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Micro- and nanoplastics removal during drinking water treatment

Rossella Messina finalist in Dopper Changemaker Challenge

Rossella Messina, master thesis intern at KWR, has reached the final round of the Dopper Changemaker Challenge. With her research project on micro plastics in surface water she wants to find out if plastic particles are actually removed during drinking water treatment or if we are drinking them. During the final on March 22 she will have the chance to become one of three “changemakers” and win 3000€ for her further research.

Rossella Messina in the KWR sensorenlab

Rossella Messina in the KWR sensoring lab

Are we drinking plastic? With the prospect of answering this questions, Rossella Messina has been able to convince during the semi-final of the Dopper Changemaker Challenge. The 25-year old Italian is studying Water Science and Management at Utrecht University and is doing her master thesis internship at KWR. With her research project about the removal of micro plastics in surface water, she has now made it to the final round of the competition.

The Changemaker Challenge is an initiative of the Dopper Foundation, an organization founded by the water bottle company Dopper to promote plastic recycling and clean drinking water.  The aim of the challenge is to support dedicated master students with thesis projects related to clean water or plastic waste. For Rossella this was the perfect fit. She applied and was invited to the semi-final on February 9 where twenty students from different study backgrounds and with diverse research topics presented their projects.

Apart from some general criteria for selecting the finalists, the jury was mainly looking for the passion and motivation behind it and the impact that the project can have. Rossella’s research could be ground breaking: ”It feels like I am discovering something since no one has ever done it before!”  First results show that the treatment is working, which means it’s efficient for plastic removal.

With the AFFFF (asymmetric flow field flow fractionation) Rossella measures the amount of plastic in the water

In her experiments, Rossella simulates the drinking water treatment process. She adds plastic particles to the water, performs the treatment and then measures in the end if there is still plastic in the water. Due to the time limitation of her master thesis, however, she has to focus on certain techniques and aspects of the plastic behaviour. For Rossella, this is also an upside of her topic “It’s nice to start a work that can be continued by other people later.” Her thesis project could therefore be an initial step for other students to take up parts of the research.

Engaging people

Rossella was selected as one of ten students who are going to meet again on March 22. After giving another short presentation, she will find out if she is one of three “changemakers” awarded with 3000€ for their further research. Rossella is optimistic: “I do think I have good chances to win”. She would like to communicate the research more broadly, to also engage people outside of KWR to this important topic of surface water pollution. The extra money would make this possible, for example by filming a professional video about the project and its results.