The reduction of microplastics requires new technical solutions in addition to regulatory measures. Image credit: Helbling

Helbling develops solutions to combat microplastics

04 April 2024 12:25

Circ. Economy SwitzerlandHelbling

Zurich - The engineering and consulting firm Helbling is working to reduce microplastics in water filtration and local separation. Experts at the company have developed a process to clean filters with solids separation.

Experts from the Zurich-based engineering and consulting firm Helbling are developing solutions to reduce microplastics in the environment. In a technical article, they present various methods for containment. They focus in particular on a filter cleaning process with solids separation from the field of process development and process engineering. According to the authors, the process has the potential to increase the customarily very short service life of microplastic filters by a factor of one hundred.

Innovative cleaning processes like this can, for example, be used in washing machines. This area is particularly relevant because the washing process for synthetic textiles is a major contributor to the release of microplastics. According to the authors, microfibres are responsible for the largest proportion of microplastic pollution in the world's oceans. There are active efforts worldwide to effect change in regulations. France, for example, is calling for all newly sold washing machines to include a microplastic filter from 2025, write the authors. However, innovation is also needed in existing filter solutions, they say. Although these solutions can filter microfibre and microplastic particles from wastewater, they stop working after only a short period of use.

The article also unveils the sources of microplastics in general. Primary microplastics can be found as binding agents or carriers for active ingredients in cosmetic products, for example, or as granulate material on artificial turf sports pitches. Some of these substances have already been, or will soon be, banned in the EU.

Secondary microplastics, which are released by larger plastic products, are more difficult to tackle. Tyres rub off when driving, for example, and microfibres are released from synthetic clothing during washing. According to the authors, there are four steps to address this challenge: avoidance; collection at source, such as in washing machines; separation in sewage treatment plants; and filtering of water from lakes or the sea. ce/yvh