MICROPLASTICS – SO WHAT ARE THEY?

Across planet Earth, there is plenty of discussion around plastic in general and how for example, a bottle can be interfering with our global ecosystem. But, we’re forgetting one crucial denominator: Microplastics.

Microplastics are small, barely visible pieces of plastic that enter and pollute the environment. Microplastics are not a specific kind of plastic, but rather any type of plastic fragment that is less than five millimetres in length according to the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (source: Wikipedia).

At this moment in time, there are two classifications of microplastics: Primary Microplastics which are already 5mm in size before entering the environment. These consist of microfibers from clothing and microbeads. You then have Secondary Microplastics which are fragments from degradation of larger plastic products which enter the environment through a natural weathering process. Sources of Secondary Microplastics can include water and soda bottles, fishing line/nets, and plastic bags. Both Primary and Secondary Microplastics are known to persist through severe environmental conditions, especially aquatic and marine ecosystems.

Unfortunately, plastics degrade slowly. I’m talking real-slow. I’m talking hundreds or if not thousands of years slow. This is a further problem as it increases the chances of being ingested and incorporated into, and accumulated in, the bodies and tissues of many organisms. A simple but harsh example of this is when marine life consumes microplastics, therefore soon making its way onto a plate of food before being digested by humans.

To prevent Microplastics, whether it be Primary or Secondary, can be to reduce your use of single-use plastics, utilize the recycling methods & facilities open to you, support or participate in ocean/beach clean-ups, support organizations that address plastic pollution (e.g. don’t break 345) and I feel a very important factor would be to spread the word on this major but unknown-to-many, problem.

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