Chinese researchers have measured the impact that textile dyeing wastewater treatment processes have on the removal of pollutant microfibers, which have shed from textiles. For the first time ever, they found the use of modern wastewater treatment processes removed above 95 percent of microfibers.
According to a research paper, the researchers selected a standard textile industry wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) which received the production wastewater of 33 printing and dyeing enterprises, between them treating an average of 30,000 tons per day of wastewater, which is discharged from the WWTP.
However, they suggested that, due to the huge volume of effluent involved, even a modest amount of microfibers being released per liter of effluent could result in significant amounts of fibers entering the environment.
They compared influent and effluent to measure the impact of modern treatment processes on the amount and type of microfibers contained in wastewater. They unveiled the average amount of microfibers was 334.1 (±24.3) items per liter of influent, and that reduced to 16.3 (±1.2) items per liter in the final effluent – a decrease of 95.1 percent.
The paper said that textile dyeing WWTP had an effective removal on pollutants including microfibers in wastewater. The study also indicated that the abundance of microfibers reduced at varying rates across different stages of treatment, which could provide a reference for the improvement of sewage treatment facilities in the future.
The researchers further added, “Despite this large reduction we calculated that this textile industry WWTP was releasing 4.89 × 108 of microfibers including microplastic fibers and non-micro plastic fibers into the receiving water every day.”
They showed that despite the removal rates of microplastic fibers and non-micro plastic fibers achieved by this modern treatment plant when dealing with such a large volume of effluent even a modest amount of microplastics being released per liter of effluent could result in significant amounts of fibers entering the environment.