Mikroplastics in the soil matrix - Mikroplastik im Boden: Detektion, Elimination, Immobilisierung und Effekte (MiBo DELImE)

On 06 January 2020, the interdisciplinary and interuniversity ESF junior research group MiBo DELImE began to work on the topic of microplastics in the soil matrix at Hochschule Zittau/Görlitz and TU Bergakademie Freiberg. Their project is funded by the State of Saxony via Sächsische Aufbaubank (SAB) with support from the European Social Fund (ESF). The project runs until the end of December 2022.

The main objectives of the MiBo DELImE junior research group are:

  • Development of a safe method for the determination of microplastics in soil matrices.
  • Material flow analysis in order to identify contamination pathways as a strategy to prevent microplastics from entering the environment.
  • Identification of microplastic hotspots via a Monitoring that investigates dam sediments, composts, and soils along roadsides regarding their degree of contamination.
  • Analysis of the translocation and accumulation of microplastics in plants and the effects on the vegetative behaviour in order to investigate the soil-plant-human transmission path and its impact on the human food chain.
  • Creation of a forecast model to simulate the transport paths of microplastics in the soil.
  • Development of a method for the process-related elimination of the plastic fraction in soils in order to; preserve compost as a valuable resource, avoid thermal recycling and reduce carbon emission.
  • Development of a model for the transfer of the plastic fractions to investigate entry into groundwater and as a valuable tool for competent authorities.

Support network:

  • Veolia Umweltservice Ost GmbH & Co. KG
  • Bundesgütegemeinschaft Kompost e.V.
  • Landestalsperren Verwaltung Bautzen
  • SGS Institut Fresenius Dresden
  • Landhandel Herwig GmbH Zittau

Project outline

Project duration:

January 2020 - December 2022

Cooperating Universities:

  • Hochschule Zittau/ Görlitz
  • TU Bergakademie Freiberg
  • Technical University of Liberec

Project manager:

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Schoenherr


Institut für Verfahrensentwicklung, Torf- und Naturstoff-Forschung (iTN)

Telefon +49 3583 612-4804
j [dot] schoenherrathszg [dot] de

Project participants:

  • B.Sc. Anne Richter
  • B.Sc. Madlen Reuter
  • M.Sc. Tomas Kleint
  • M.Eng. Faith Chebet Tumwet


The scientific aim of the project is to develop a method for the detection, characterization and elimination or immobilization of microplastics in the soil. In addition, strategies to avoid microplastics are to be developed through an extensive analysis of the material flows. By analysing the contamination paths, strategies for prevention are to be developed and the entry of the microplastic into the environment is to be avoided. A process is also to be developed, with the support of Veolia Umweltservice Ost GmbH & Co. KG und der Bundesgütegemeinschaft Kompost Ost e.V., for the process-related elimination of the plastic fractions and other contaminants from organic waste or compost. This measure ensures that an important raw material can be utilized and is kept from the inferior thermal recycling.

Extensive monitoring for the identification of microplastic hotspots is to be carried out. For this purpose, sediments from the Quitzdorf and Bautzen dams are examined regarding their degree of contamination, as well as various composts and soils on the side of the road.

Furthermore, a model is to be created as a forecasting tool by examining the displacement of various microplastic fractions. The model can be used to make statements about the entry of microplastic particles into the groundwater. As a valuable tool it is a gain for the responsible authorities.

The soil-plant-human transmission path will be examined. Since microplastic can now be found on all agricultural areas in Germany (Piehl et al. 2018), in order to ensure food quality, it must be examined to what extent the growth of the plant is affected and which plastic fractions are absorbed, accumulated and translocated by the plants and therefore reach the human food chain. Investigation is to be carried out using experimental setups especially designed for this purpose, uncovering the interactions between soil and plant, and clarifying the urgency of a solution to contaminating the soil with microplastic.

The research project combines the expertise of different disciplines and subject areas to tackle a global problem and develop a solution.

Working Groups

The goal of the junior research project “Microplastics in the Soil matrix” is to work on various interdisciplinary objectives through four interinstitutional working groups from the Hochschule Zittau/Görlitz and the TU Bergakademie Freiberg. Based on the findings, the first test models were designed for the analysis technology, process engineering/process development, agro ecology and modelling/forecasting groups, and some were implemented in the laboratory. The objectives of these 4 working groups are:

  1. Elimination process (Hochschule Zittau/Görlitz)
  2. Optimization of analytical methods and Prognosis about Genesis (Hochschule Zittau/Görlitz)
  3. Vegetation effect (Hochschule Zittau/Görlitz)
  4. Transport process in the Soil matrix (TU Bergakademie Freiberg)

Participation of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg

Prof. Dr. Traugott Scheytt, Dr. Nikolaus Klamerth, Dr. Ing. Jan Šembera, M.Eng. Faith Chebet Tumwet

By analysing and simulating the contamination pathways of microplastics, a process can be developed to reduce the amount of plastics in the environment. This is done by investigating empirical data from the elution experiments to draw conclusions about the movement of the particles in the soil matrix and the saturated zone, and to enable implementation in a data model to predict the entry into the groundwater. The results are made available to the relevant authorities as a forecasting tool for assessing contamination of the soil and a possible shift to the groundwater that interact with the surface waters in Saxony. To achieve this, the following steps will be taken:
  • Implementation of column experiments at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg to investigate the behaviour of microplastics in the soil matrix.
  • Application of empirical data from column experiments and hyprop measurement accounting for the movement of the particles in the soil and in the saturated zone and simulate in a data model for perception of the entry into the groundwater.
  • Hydrogeological evaluation of numerical models from HYDRUS 1D and STANMOD.

Contact Person

Faith Chebet Tumwet

Faith Chebet Tumwet

Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin

  Faith_Chebet [dot] Tumwetathszg [dot] de