Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Polygone Systems

A novel biofilter stops microplastics from entering the ocean


The filtration system is being tested at a wastewater treatment facility in Atlantic City

Spotted: There are various ways that microplastics end up in our waterways, whether carried through the air, run off from contaminated land, or released with wastewater. As well as potentially harming fish, other marine life, and plants, once microplastics enter our water systems they are easily and widely transported, and this is a significant reason why the tiny and toxic particles end up ingested by humans

Despite the damage they cause, traditional wastewater treatment facilities are generally not equipped to remove microplastics, so providing effective and cost-efficient technologies at these plants could be key in keeping our microplastic problem under control. 

What first began as a joint architectural thesis project by Nathaniel Banks and Yidian Liu at Princeton University in 2021 has since turned into PolyGone, and its filtration system that removes microplastics from waterways. PolyGone’s technology – termed the ‘Plastic Hunter’ – consists of a modular and cost-effective floating device, which collects and traps microplastics with artificial ‘plant roots’. Once the centre pad is full, it can be removed for cleaning, before being reinserted to continue filtering out sediment. The root technology can either be attached to personalised frameworks or a Plastic Hunter monitoring hub, which allows microplastic samples to be collected and monitored.

In June 2023, PolyGone announced that it was joining forces with ACUA (Atlantic County Utilities Authority) to deploy its filtration technology in a pilot project at one of ACUA’s wastewater treatment facilities in Atlantic City. Using PolyGone’s existing filter as the technological base, the two organisations are collaborating on a final design that will be used to clean the wastewater that travels through ACUA’s main pipeline. The pilot project is set to be operational in 2024.

Springwise has spotted other solutions saving our oceans from microplastics, including a device that attaches to boats and the use of okra.

Written By: Matilda Cox



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