What is microplastic and where does it come from?
“When it comes to micro plastic, there are two types of sources of micro plastics: primary and secondary.”
Primary sources are those where micro plastics are manufactured in their ‘micro’ size.
These include leaks of the small plastic pellets – or “nurdles” – that act as the base material for plastic production from the industry, synthetic fibers from clothes washed out by the washing machine and the micro beads found in many cosmetic products (plastic micro beads in face scrubs etc.), household cleaning products and even toothpastes! Not all of these are removed by wastewater treatment processes so they are released into waterways and oceans.
Secondary sources arise from the breakdown of larger plastic waste: carrier bags, product packaging, fishing equipment.
The presence of microplastic particles in the marine environment could have a number of implications. From transporting microorganisms which colonise their surfaces to new places, where they might be harmful to changing properties of sediment.
We are only beginning to understand how harmful they are to the marine environment.
Better researched is their ability to be easily ingested by marine organisms. Fish and seabirds can mistake micro plastics for prey, while filter feeders like mussels and whales filter them from the water alongside particles of food.
In this way they can also enter the diet of both birds and people, who eat the animals who have eaten the plastics.
Plastics often contain chemicals to give them specific properties, which in many cases are toxic. These can be released inside the animal, causing problems additional to the physical risks of blocked digestion and other internal damage.”
(Source arocha.org, you can find more informations on their website.)
How can we reduce or avoid to produce microplastics?
- Buy less, better no plastic clothing. Go for natural materials instead. (eg. 100% cotton, linnen, hemp, bamboo, etc…)!!
- Drive less. Most microplastics actually comes from our tyres.
- Choose your shampoo, soap and make up wisely. Make sure its micro plastic free. Or make your own. (Scan and check the ingredients from products with this App from BeatTheMicrobead)
- Wash your synthetic clothes less often. And use a Guppy Friend Bag if you wash them.
- The leading micro fiber scientist Chelsea Rochman is recommending to use front loading washing machines, they actually shed less fibers.
- Raise your voice and ask your washing machine manufacturer about filters for micro fiber.
- If you don´t want to give up on plastic clothing, buy less, buy clothing made of recycled plastic and buy second hand (also older clothing are actually shedding more micro plastic fibers). You are helping to save non renewable resources.
- If you use a dryer, never wash the micro fibers down the drain (it will straight go into our water and into the ocean), dispose safely in the garbage.
- Refuse single use plastics!! They can easily end up in our oceans if bins don’t have lids and birds or the wind take it away… If the landfill or transport is not safe. Or if in some countries the trash get’s dumped illegal.
- Recycle your plastic trash and refuse new plastic products. Reuse what you have.