EGU21-7975, updated on 04 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Microplastics from the Sources to Sinks: Assessment of Microplastics in the River Freshwater Environments and Wastewater Treatment Plants

A H M Enamul Kabir, Masahiko Sekine, Tsuyoshi Imai, Koichi Yamamoto, Ariyo Kanno, and Takaya Higuchi
A H M Enamul Kabir et al.
  • Yamaguchi University, Graduate School of Sciences and Technology for Innovation , Civil and Environmental Engineering , Tokiwadai, Ube City, Japan (

Freshwater microplastics pollution has been a recent focus. River freshwater microplastics pollution are vital towards freshwater ecosystems as well as have been the prominent source-to-sink conduits to export MPs into the marine realm. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) have been identified as one of the major point-sources. To date, sources-to-sinks comprehensive knowledge are highly limited. This study explored sources-to-sinks microplastics pollution i.e., WWTPs-to-river-to-marine comprehensively. The two rivers i.e., Koya River (KR) and Nishiki River (NR) which are flowing to the Seto Inland Sea (SIS) and the WWTPs effluent samples were collected from selected (n=37) stations in the Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan. Filtration, wet peroxidation, and density separation methods were employed to extract microplastics particles. Polymers were identified via attenuated total reflectance-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The average microplastics abundances were found KR—82.25±67.84 n/L and NR—38.73±24.13 n/L for the river water, and KRWWTPs—79.5±3.5 n/L and NRWWTPs—72.25±23.64 n/L for WWTPs effluents, respectively. The KR were found to be more polluted than the NR. WWTPs effluents were found posing higher abundances than rivers. Significantly higher microplastics concentration were found in the WWTPs downstream stations than other river stations. Characterization revealed that small MPs (<1000 µm) in size, fibers in shape, polymers— polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, vinylon were major in both of the WWTPs effluents and rivers. WWTPs influenced river environments by means both of the abundances and microplastics characteristics (shapes-size-polymers). The estimated source-to-sink emission demonstrated a substantial number of MPs discharge into the rivers by the WWTPs (0.007—0.086 billion/day) and rivers-to-SIS marine environments (1.15—7.951 billion/day). The emission represented that the WWTPs were the prominent point-source to cause river microplastics pollution. Rivers were the initial sinks of the Japan land-sourced microplastics and prominent pathways to emit microplastics to the ultimate marine sink i.e., SIS. Large amounts of MPs are being generated on land sources before the plastics wastes degrade into MPs secondarily. The pollution characteristics (shapes-sizes-polymers) indicated ecotoxicological threats to these rivers and the downstream environments. Overall, this study provided an insight of sources-to-sinks pollution, fulfilled the preliminary knowledge gaps of pollution occurring land-sources, fate and loadings. We recommended microplastics pollution control at source. This study will aid in developing microplastics pollution control and management strategies for environmental protection and sustainability in the regional Japan as well as global context upon “thinking globally and acting locally”.

Keywords: Abundance, Point-source, Source-to-sink, Riverine microplastics pollution, Wastewater treatment plants

How to cite: Kabir, A. H. M. E., Sekine, M., Imai, T., Yamamoto, K., Kanno, A., and Higuchi, T.: Microplastics from the Sources to Sinks: Assessment of Microplastics in the River Freshwater Environments and Wastewater Treatment Plants, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-7975,, 2021.


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