H2-Oh no!

By Lori Kullahian and Elsie Li
Intermediate Category (Grades 9-10)
Experiment | Chemistry, Environment

If plastic components are not properly recycled, UV rays, wind and wave action will cause the plastic to fragment into millions of smaller pieces called microplastics. Numerous plastic objects are found in our livelihood which degrade into microplastics. These microplastics are usually commonly known objects like plastic bottles and bags. We can also find plastic fibers in the clothes on our backs as well as furniture and many products we use on a daily basis. Our project was designed to find a solution to our modern-day issue with microplastics in the ocean, and try to find the most effective way to remove them. We designed a set of criteria looking at the effectiveness of the method, the effect on the environment by using the method, and the overall cost of the method to analyze each filter type.

Our procedures were actively thought through and repeated to ensure accurate results. We relied on the aid of technologies such as photoshop and a histogram to determine data created from our experiments. The initial experiment was to test 4 different types of plastic suspension and letting them run through diverse filters, then using a microscope to examine and analyze our before and after results, though different methods required specific means of treatment.

After properly conducting our experiment with the microplastic suspension and the sodium chloride suspension, we’ve concluded the magnetite and oil method performed the best to remove microplastics from our polluted oceans, removing over 90% of the microplastics found in the suspension, on average. This filter also proved to be environmentally and economically friendly. We believe and discuss ways to use these filters (specifically the magnetite and oil method) at a larger scale, and how it would impact our society. We’ve curated a way to perform this method by applying a hollow sealable water cylinder, in which would apply technologies that carry the microplastics and machinery to perform the method from within the ocean.

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