Removal of microplastics

The main source of microplastics in the environment is discarded plastic waste. In order to protect surface waters and the environment from contamination with microplastics, it is important to reduce plastic and microplastics at the source and to dispose of the remaining plastic waste properly.

Important measures

  • Dispose of plastic waste correctly. See the information from the Federal Office for the Environment FOEN “Plastics
  • Do not use unnecessary disposable products such as plastic bottles, cups, plates and cutlery, drinking straws and plastic bags
  • Reduce plastic packaging
  • Look for good-quality clothing and use garments for as long as possible
  • Replace microplastics in cosmetic products with natural substances
  • Install more efficient fibre retention filters in washing machines
  • In industrial processes, prevent the release of microplastics as much as possible.

If micro-rubber is also counted as microplastics, then tyre abrasion becomes the main source of microplastics. (Source: “Rubber in the Environment”, Empa, 2019)

In Switzerland, an average of 100 to 2000 cubic metres of wastewater per person flow into the wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). There, between 80 and 99 percent of the microplastics are removed from the wastewater. With additional sand and membrane filters, already well-established processes in Central Europe, the rate can be increased to over 99 percent. The microplastics removed from the wastewater are collected in the sewage sludge, which is usually incinerated in Switzerland. According to model calculations, therefore, on average throughout Switzerland only about 0.01 percent of the plastic input into the environment in Switzerland comes from WWTPs.

However, in countries that do not have any functioning wastewater treatment systems, WWTPs are a good starting point for removing microplastics from wastewater through the use of treatment technologies.