Do Wastewater Treatment Plants Remove Microfibers?
The short answer is…Yes!
Wastewater treatment plants do the best they can to reduce microfiber pollution but… they do not catch them all. Multiple studies have shown a huge range of removal rates of 40-85%. The reason for that is that every treatment plant is different. They all have their own permit limits to discharge into a waterway based on that watershed’s ability to handle the pollutants. Some wastewater treatment plants are very old and are not equipped with the latest filtration technology. Others use new innovate reverse osmosis type filtration.
A recent study calculated that over 1 million tons of plastic microfibers enter our wastewater treatment plants every year!!
But even if your local wastewater plant catches all the fibers, a little known secret is they end up in the sludge. Many times, this sludge is land applied for agricultural purposes which just puts the issue back onto fields. Runoff and wind can then reintroduce these fibers back into our waterways.
The costs to upgrade wastewater plants is astronomical and probably not a viable solution to this issue. Even if they remove all the fibers, it’s still held in the sewage sludge which needs proper disposal. The best way to reduce microfiber pollution is to stop it at its source in your own home. This plastic fibers can be filtered and disposed of properly in your waste basket.