Microplastics in Aquatic Environments: Recent Advances in Separation Techniques


  • Fahimeh Hooriabad Saboor

    Chemical Engineering Department, University of Mohaghegh Ardabili, 56199-11367 Ardabil, Iran

  • Samaneh Hadian-Ghazvini

    Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of Tehran, 1417614411 Tehran, P.O.B. 13145-1384, Iran

  • Mohammad Torkashvand

    Fouman Faculty of Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Tehran, 4358139115 Tehran, Iran



Separation and removal of microplastic pollution from aquatic environments as a global environmental issue is classified as one of the major concerns in both water and wastewater treatment plants. Microplastics as polymeric particles less than 5 mm in at least one dimension are found with different shapes, chemical compositions, and sizes in soil, water, and sediments. Conventional treatment methods for organic separation have shown high removal efficiency for microplastics, while the separation of small microplastic particles, mainly less than 100 µm, in wastewater treatment plants is particularly challenging. This review aims to review the principle and application of different physical and chemical methods for the separation and removal of microplastic particles from aquatic environments, especially in water treatments process, with emphasis on some alternative and emerging separation methods. Advantages and disadvantages of conventional separation techniques such as clarification, sedimentation, floatation, activated sludge, sieving, filtration, and density separation are discussed. The advanced separation methods can be integrated with conventional techniques or utilize as a separate step for separating small microplastic particles. These advanced microplastic separation methods include membrane bioreactor, magnetic separation, micromachines, and degradation-based methods such as electrocatalysis, photocatalysis, biodegradation, and thermal degradation.


microplastic separation, magnetic separation, membrane bioreactor, micromachines, wastewater treatment

Published Online


How to Cite

Hooriabad Saboor, F., Hadian-Ghazvini, S., Torkashvand, M. Microplastics in Aquatic Environments: Recent Advances in Separation Techniques, Periodica Polytechnica Chemical Engineering, 66(2), pp. 167–181, 2022. https://doi.org/10.3311/PPch.18930