On November 24th 2020, the interregional workshop on urban water management policies and practices to reduce microplastics leakage to the environment took place online. This workshop was organized by the Cluster of Environmental Technologies Bavaria (UCB) and was the first out of four interregional workshops that take place within the framework of the Interreg Europe project PLASTECO.
The online workshop was divided into two sections. In the morning, there were six expert presentations with the opportunity to ask questions to the speakers. 71 participants were present via zoom. After the lunch break, the interactive part took place with 42 participants. Discussions took place in six virtual rooms.
The expert for plastic-free living, Sylvia Schaab from the forum Plastic-free Augsburg, gave an introduction to the topic of microplastics. Prof. Christian Schaum and Natalie Wick from the Bundeswehr University in Munich gave a lecture on the occurrence of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants and the challenges involved in sampling and analyzing them. Dr. Sebastian Porkert from the Bavarian start-up Ecofario presented the Ecofario technology, a new type of separation process. Klaus Stegmayer, head of the Augsburg sewage treatment plant, asked the question "Is microplastic a problem in his wastewater treatment plant?" Prof. Francesca Malpei from the POLITECNICO University in Milan presented the results of a working group that is also dedicated to the topic of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants. Roberto Saettone from PlasticsEurope Italy spoke about an initiative aimed at reducing the loss of plastic pellets in the plastics industry.
Through these six presentations, the participants from the PLASTECO project partner countries gained valuable knowledge and experience. Both project partners and their relevant stakeholders were present at the online workshop.
In the afternoon, the participants discussed in six virtual rooms about existing and possible initiatives and political instruments in the field of microplastics in wastewater as well as what industry and consumers can contribute to minimize microplastic inputs into nature. The current situation in the various countries and regions was also discussed. The results of the breakout session were documented with the help of the online whiteboard Mural.
In general, it can be summarized that the topic of microplastics in wastewater treatment plants is still in its very early stage of development. However, there are many research projects on this topic. Some countries discuss a ban on microplastics in cosmetic products. In France, from 2025, all new washing machines must have a filter that retains microplastic particles from synthetic clothing so that they do not end up in the wastewater. The participants in the workshop agreed that there should be more awareness raising activities on the topic of microplastics.