A team of researchers from the National Institute for Scientific Research (INRS) has developed an electrolytic wastewater treatment process that breaks down microplastics right at their source.
Wastewater can carry high concentrations of microplastics into the environment. These small particles less than 5 mm in size can even come off clothing, usually in the form of microfibers. Professor Patrick Drogi, who led the study, notes that there are currently no effective methods of degrading microplastics that would eliminate this dangerous pollutant during wastewater treatment. Existing methods often use physical separation as a filtering tool. These technologies do not degrade plastics, which requires additional work to eliminate them.
Therefore, the research team decided to degrade microplastics particles by electrolytic oxidation, a process that does not require the addition of chemicals.
“Using electrodes, we generate hydroxyl radicals (* OH) that attack microplastics. This process is environmentally friendly: it breaks down particles into CO₂ and water molecules, which are not toxic to the ecosystem, ”explains the researcher.
Laboratory tests of water artificially contaminated with polystyrene showed a decomposition efficiency of 89%. The team plans to move on to real-world experiments.
If the technology proves to be effective, scientists will conduct research to determine the cost of treatment and adapt the technology to treat large volumes of wastewater. In a few years, this technology can be implemented in laundries.