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Characterising Micropollutants Captured by Domestic and Industrial Filters

Added: 20th January 2022 by CGG

CGG Environmental Science has successfully completed a project with partners Matter, Brunel University London and Swansea University to characterise micropollutants and contaminants, including microplastics and synthetic fibers, captured by domestic and industrial filters. Matter, an innovation company, pioneers technology solutions for capturing, harvesting and recycling microplastics. The project applied an innovative and integrated micropollution analysis workflow established by CGG at its advanced Geoscience Laboratories in North Wales and the Experimental Techniques Centre (ETC) at Brunel University London.

Samples included residue caught by Matter’s state-of-the-art filtration technology from clothes washing machines and multi-use industrial sites. A range of techniques, including CGG’s rapid mass screening method for micropollutant detection and ETC’s micro-FTIR and thermal analyses, were applied. The domestic appliance samples contained a mixture of polyester, rayon, nylon and cotton/synthetic fiber blends together with embedded fragments of acrylic, paints or resins. Industrial site samples were found to be heavily polluted, containing tyre particulates, paints, polypropylene and polyester with high levels of zinc, copper, chromium and lead.

The common goal of this highly innovative multi-disciplinary research partnership between industrial and academic organisations is to prevent micropollutants from entering the environment, harming organisms and entering the food chain. The analysis workflow proved to be highly effective at identifying and characterising materials within complex mixed samples. This approach can be scaled to quantify micropollutants and contaminants in large volumes and contribute to the UK government’s 25-year environmental plan to achieve zero avoidable plastic waste by 2042, and zero avoidable waste by 2050.

The left image shows a Scanning Electron Microscope image of suspected paint or acrylic fragment, embedded within synthetic fibers captured from a domestic washing machine filter (image courtesy of CGG). The image on the right is an ATR-FTIR image of synthetic fibers from household laundry (courtesy of Brunel University London).

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