Plastic pollution is becoming abundant in the environment mainly in marine waters, beaches, soils and biota. Thus, it has become a global problem and an urgent action is required to reduce this deteriorating tendency.
It is estimated that nearly 3.0 and 5.3 million tonnes of micro-plastics and macro-plastics, respectively, are left in the environment each year.
After several transformation processes, plastics and plastic residues reach the water matrices. Its presence presents several threatening problems, for example, micro-plastics can adsorb toxic contaminants and transport to hostile species. The impacts of micro-plastic pollutants on aquatic life affect nearly 700 species, from tiny zooplankton to the largest whales, 17% of these species are included in the red list of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
According to studies, most of the plastic losses are related to unnecessary or significant consumption and disposal of plastics or plastic-based contaminants.
Thus, it is urgently needed to minimize the global problem of plastic pollution by taking holistic measures and strategies encompassing the entire industrial value chain based on plastics.
Plastics containing wastewater effluents from industrial sectors and plastic debris with demotic waste are generally sent to centralized wastewater treatment services. In addition, all types of treated effluents are ultimately discharged into receiving waters.
However, some effluents are mainly redirected for irrigation purposes after the treatment cycle. The micro-plastics found there are then exposed to the soil, then trickle into groundwater matrices.
Advance directives for the reduction of plastic pollution
The level of pollution from plastics is constantly increasing, and unfortunately, scientists describe the current detection and mitigation processes as insufficient. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the transport routes as well as the sources and hotspots of the plastic value chain involved in microplastic pollution is necessary.
With satisfactory diagnostic devices, we can explain the causes and the fate of plastics in the atmospheric, terrestrial and aquatic matrices of the environment.
Regulatory policies should also be implemented to facilitate the mitigation of microplastic pollution for all water matrices. Future generations must exploit landfills as resources become scarce and detection mechanisms progress over time.