*WINNER* Evaluation of microplastic load in a waste water treatment plant
Production and demand for single-use plastic materials is at an all-time high, resulting in increasing concerns about the proper disposal and end of life treatment of these materials. Plastics can accumulate in the environment and degrade over time into smaller fragments known as microplastics. Microplastics have a diameter of five millimeters (5 mm) or less and can easily be transported across different environmental compartments and trophic levels of the food chain. The aim of this study is to determine the microplastic content of influent, effluent and sludge (watered and de-watered) samples from the WWTP in Cookeville, Tennessee. Grab samples will be collected and passed through three sieves with different mesh sizes. All remaining solids will be digested by wet peroxide oxidation to remove all biological material and separated according to their densities via a saturated sodium chloride solution. Resulting particles will be oven dried, weighed and identified using Fourier Transform Infra-red Spectroscopy. Particle sizes will be measured using a laser diffraction particle size analyzer.