Weathering of microplastics and interaction with other coexisting constituents in terrestrial and aquatic environments

Jiajun Duan, Nanthi Bolan, Yang Li, Shiyuan Ding, Thilakshani Atugoda, Meththika Vithanage, Binoy Sarkar, Daniel C.W. Tsang, M. B. Kirkham

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

226 Citations (Scopus)


Weathering of microplastics (MPs, < 5 mm) in terrestrial and aquatic environments affects MP transport and distribution. This paper first summarizes the sources of MPs, including refuse in landfills, biowastes, plastic films, and wastewater discharge. Once MPs enter water and soil, they undergo different weathering processes. MPs can be converted into small molecules (e.g., oligomers and monomers), and may be completely mineralized under the action of free radicals or microorganisms. The rate and extent of weathering of MPs depend on their physicochemical properties and environmental conditions of the media to which they are exposed. In general, water dissipates heat better, and has a lower temperature, than land; thus, the weathering rate of MPs in the aquatic environment is slower than in the terrestrial environment. These weathering processes increase oxygen-containing functional groups and the specific surface area of MPs, which influence the sorption and aggregation that occur between weathered MPs and their co-existing constituents. More studies are needed to investigate the various weathering processes of diverse MPs under natural field conditions in soils, sediments, and aquatic environments, to understand the impact of weathered MPs in the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number117011
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021


  • Aggregation
  • Aging
  • Influence factors
  • Microplastics
  • Physicochemical property
  • Sorption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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