Building the World

80% of Tap Water Contains Plastic – Can You Design a Solution?


Innovation challenge: design a personal straw – with filter. “Drink with Straw” by Martin Belam, 2006. Image: wikimedia.

A recent study found an alarmingly high percentage of tap water has microscopic plastic fibers. In the United States, 94% of drinking water sample contained micro plastics; worldwide, 83%. The particles are so small, most filters can’t catch them: micro plastics may even cross human digestive tracts to enter organs. Could filters lead the way? Wole Soboyejo and team designed a new microporous and nanoporous water filter. Askwar Hilonga, winner of the Africa Innovation Prize, Royal Academy of Engineering, also designed a water filter based on nanotechnology. With increasing bans on plastic straws, innovation markets may open to new kinds of straws. Now is a good time for innovation. Submit your design for a personal straw – with filter.

Annan, Ebenezer, Kwabena Kan-Dapaah, Salifu T. Azeko, Wole Soboyejo. “Clay Mixtures and the Mechanical Properties of Microporous and Nonporous Ceramic Water Filters. Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering 28 (10): 04016105. May 2016. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)MT.1943-5533-0001596.

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk. “Make Your Next Straw, The Last Straw.” 26 January 2018. Building the World Blog.

Hilonga, Askwar. “Africa Innovation Prize, Royal Academy of Engineering.” YouTube:

Shmurak, Susannah. “Are There Microplastics in Your Drinking Water?” 24 November 2017. eartheasy.

Timmons, Mark. “Removing micro plastics from drinking water.” March 2017.

Tyree, Chris and Dan Morrison, “Plastic fibers pervasive in tap water worldwide, new study shows.” 2017. Deutsche Welle

Victor, Daniel. “Bans on Plastic Straws in Restaurants Expand to More Cities.” 3 March 2018. The New York Times.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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