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Does plastic stay in water systems forever?

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According to the estimations, 40 percent of the plastic waste ends up in seas. In kilograms the amount is approximately 4-12 millions of tons. The problem can feel distant to a Finn living surrounded by lakes, however, plastic and especially microplastics are a growing hazard in lakes and wastewater treatment. Small plastic pieces and microplastics are very hard to remove in wastewater treatment, and when they end up in the nature, they do not decompose, but accumulate in food chains.

Cotton sticks are a great example of a bigger and problematic plastic in wastewater treatment.  Screens are used to remove solid particles from wastewater, but thin sticks go through the screens.

Thus, bigger plastics can be challenging in wastewater treatment, too. Moreover, they become brittle over time, and become microplastics.

Once microplastics end up in the nature, they stay there.

There is technology to remove plastic, such as MBR technology. However, taking new technology into use is not always easy for a wastewater treatment plant, and can increase work and expenses. Therefore, one must return to the sources of plastic.

The important realization is to decrease the amount of plastic.

One efficient way would be, if consumers voted with their feet.

The consumers have the power to choose to buy clothes made from natural or synthetic fiber, or buy cosmetics which contain microplastics, or if the cotton sticks are flushed down the toilet.

No one is strong enough to fight alone against plastic.


Juha Kontturi.

The writer is the design manager at Econet.


Further information for the media:

Juha Kontturi, Econet Ltd., tel. +358 400 422 850, juha.kontturi(at)econetgroup.fi

Econet Group is a water and environment technology service company. The Group includes Econet Ltd, Dewaco Ltd and Oy Slamex Ab. Helsinki-based Econet designs and offers solutions for clean water and environment globally. Laitila-based Dewaco, in turn, is specialised in sludge thickening, dewatering and sludge removal. Lahti-based Slamex designs and manufactures equipment for treatment of water and wastewater. The Group’s turnover amounts to about EUR 22 million.

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