Effects of microplastics on wastewater treatment processes

Yan Laam CHENG, Tsz Ching TSE, Ziying LI, Yuguang WANG, Yiu Fai TSANG

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapters


Microplastics have inhibitory effects or non-obvious effects on the performance of biological wastewater treatment, depending on polymer type and size. Microplastics can be entrapped by biological flocs or adhere to the surface of biological flocs during suspend-growth processes. Meanwhile, they might also be adsorbed on the surface of filters and act as growth media for microorganisms during attached-growth processes. In advanced wastewater treatment processes, microplastics might be more prone to direct screening by membrane filter, in which the removal efficiency is relatively higher. Generally, the presence of microplastics can inhibit the abundance of microorganisms and key enzymes depending on the impact of extracellular polymeric substance secretion. This chapter summarizes the fate of microplastics in conventional and advanced biological wastewater treatment, examines the impacts of microplastics on the structure of sludge, and discusses the effects of microplastics on the diversity of key microorganisms and enzymes. Copyright © 2023 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMicroplastics in urban water management
EditorsBing-Jie NI, Qiuxiang XU, Wei WEI
Place of PublicationHoboken, NJ
ISBN (Electronic)9781119759379
ISBN (Print)9781119759348
Publication statusPublished - 2023


Cheng, Y. L., Tse, T. C., Li, Z., Wang, Y., & Tsang, Y. F. (2023). Effects of microplastics on wastewater treatment processes. In B.-J. Ni, Q. Xu, & W. Wei (Eds.), Microplastics in urban water management (pp. 119-145). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.


  • Microplastics
  • Biological wastewater treatment
  • Organic removal
  • Methane production
  • Nitrification
  • Denitrification


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