How plastic ends up in the food we eat, the water we drink and even the air we breathe
Plastic is ever present in our lives, from the clothes we wear to the packaging surrounding the food we bring home from the supermarket, even the foods like fruit and vegetables that come ready-wrapped. These days, everything we use, see and touch seems to contain plastic.
But there's also a hidden issue, the barely visible fragments of plastic known as microplastics.
Microplastics are small pieces of plastic 5mm or less that come from a variety of sources, such as when larger plastic pieces break apart, plastic pellets used to manufacture plastic goods and microbeads found in health and beauty products.
Why are microplastics so problematic?
Despite being tiny, the microplastics present in our oceans could weigh a whopping 236,000 tonnes, a number that destined to rise as the plastic entering the oceans continues to break up into smaller and smaller pieces, almost invisible to the naked eye and indistinguishable from food to aquatic organisms.
Sea life such as coral, krill and fish have all been discovered to contain microplastics ingested at some point which then passes up the food chain, and as we sit at the top of that food chain, this means that we don't get a pass from ingesting plastic waste.
But what exactly is it about ingesting microplastics should concern us?
As we’ve covered in a previous blog-post, many plastics contain phthalates, BPA and other toxic nasties which are contributors to a host of health problems including cancer, reproductive issues and hormonal related issues.
And if that wasn't enough, microplastic fragments can act as a vehicle for many other toxic chemicals, known as Persistent Organic Pollutants. Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs for short are chemicals that are resistant to breaking down through natural processes. They cover a wide range of pollutants all of which are toxic and all of which we end up ingesting on a daily basis whether it be through eating microplastics in fish, drinking them in our water or even inhaling them in dust in the air we breathe.
There is no escape from microplastics.
So what can we do about the microplastic plague?
For plastic that already exists, recycling and incineration are our best method of reducing microplastics in the environment, however, this only delays many problems associated with plastic and comes with its own inherent set of problems
To really make an impact in the fight on microplastics we must eliminate them at the source, ie. stop making so much plastic!
You can take action on microplastics by ridding plastic from your life (as best you can). Easier said than done, but even a few small changes made here and there add up.
Once you feel confident in tackling the plastic problem, share your knowledge and ideas with the people around you: together we can make a difference!
I hope with your new-found microplastics knowledge you’re able to go out into the world armed and motivated to rid plastic from your life, share this post with family and friends you feel would benefit from learning about microplastics.
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We're 4 interviews into our zero-waste hero series and we have gained some amazing insight from amazing champions of sustainability, to check out the interviews we've done so far click here.
For our fourth interview we spoke to Elsa a Sustainability masters graduate and content creator based in Birmingham.