The mesophilic digester of a wastewater treatment plant serving 790,000 inhabitants was analyzed for incoming and outgoing microplastics (MPs). The annual MP load on the digester was 7326 kg y−1and 1.20 × 1014Ny−1,while the digested sludge contained 4885 kg y−1and 0.85 × 1014Ny−1. The corresponding mean reduction of approximately 30% was though within the variability of the analyzed samples, and size distributions and polymer composition before and after the digester could similarly neither confirm nor deny if MPs were lost in the digester. The load on the digester corresponded to a per capita load of 0.025 g capita−1day−1or 4.14 × 105Ncapita−1day−1. In terms of MP numbers, the values were high compared to most previous studies, which most likely was due to differences in analytical methods, where the present study applied FPA-μFTIRhyperspectral imaging with automatized MP recognition in the size range 10–500μm and ATR-FTIR on all particles in the range 500–5000μm. The polymer composition was quite diverse, with 15 identified polymer types, of which polyethylene and polyester were the most common in the sludge, while the variation in composition was larger in the grease that came from the plant's grease trap and the fatty slurries which came from grease traps in the drainage area. The load on the digester was finally used to demonstrate how especially the determined mass loads can be used to set upper boundaries for specific sources, for example human excretion.
- Fatty slurries
- Wastewater treatment plant sludge