Now if you read my last post you know that I am so very concerned and horrified by the amount of microplastics that have been estimated to be on the worlds ocean beds. Today I want to discuss this whole issue in a bit more detail, after having talks with a lot of my readers I realise that not a lot of people have a realistic grasp of the concept of microplastics. To begin there are two categories of micropastics, those that have been intentionally manufactured (primary microplastics), and those that are the result of fragmentation and weathering of larger plastics (secondary microplastics).
Primary microplastics are the plastics that are manufactured to be 5mm or smaller, these include microbeads, nurdles and fibres. Microbeads are most commonly found and used in the cosmetics and personal care industry (I speak in more details about these in my previous post). Nurdles are used in manufacturing, they are pre-production microplastic pellets that are used to make plastics, and fibres are used in the clothing and textile industries ie. nylons and synthetics. All of these find their way into our waterways and oceans, but don’t be fooled microplastics are everywhere, they are literally on every surface and crevice on Earth.
Secondary microplastics are formed from the breakdown of larger plastics, this often happens over a period of time due to exposure to ultraviolet light and abrasives. These secondary microplastics are the result of recyclable and non-recyclable plastics, so choosing to recycle just isn’t good enough to overcome the problem. Microplastics are not biodegradable so once they are there, they are basically there forever.
Dont think for a minute that we are safe from microplastics, every time we take a bite to eat or a sip of water to drink, we are, in all likelihood ingesting microplastics. They are in the air we breathe and in personal care products that we place on our skin, so are being absorbed into our bodies topically as well. The health effects on humans, of breathing, ingesting and absorbing microplastics is not yet known. But looking at the effects and tolls that plastics and microplastics have taken on marine and aquatic animals, the prognosis is dire indead. It has been found and well documented that the toxisity of plastics on aquatic and marine species has led to neurological and reproductive issues.
Remediation of microplastics already in the environment is a major way to reduce microplastic pollution. Organisations around the world are researching a number of strategies from microorganisms that have capabilities to break down synthetic polymers, to fungi and bacterias that have biodegradation capabilities. But to me it seems like a no-brainer, we need to stop manufacturing and using plastics! It is not going to happen overnight or in a few months or even a few years, but we need to be taking drastic measures NOW, wiser choices have got to be a priority not an option.