Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission

A new study of St. Petersburg waste water helps to manage microplastics

A made in St. Petersburg, Russia, has found that the waste water
treatment process reduces effectively the amount of micro-sized plastics in
waste water. However, it is also possible that the waste water treatment plants
themselves constitute a point source of microplastic litter into the Baltic Sea
aquatic environment. is a growing concern; it harms the coastal and marine environments
ecologically, economically as well as socially.  Public and scientific interest in microplastic waste in marine
environment has increased considerably in recent years, but relatively little
is known about the sources of these fragments less than 5mm in size. The
EU-funded HELCOM commissioned the study from Helsinki Region Environmental Services
Authority () and the State
Unitary Enterprise “”. HSY has developed a microplastic sampling method targeted at
waste water and now applied in the joint study. One of the results of the research
project is the transfer of knowledge of the procedures and methodology for
studying microplastics in this context. Thanks to this successful cooperation
the Vodokanal of St. Petersburg will be able to continue microplastic research
independently.>>Annual global plastic production keeps increasing, and it is evaluated
that marine litter consists by 60–80 % of plastics, most of it being very small
and called microplastics. The smallest particles are especially problematic because they are very persistent; they
potentially transport harmful substances more efficiently than larger
particles; and they can be ingested actively by small organisms with rapid
metabolism and potentially accumulate in the food web.>>Despite the plastic litter being a growing concern, only
a few studies exist globally about the sources of microplastics, and also the
methods of sampling and analyzing lack standards. >>In the new report, the amount of microplastic was studied by sampling
the wastewater at the beginning of the purification process as well as during
and after the process. Water samples were filtered through different mesh-sized
filters using a specific filter device. 
All samples were inspected under a light microscope and microplastics
were identified and counted. The methodology has been successfully used in a
pilot study at Viikinmäki WWTP (in 2012 and 2013). >>Due to the preliminary status of the research project, the gained results
– the treatment process reducing effectively the amount of micro-sized litter
but a part of it also ending up in the environment – must be seen as indicative.
In order to evaluate the actual role of waste water treatment plants in the
total microplastic load of the marine environment, a more detailed
investigation is needed into the amount and types of microplastic litter in
wastewaters and in natural waters. Furthermore, extensive studies of other
possible sources are needed.  > * * *Note for editors: (2012–2014) supports
the implementation of the Baltic Sea Action Plan () in Russia. 
BASE addresses altogether three priority areas of the HELCOM BSAP:
eutrophication, hazardous substances, and biodiversity and nature protection.
Within BASE, monitoring activities to support and measure the progress within
the abovementioned segments are also being carried out. The pilot projects
(See: ) are implemented by experts from Russia with the support of EU experts,
while the overall Project, funded by EU, is managed by the HELCOM Secretariat
and St. Petersburg Public Organization “”. #160;The Baltic Marine Environment Protection
Commission, usually referred to as , is an intergovernmental
organization of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union
working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of
pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM
has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine
Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki
Convention. #160;* * *For further information, please contact:Saija Vuola
Project Manager
Tel: +358 40 668 4657 
Skype: helcom48
E-mail: saija.vuola(at)>>Mari
Manager >Helsinki
Region Environmental Services Authority HSY>Tel.
+358 9 1561 3187>E-mail:
mari.heinonen(at) >>

Johanna Laurila
Information Secretary
Tel: +358 40 523 8988
Skype: helcom70
E-mail: johanna.laurila(at)

The results say that the treatment process reduces effectively the amount of micro-sized plastics in waste water while a part of it also ends up in the water environment.