Characterizing microplastics in urban runoff: A multi-land use assessment with a focus on 1–125 μm size particles

Meghana Parameswarappa Jayalakshmamma, Viravid Na Nagara, Ashish Borgaonkar, Dibyendu Sarkar, Omowunmi Sadik, Michel Boufadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Urban areas play a significant role in generating microplastics (MPs) through increased vehicular and human activities, making urban runoff a key source of MP pollution in receiving waterways. The composition of MPs is anticipated to vary with land use; hence, identifying the hotspots of contamination within urban areas is imperative for the targeted interventions to reduce MPs at their sources. This study collected one-liter stormwater runoffs from three different land uses as sheet flow during two storm events to quantify the MPs and identify the polymers transported from land-based sources. The analytical method included a combination of Fourier transform infrared spectrometer, Raman microscope, and Nile red staining techniques. This study analyzed the broad spectrum of MPs, i.e., 1 μm–5 mm, and tire wear and bitumen particles, considered the two major research gaps in stormwater studies. The MP concentrations were 67.7 ± 11.3 pL‐1in commercial, 23 ± 10.3 pL‐1 in residential, and 168.7 ± 37.1 pL‐1in highways. The trend of MP concentrations followed an order of highway > commercial > residential with an exclusive presence of polymethylmethacrylate and ethylene-vinyl acetate in highways; cellophane, methylcellulose, polystyrene, polyamide, and polytetrafluorethylene in commercial; and high-density polyethylene in residential areas. The dominant MP morphology consisted of fragments, accounting for 89 % of the identified MPs, followed by 10 % fibers and 1 % films. This study observed a prevalence of MPs sizes <125 μm constituting 49 % of the total composition. These findings underscore the vital role of land use patterns in shaping MP abundance and reinforce the urgency of implementing effective management strategies to mitigate MP pollution in stormwater runoff.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number166685
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Dec 15 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


  • Bitumen
  • Microplastic
  • Polymers
  • Stormwater
  • Tire wear
  • Water quality


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