Okra can be used to remove microplastics from water

The plant-based polysaccharide can replace synthetic flocculants to treat water with microplastic impurities

New research presented at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society by Rajani Srinivasan and team from the Tarleton State University offers a novel solution to synthetic chemicals currently used in treatment plants to remove microplastics.

The problem is that synthetic flocculants such as polyacrylamide can break down into toxic chemicals.

“In order to go ahead and remove microplastic or any other type of materials, we should be using natural materials which are non-toxic,” Srinivasan said in an explainer video.

Previously, Srinivasan had examined how the goo from okra and other plants could remove textile-based pollutants from water and even microorganisms. She wanted to see if that would equally apply for microplastics.

They tested chains of carbohydrates, known as polysaccharides, from the individual plants, as well as in combination, on various microplastic-contaminated water. They found that polysaccharides from okra paired with those from fenugreek could best remove microplastics from ocean water, while polysaccharides from okra paired with tamarind worked best in freshwater samples.

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