Welcome to the Microplastics Fingerprinting project
Plastics pollution is a global and growing environmental hazard with potentially far-reaching consequences for food webs, biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being. Of particular concern are microplastics because their small sizes enhance their mobility, toxicity to wildlife, and capacity to leach potentially dangerous contaminants.
The Microplastics Fingerprinting at the watershed scale: from sources to receivers project seeks to better understand the sources, transport, fate and exposure risks of microplastics at a watershed scale in the lower Great Lakes. In doing so, we hope to inform program and policy approaches that can mitigate risks posed by plastic debris in the environment.
The project will analyze the reactivity and breakdown of microplastics in river systems and reservoirs, quantify the loads of microplastics delivered to the lower Great Lakes, optimize microplastics elimination in wastewater treatment plants, and determine the abundance and diversity of microplastics in drinking water sources.
This project is supported by the NSERC Alliance Grant competition on plastics science for a cleaner future. The project will contribute to Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda (CaPSA).
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In urban areas where there is a higher level of concentrated human activities, microplastics tend to build up in the sediments of stormwater retention ponds (SWPs), man-made structures designed to capture surface water runoff.
In this project, we’re trying to estimate the number of microplastics entering the Great Lakes from WWTPs each day, and to determine the ultimate destination of these particles on a lake-by-lake and country-by-country basis.
Frank Zhu is a passionate PhD candidate specializing in microplastic research under the guidance of Dr. Wayne Parker, a distinguished professor in environmental engineering focusing on wastewater treatment.