Faculty Sponsor

Julie Peller


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-1-2020


Despite countless efforts in recycling, awareness, and limited legislation, plastic pollution has continued to spiral out of control due to massive production/use and the inability to naturally decompose. Plastic pollution ends up accumulating in the environment in places like sediment and surface water. Unfortunately, another reservoir for plastic pollution is local compost, or decayed organic matter used for agricultural processes. A substantial amount of micro- and macro- plastics has been collected from both the local compost and along and around roads in Valparaiso. Plastic waste was collected at numerous roadside locations throughout the Salt Creek watershed in the Porter County area; it was quantified and classified by both recycling numbers and via infrared (IR) spectroscopy. Compost samples were collected and analyzed in the same manner, this time also accounting for microplastics. The compost was sieved with two and five micron sieves. A solution of zinc chloride (1.4 g/mL) was utilized to separate the microplastics via density separation. This was then further processed via H2O2/UV advanced oxidation to eliminate excessive organic matter and to isolate the microplastics and microfibers further. The results will identify the various types of plastics and their magnitude in the local environment, in both the local compost and throughout the Salt Creek watershed of Porter County, Indiana. These results can establish knowledge of how different types and sizes of plastics migrate throughout the environment, and provide citizens with ways to reduce the garbage.