Water treatment processes remove 99.9% of microplastic particles from sources of drinking water according to the findings from research commissioned by UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR) and carried out by the the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.
Water UK described the study, as the “most robust study of its kind to date”. It found that raw water (untreated water in the environment) contained on average 4.9 microplastics per litre while potable water contained only 0.00011 microplastics per litre.
UKWIR, chief executive, Steve Kaye (pictured), said: “The research demonstrates the water industry’s treatment processes are performing well in removing microplastics, something they were not designed to do but are achieving with significant success.”
The research followed a recent call by the World Health Organisation for more research into the microplastics in drinking water. The UK water industry has more research planned.
Meanwhile it has issued a call to government and business to do more to prevent plastic entering the water environment and the sewer network in the first place. Specifically it wants the EU Single Use Plastics Directive implemented in full, and more responsibility put on the shoulders of producers.
Water UK commented: “While the government’s intention to introduce an extended producer responsibility system for packaging in 2023 is welcome, stronger incentives and penalties must also be put in place to encourage producers to avoid harmful formulations in other products… and to take responsibility for preventing pollution and cleaning up the environment.”
Microplastics enter the water system both from direct and indirect sources, including particles released from wear of car tyres on roads, microfibres released from synthetic clothes when they are washed, the breakdown of larger plastics such as litter washed into drains, and items such as sanitary products incorrectly flushed down toilets.