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Towards the Control of Microplastic Pollution in Urban Waters
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Environmental Technology and Management. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.
2020 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Water pollution has long been considered a challenge in urban areas, and new types of pollution are continuously introduced to society. Urban wastewater and stormwater act as transport pathways of pollution from urban areas to receiving waterways. Microplastics are a new type of pollution that is being highlighted as problematic, and the presence of microplastics is widespread in the environment. The knowledge about behaviour, sources and transport pathways is still limited. Still, there have been suggestions for ways to control microplastic pollution. Moreover, many other pollutants have been introduced, and to a various extent controlled, in the urban water system before, which means that there are strategies for pollution control in place.

The problem of microplastic pollution is receiving attention from both research and policy. Therefore, there is a need to simultaneously explore ways to handle the pollution and learn more about the flows of microplastics. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the understanding of flows of microplastics in urban waters and investigate strategies and measures that can control the flows. This aim has been addressed through three different studies presented in the three appended papers. The empirical material was gathered between 2017 and 2020 using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The flows of microplastics were investigated using a quantitative approach with inspiration from substance flow analysis. Strategies and measures to control pollution were investigated by means of analyses of documents, literature review and interviews.

In terms of flows, the results show that laundry seems to be a large contributor to the wastewater system, while the contribution from cigarette filters was smaller than anticipated. Littering, in general, as well as paint, are potentially important sources of microplastics where the understanding is very limited. In terms of strategies and measures to control the flows, there are both preventive and treatment options for microplastics. As microplastics are a diverse pollutant group, several different solutions are needed. Some aspects that influence control efforts are related to the properties and behaviour of the specific pollutant and can therefore be more or less suitable for different pollutants. Other aspects are more general, such as what compartments are seen as valuable and prioritised in terms of protection. Further, treatment moves the pollution from the water to another medium, and this movement also needs to be considered.

Challenges in terms of changing, limited or even lack of legislation, as well as unclear responsibility, and problems with collaboration among urban actors also impact the possibilities to control pollution. The case of microplastics also raises questions about when and how pollution should be controlled and by whom. Further, emerging practices in the urban water system, such as source separation, pipe-separation, and water reuse, will have implications for how pollution will be handled in the future.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2020. , p. 52
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Licentiate Thesis, ISSN 0280-7971 ; 1888
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-171095DOI: 10.3384/lic.diva-171095ISBN: 9789179297619 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-171095DiVA, id: diva2:1495031
Presentation
2020-11-30, ACAS, A-Building (and Zoom), Campus VAlla, Linköping, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-11-04 Created: 2020-11-04 Last updated: 2020-11-23Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Towards control strategies for microplastics in urban water
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards control strategies for microplastics in urban water
2020 (English)In: Environmental Science and Pollution Research, ISSN 0944-1344, E-ISSN 1614-7499, Vol. 27, no 32, p. 40421-40433Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Microplastics (plastic particles < 5 mm) is a pollution of growing concern. Microplastic pollution is a complex issue that requires systematic attempts to provide an overview and avoid management solutions that have marginal effects or only move the pollution problem. Substance flow analysis (SFA) has been proposed as a useful tool to receive such an overview and has been put forward as valuable for substance management. However, as the research on microplastics has only emerged recently, detailed and reliable SFAs are difficult to perform. In this study, we use three SFA studies for three pollutants (cadmium, copper and pharmaceuticals) to compare flows and strategies to control the flows. This in order to seek guidance for microplastic management and evaluate potential strategies for controlling microplastics. The analysis shows that there has been rigorous control on different levels to abate pollution from cadmium, copper and pharmaceuticals, but where in the system the major control measures have been carried out differ. For microplastics, there are many potential solutions, both in terms of preventive actions and treatment depending on the type of source. When forming management plans for microplastics, the responsibility for each measure and the impact on the whole urban system should be taken into consideration as well as which receiving compartments are particularly valuable and should be avoided.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
SPRINGER HEIDELBERG, 2020
Keywords
Control strategies; Pollution management; Stormwater; Substance flow analysis; SFA; Wastewater; Urban water
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-168530 (URN)10.1007/s11356-020-10064-z (DOI)000548518400018 ()32666462 (PubMedID)
Note

Funding Agencies|Linkoping University

Available from: 2020-08-28 Created: 2020-08-28 Last updated: 2023-11-10

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Fältström, Emma

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