Nowadays, wide applications of plastics result in plastic waste being present in the water environment in a wide variety of sizes. Plastic wastes are in water mainly as microplastics (the size range of 1 nm to < 5 mm). Microplastics have been recognized as an emerging threat, as well as ecotoxicological and ecological risk for water ecosystems. In this review are presented some of the physicochemical properties of plastic materials that determine their toxic effect on the aquatic environment. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) are mentioned as one of main sources of microplastics introduced into fresh water, and rivers are the pathways for the transportation of the pollutants to seas and oceans. But, effluents from tertiary wastewater treatment facilities can contain only minimally microplastic loads. The issue of discharge reduction of plastic pollutants into water environment needs activities in the scope of efficient wastewater treatment, waste disposal, recycling of plastic materials, education and public involvement.
Plastics are used in a great number of applications; therefore, the production of the sector intensively increases. It is estimated that in future, the production of plastics can double by 2035 and almost quadruple by 2050. Still globally, most of the plastic waste is landfilled. Only 9% of plastic waste generated between 1950 and 2015 was recycled. New strategy of European Commission proposes actions designed to make the vision for a more circular plastics economy a reality. The circular economy represents an alternative, more sustainable model to the traditional linear economy. EC has approved new recycling targets for plastics to a minimum of 50% by the end of 2025 and to a minimum of 55% by the end of 2030. Changes that will be introduced in design and production of plastics will contribute to increasing their recycling rates for all key applications. The new strategy will help achieve the priority set by the UE for an energy union with a modern, low-carbon and energy-efficient economy and will make a tangible contribution to reaching the 2030 sustainable development goals.