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Mussels Can Help Filter Microplastics Out of Our Oceans Without Harming Themselves


Rather than spending money on a water filtration plant, constant filter feeding of mussels is being tested as a potential large-scale application for cleaning up microplastics in our oceans.

Contradicting its humble evolutionary stature, the mussel can do something humanity could only accomplish by spending millions on equipment, and that is cleaning microplastics less than 5mm from the ocean.

A voracious filter feeder, mussels absorb microplastics and then excrete them, without harming the organism.

Microplastics are diabolical pollutants that can come from tire wear, fracture from long-floating plastic debris, or detach from artificial textiles and end up in the ocean via sewage. They are so small that often the fineness required of a net to collect them ensures that any marine life, even the smallest, is also collected.

TO judgment near the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England is looking to see how many mussels it would take to have a significant impact on microplastic pollution.

A blog post by a biologist from our EPA suggests that an adult mussel can filter food through 15 gallons of water per day, and that a 6-mile bed of mussels can remove 25 tons of particulate matter per year.

The Plymouth trial is replicating an earlier experiment that placed around 300 mussels in a flow tank that fed them phytoplankton and microplastics. They collected about 25% of the microplastics that were in the water, a staggering 250,000 pieces per hour. The particles were deposited in the excrement of the bivalves, which the researchers say could be used as biofuel because it is full of carbon.

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This was funded by Waitrose Plan Plastic, a plastic cleaning solutions grant program funded by the sale of plastic bags at Waitrose grocery stores in the UK.

At Plymouth Sound, the mussel monitoring team keeps them in groups in buckets below which are suspended receptacles to ensure all debris is collected and microplastics are disposed of properly.

“The trials so far have been extremely promising and we are very excited about the positive impact that systems like these could have in estuarine areas, particularly in places where microplastics could accumulate, such as marinas, ports or near water treatment works. residuals, “said the professor. Pennie Lindeque, Head of Science – Marine Ecology and Biodiversity, at a Press release.

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While nanoplastics can penetrate mussel membranes and enter their limited anatomy, microplastics are too large to damage at the levels currently found in the oceans.

“This has been a really exciting experiment, because we always had the hope that mussels had the ability to filter microplastics, but they do it very well and they do it without harming themselves,” says Lindeque.

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