Biodegradation of Microplastics in Water Treatment

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI team photo
This video describes the problem we seek to ameliorate, which is microplastic pollution from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), our proposed solution, and our progress. WWTPs are nodes of distribution of microplastics from domestic sources (such as polyester fibers from laundry) to freshwater ecosystems, through treated effluent, and to terrestrial ecosystems, through the application of sewage sludge as fertilizer. Many plastic-depolymerizing or -biodegrading microorganisms have been isolated from WWTPs. Therefore, we hypothesize that these organisms can be isolated, improved, and reintroduced into WWTPs to improve microplastic biodegradation.

This team consists of 2 MS students (Erica Gardner and Jeremy Nyitrai) in the Engineering Sustainable Systems dual-MS program at University of Michigan, 1 PhD Student (James Tan) in the Chemical Engineering Department, and 1 PI (Dr. Nina Lin) in the Chemical Engineering Department

EPA P3 Video Presentation

Poster (click to open a full size image): 
Biodegradation of Microplastics in Water Treatment poster

Our goal is to determine the feasibility of engineering the microbiota of municipal wastewater treatment plants to degrade microplastics, before they enter the environment via discharge into surface waters or application of biosolids to agricultural fields. Our poster describes the steps we are taking and plan to take to achieve this goal.