Estimation of kinetic constants in high-density polyethylene bead degradation using hydrolytic enzymes
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Microplastic beads are an emerging contaminant that can cause serious environmental and public health problems. Potential bypass of microplastic beads from wastewater to sludge treatment systems is a key challenge in the conventional wastewater treatment process. Moreover, there are no systematic studies on microplastic bead degradation by hydrolytic enzymes that are rich in concentration within wastewater and sludge treatment processes (e.g., anaerobic digestion (AD)). In this study, lab-scale experiments were conducted to investigate the degradation of high-density polyethylene beads by hydrolytic enzymes (e.g., lipase) under various experimental conditions (e.g., temperature). In a 3-day batch experiment, protease was most effective in polyethylene bead degradation as 4.0% of the initial bead mass was removed at an enzyme concentration of 88 mg/L under thermophilic temperature (55 °C). It was also found that the increasing enzyme concentration and high temperature enhanced the polyethylene bead degradation. In a separate 7-day experiment with repeated doses of protease, 23.3% of the initial mass of beads was removed at thermophilic temperature, indicating that AD with a long retention time (e.g., 20 days) and heated temperature has a significant potential for polyethylene bead degradation. A mathematical model was developed and calibrated using the experimental results to estimate the kinetic constant of the high-density polyethylene bead reduction by an enzyme (k1,i) and enzyme self-decay constant (k2,ii). The calibrated k1,i ranged from 5.0 to 8.1× 10-4 L/mg/hr while k2,ii was 0.44-1.10 L/mg/hr. Using the calibrated model, degradation of polyethylene beads using a mixture of cellulase and protease was simulated, considering an interactive-decay reaction between the two enzymes. The calibrated model was used to simulate the polyethylene bead degradation in AD where 70-95% of the initial bead mass was removed at typical retention time under mesophilic digestion (37.5 °C). Based on the experimental and simulation results, it can be concluded that hydrolytic enzymes can be an efficient technology for large-scale high-density polyethylene bead removal applications.
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