Bacteria <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig12.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject> <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig13.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject>
Polyurethane PUR (R - (N = C= O)n 1.20 Fungi <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig14.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject> <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig15.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject>
Polyester PET, Nylon, Acrylic PET or various 1.24–2.3 Bacteria Similar to PET or various <InlineMediaObject OutputMedium="All"><ImageObject FileRef="FSE-16064-WWM.doc_images\FSE-16064-WWM-tb1Fig16.tif" ScaleToFit="1" ScaleToFitWidth="10cm"/></InlineMediaObject>
Tab.1  Major microplastics found marine environment in literatures
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2 Cµzar A, Echevarría F, González-Gordillo J I, Irigoien X, Úbeda B, Hernández-León S, Palma Á T, Navarro S, García-de-Lomas J, Ruiz A, Fernández-de-Puelles M L, Duarte C M. Plastic debris in the open ocean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2014, 111(28): 10239–10244 pmid: 24982135
3 Cole M, Lindeque P, Halsband C, Galloway T S. Microplastics as contaminants in the marine environment: a review. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2011, 62(12): 2588–2597 pmid: 22001295
4 Zhao S, Zhu L, Wang T, Li D. Suspended microplastics in the surface water of the Yangtze Estuary System, China: first observations on occurrence, distribution. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2014, 86(1-2): 562–568 pmid: 25023438
5 Fendall L S, Sewell M A. Contributing to marine pollution by washing your face: microplastics in facial cleansers. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2009, 58(8): 1225–1228 pmid: 19481226
6 Andrady A L. Microplastics in the marine environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2011, 62(8): 1596–1605 pmid: 21742351
7 Tokiwa Y, Calabia B P, Ugwu C U, Aiba S. Biodegradability of plastics. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2009, 10(9): 3722–3742 pmid: 19865515
8 Yang J, Yang Y, Wu W M, Zhao J, Jiang L. Evidence of polyethylene biodegradation by bacterial strains from the guts of plastic-eating waxworms. Environmental Science & Technology, 2014, 48(23): 13776–13784 pmid: 25384056
9 Yang Y, Yang J, Wu W M, Zhao J, Song Y, Gao L, Yang R, Jiang L. Biodegradation and mineralization of polystyrene by plastic-eating mealworms: Part 2. Role of gut Microorganisms. Environmental Science & Technology, 2015, 49(20): 12087–12093 pmid: 26390390
10 Yoshida S, Hiraga K, Takehana T, Taniguchi I, Yamaji H, Maeda Y, Toyohara K, Miyamoto K, Kimura Y, Oda K. A bacterium that degrades and assimilates poly(ethylene terephthalate). Science, 2016, 351(6278): 1196–1199 pmid: 26965627
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