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Bubble tech a boon for microplastic clean up

Microplastic contamination in water supplies may soon be a concern of the past thanks to a new ‘bubble technology’ developed by an Australian water treatment company.

Founded in Tasmania in 2011, Evocra has patented a process called Ozofractionative Catalysed Reagent Addition (OCRA). Through the process, contaminants are carried to the surface of water by charged micro-bubbles and then removed for disposal or recycling. 

Using micro-bubbles the width of a hair, the world-first technology helped in the remediation of a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contaminated sewer at Brisbane Airport in 2017, with developers now applying the novel process to the global microplastic crisis

A study from researchers at the University of Newcastle last year identified drinking water as the largest single source of microplastic ingestion, finding people around the world were ingesting as much as 5 g – or a credit card’s worth – of microplastics a week.

Evocra Managing Director Mark Sykes said OCRA is a solution for many water-based environmental challenges, including both chemicals and microplastics.

“Microplastics are plastic items smaller than 5 mm that are found in everyday products such as sunscreen, shampoo and detergent,” he said.

“Too small to be filtered out in treatment plants, they wash into waterways where they harm our aquatic wildlife.

“OCRA offers a positive solution to this complex environmental issue. The technology can be applied as a pre-treatment, that is, before the plastic enters the sewerage system or at the treatment plant to remove the particles before discharge.”

Sykes said OCRA has the potential to solve a myriad of water contamination issues across many different industries. 

“Our first commercial application was in acid mining drainage, which has been an ongoing problem for the mining sector,” he said. 

“PFAS is an international challenge we are facing right now and microplastics are certainly an emerging issue. Evocra is passionate about delivering technologies that have high social impact and that offer solutions across the spectrum in Australia and globally.”

The treatment process has been backed by world-renowned microplastics researcher Dr Thava Palanisami who is currently working with Evocra on contaminant treatment processes. 

He said microplastics could become a much bigger problem for the planet.  

“Evocra was an early entrant into finding a solution for microplastics, which is a potential planetary boundary threat,” Palanisami said. 

“OCRA has demonstrated it has a part to play in the solution of remediating the 12.7 million metric tonnes of plastic litter that enters the ocean each year.”

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