WWEM 2020

WWEM 2018 - Abstract

Abstract Title: Detecting and Counting Microplastics – Is Nile Red the Answer?
Presenter Name: Dr Andrew Mayes
Company/Organisation: University of East Anglia
Country: United Kingdom

Abstract Information :

As a result of the "Blue Planet Effect" and many successful campaigns by environmental pressure groups, the tide of public opinion on plastic waste and the dangers it poses is starting to turn. Legislators are now beginning to act, to reduce the vast volumes of plastic waste entering the environment, but we still have a major ongoing and 60 year legacy issue to deal with in terms of (micro) plastic contamination. The Orb Media/BBC story about microplastics in bottled water, and numerous reports of microplastics in food and drinks, has focused attention on the possible risks posed by the microplastics we inadvertently consume. This will inevitably focus a spotlight on the water and wastewater industry, where understanding the flows, behavior and fate of microplastics in the drinking water and wastewater cycles will be paramount in managing and mitigating risks.

Unfortunately, the detection and counting of microplastics is a very demanding and expensive analytical task, in terms of both time and equipment. There are no easy solutions. New ideas and approaches are urgently required, especially if new legislation were to require routine sampling and testing. In 2017, we published a method using the fluorescent dye Nile Red to tag and count microplastic particles in marine sediments (the ultimate sink for most microplastic waste) and this was adapted for the "microplastics in bottled water" research. The approach is simple and rapid and has the potential to be applied for routine monitoring. In this presentation, I will discuss the Nile Red method in relation to other methods and highlight key benefits, along with issues and limitations that might need to be understood if this approach is to be used effectively.