Reina Blair


Room 211, East Quadrangle

Research title

Micro-and Nanoplastics in Wastewater Treatment Systems and Receiving Waters.

Research summary

Plastic litter is pervasive and increasing in land and water environments worldwide, with negative implications for the environment, biota, and humans. In 2013, global plastics production was estimated at 299 million tonnes, a 3.9 % increase from 2012 (Plastics Europe, 2015). Most of this plastic is non-biodegradable and remains as waste in the environment for a long time (European Commission DG Environment, 2011), with approximately 10 % ending up in the oceans (Thompson, 2006) and accounting for 50-90 % of all marine litter (Derraik, 2002). Furthermore, plastics are lightweight and buoyant, and easily transported long distances across a wide range of environments (Coe and Rogers, 1997), rendering them ubiquitous contaminants. Although plastic pollution is not a new problem, of growing concern in recent years are small fractions in the micro and nano-scale (< 5 mm and < 100 nm, respectively). Their recognition as pollutants of emerging concern has led to recent investment in research to understand their distribution, source, fate, and impact in the aquatic environment, with greater focus on the marine environment. However, most of the plastic debris in oceans originates inland, thus the role of freshwater transport vectors, including wastewaters should be considered. My PhD project aims to describe and model the behaviour of micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) in wastewater treatment systems and natural fluvial waters. This study will consider distribution of MNPs in these environments, and use forensic techniques to identify the main sources and categories of these pollutants. Moreover, modelling approaches will be used to assess transport, degradation and storage of MNPs in wastewater systems and receiving waters to determine if they act as sinks or sources of these materials to oceans. This study is relevant to advance understanding of this emergent water quality threat, contribute to method development for extraction and detection of MNPs, and inform stakeholders for the development of effective monitoring and regulation strategies.

This research will be in conjunction with Scottish Water and the SEPA.


Blair RM, Waldron S, Phoenix V, Gauchotte-Lindsay C. 2017. Micro- and nanoplastic pollution of freshwater and wastewater treatment systems. Springer Science Reviews. doi: 10.1007/s40362-017-0044-7

Blair R, Savin M, Chen P. 2014. Composted and formulated poultry litters promote soil nutrient availability but not plant uptake or edamame quality. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 34:849-856. doi 10.1007/s13593-014-0206-9

Blair R, Savin M, Chen P. 2014. Phosphatase enzyme activities and available nutrients in soil receiving pelletized poultry litter. Soil Science 179: 182-189. doi: 10.1097/SS.0000000000000061


The Scottish Government Hydro Nation Scholars Programme (2015-2019)