How Do Microplastics Affect the Environment?
Plastic use and contamination has become one of world’s greatest challenges to solve.
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastics, less than 5mm in size, and are literally everywhere – in our water, air, oceans and even our food. They are polluting our oceans and are found in the bodies of whales, seabirds, fish and other marine animals. Traces of microplastics have also been found in our honey, salt, beer, bottle water, organic fertilisers and in the very air we breathe.
You may have heard about the two types of microplastics out there. The first is primary microplastics, which are small to begin with and include things such as microbeads found in facial cleansers, cosmetics, cleaning agents and clothes made from synthetic fabrics. The second type is known has secondary microplastics, which are the breakup of larger plastics items such as plastic bags, bottles and straws.
We produce millions of tonnes of plastic around the world every year, so it should not come as a surprise that we can’t keep up with the amount of plastic we use and discard every day. However, out of the large quantity of plastic produced globally, only a small amount is recycled and the rest ends up in landfill. Due to the fact that plastic does not usually biodegrade, it is considered one of the most pollutant sources of our soils and our oceans.
It has been recorded that there are approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic entering our oceans every year. CSIRO estimated that there are 14 million tonnes of plastic on the ocean floor which is 35 times more than the estimated about of plastic pollution on the surface.
There is most certainly a cause for concern when it comes to microplastics effect on our environment. For marine species, microplastics look like food to them, meaning when these species ingest them they can impact their growth, health and change their feeding behaviours. Additionally, when small animals consume microplastics, this can impact the balance of our ecosystems. There is also concern with regards to toxic POPs being absorbed and compounded by microplastics which potentially can hard the surrounding environment.
On a basic level, as we strongly advocate for at AGC, solving the problem of microplastics comes down to cutting down our reliance on unnecessary plastics, specifically single-use plastics; and reducing, recycling, reusing and rethinking. As consumers, we need to make responsible and educate choices in our everyday life such as using reusable bags, avoiding single-use plastic items such as plastic straws, avoiding products with microbeads, using biodegradable materials, or REDcycling soft plastics.
We should all avoid producing unnecessary plastic waste in any way that we can, and if plastic usage is inevitable, let’s make sure it doesn’t end up in landfill and our oceans!