Experts recently noticed that okra, as well as other slime-producing vegetables commonly used in the kitchen, can assist in successfully removing microplastics from sewage. The new study, which was presented at the American Chemical Society’s spring conference, proposes a long-term alternative to the chemical additives now used in wastewater treatment facilities.
Rajani Srinivasan of Tarleton State University explains why natural materials that are not dangerous should be utilized to remove microplastics and other sorts of waste in this video.
Because of its versatility as a food thickener, gumbo, a Louisiana meal, uses okra as a thickener. In South Asian cooking, bhindi is a common component. Srinivasan had previously utilized slime from okra and other plants to remove textile pollutants from the water as well as microbes, so she decided to see if the same idea could be applied to microplastics.
Microplastics, which are defined as particles smaller than five millimeters, have been related to a wide range of deleterious impacts on fish. These consequences range from the fish’s inability to spawn to stunted growth and liver damage.
The largest source of microplastics in the billions of tons of plastic produced since the 1950s, of which only 10% gets reused. From oceans and canals to the atmosphere and soil, evidence of the rest can be found everywhere.
It’s possible that human health will suffer as a result. More research, however, is required. Microplastics may potentially have carcinogenic and mutagenic qualities, increasing the risk of cancer and DNA alteration. Microplastics are usually cleaned in two steps from wastewater.
Some of the ones that climb to the surface are eliminated from the water initially. Rather than flocculants, additives (sticky substances that pull microplastics into larger bunches) are used to remove smaller volumes of microplastics.
The clumps sink to the bottom, possibly isolating themselves from the rest of the water. Polyacrylamide, for example, is a synthetic flocculant that can break down into toxic chemicals. Cactus, aloe, okra, and a fenugreek-tamarind-psyllium blend purchased at the grocery store by Srinivasan and his colleagues were all examined.
Polysaccharides, which are carbohydrate strands, were tested separately and in combination on microplastic-contaminated water, with before and after microscopic photographs compared.
Although okra polysaccharides were the most effective at removing microplastics from saltwater, fenugreek polysaccharides were the most effective in removing plastic particles from groundwater samples.
Finally, plant-based polysaccharides worked as well as, if not better than, polyacrylamide. Because plant-based chemicals are non-toxic, they can be used in existing facilities. Srinivasan says she wants to expand and promote the process in the future so that more people can have access to safe and clean water.
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