Modelling the fate of textile fibres in the riverine environment:
: Adaptation of the ePiE model to the E-PlEx model

  • J Bammens

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Microplastics are increasingly causing a threath to the environment. With the ongoing increase in human population and the fast changing fashion trend, synthetic textile fibres are an important source of microplastics in the riverine environment. To study the fate of textile fibres in the European riverine environment, the ePiE model (Oldenkamp et al., 2018) was adapted to form the E-PlEx model (Environmental Plastic Exposure). ePiE is a spatially explicit model, constructed in the open source software environment R, that predicts the behaviour of pharmaceuticals in the riverine environment. Its structure is suitable for modelling riverine transport of contaminants, including macro- and microplastics. In the E-PlEx model, the source of textile fibres are fibres released during domestic washing of clothing. Via the sewerage, the fibres are transported to the WWTPs or directly into the riverine environment. In the WWTPs the fibres are partially removed, ranging from 74% to 99% depending on the types of treatment present in the WWTPs. Once in the riverine environment, textile fibres undergo different processes. Advective transport, heteroaggregation to suspended solids, biodegradation, sedimentation, resuspension and burial are included in the model. The basin of the river Elbe was used as case study to analyse the performance of the E-PlEx model. The obtained results vary greatly, with concentrations in the water phase ranging from 5.6 * 103 – 5.5 * 106 fibres per litre water. The concentrations in the sediment are low, ranging from 0 – 6.0 fibres per kg sediment. When comparing the model results with field measurements, a high discrepancy is observed, which has different causes. Despite the large difference between the model results and field measurements, the numbers are high and mitigation strategies are needed. To further develop the E-PlEx model, more research on the behaviour of fibres in the freshwater environment is needed, especially on the riverine processes specific for fibre shaped microplastics.
Date of Award12 Oct 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJikke van Wijnen (Examiner), Ad Ragas (Supervisor) & Frank Van Belleghem (Co-assessor)

Master's Degree

  • Master Environmental Sciences

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