In response to the growing concern around microplastics, a study has developed a bio-based wood dust device, which is able to filter tiny particles of plastic. This new machine is integral to finding new ways to deal with plastic pollution.
The need to find a way to deal with microplastics is becoming urgent, as at least 19 to 23 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the seas and rivers every year, damaging aquatic eco-systems and threatening the wildlife that live in them. Animals within the aquatic eco-systems will ingest the plastic waste, mistaking it for food and this can result in them dying. Plastic pollution also affects human lifestyles, as by damaging the aquatic ecosystems, it is no longer able to adapt to climate change and in turn this will have a knock-on effect on people’s livelihoods as food-production will be affected. Tap water can also be at risk of becoming affected when microplastics become uncontrollable, therefore a device to filter this harmful material is essential.
Researchers from UBC’s BioProducts Institute studied what they could use to create this new microplastic filtering device and focused predominantly on the role of natural plant compounds and wood dust. The process of trapping microplastics is difficult as microplastics can break up into smaller particle, which cause further concerns for the environment and human health. Dr. Orlando Rojas, who is chairing the Canada Excellent Research in Forest Bioproducts, said that the research showed that keeping microplastics out of the water was challenging, due to varying electrical charges, shapes and sizes.
This is why urgent solutions are essential to reduce plastic pollution, with a main aim to be doing so through using bio-friendly or biodegradable materials. The new filtering device employs wood sawdust, leaves and tannic acid. Research shows that the sustainable approach to addressing plastic pollution has effectively prevented microplastic particles. Researchers are also taking the next steps to develop a new recycling scheme to turn plastic waste into new materials.