Plastic waste is a widespread and persistent global challenge with negative impacts on the environment, economy, human health and aesthetics. Plastic pollution has been a focus of environmental research over the past few decades, particularly in relation to macroplastics that are easily visible by the naked eye. More recently, smaller plastic waste at the micro- and nanoscale has become of increasing concern, resulting in extensive investment in research to advance knowledge on the sources, distribution, fate and impact of these materials in aquatic systems. However, owing to their small sizes and a lack of unified methods, adequate quantitative and qualitative assessment has been difficult. Furthermore, most of the microplastic surveys available to date have focussed in the marine environment while scarce knowledge exists of freshwater systems. Because the majority of marine debris originates on land, the role of wastewater treatment systems and natural fluvial vectors in delivering these emerging contaminants to the environment should be explored. Considering fundamental aspects pertaining to microplastic sources, distribution, mobility and degradation in these systems is crucial for developing effective control measures and strategies to mitigate the discharge of these particles to the sea.
Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 07 June 2017, pp 1–7