Microplastics: Tiny Bits, Huge Problem

Microplastics

Microplastics are in the air, in the oceans, in our food, in the rivers, in tap water, in bottled water, in our clothes, cosmetics, in fish and shellfish, in sea salt and even in the planet last wilderness areas.

Microplastics are small pieces of plastics invisible to the naked eye. Their size varies from nanometers to five millimeters and the sad truth is that they can be found even in areas unaffected by human society and activity like Antarctica. Last week a group of scientists from Strathclyde and Toulouse universities unveiled the results of their research in a pristine region in Southern France, away from urban areas.

They have found that an isolated region in the Pyrenees mountains that earlier was considered unspoiled wilderness is covered with airborne microplastics. This means that microplastics can be transported by the wind into long distances from its source.

What’s the source of microplastics?
The small particles that can contaminate everything come from different sources. You know that every piece of plastic ever made still exists today. Big plastic debris degrades into smaller pieces of plastic. Moreover, the textile and cosmetics industries are a source of microplastics in forms of microfibers and microbeads.

Microfibers 
The textile industry produces fabrics like polyester and nylon. These fabrics consist of synesthetic fibers and they are made with chemical synthesis. They are used in the fashion and footwear industry. Thus, every time our shoes wear out or we wash synthetic clothes, they release tiny bits of microfibers. They flow down to the drain and find the way to the rivers and oceans through water treatment plants.

Ask clothing companies and the textile industry to take responsibility for microfiber pollution
Choose clothes only natural fibers instead of synthetic such as cotton, wool, and linen
Wash your clothes less frequently
Use a microfiber collecting bag for washing clothes, for example, the Guppyfriend Washing Bag
Use a colder wash setting. The hotter the water the more microfiber breaks and ends up in rivers and waterways
Wash a full load of clothes
Avoid using the dryer
Help to raise awareness and share the information with your friends, family, in your social media, and school
Get involved and think about an alternative solution to this issue.

Microbeads

These are tiny pieces of plastics less than one millimeter in diameter. They are used in the cosmetic industry, mostly in skin care and personal hygiene products such as toothpaste, facial and body scrubs or exfoliators. Several countries have taken action to restrict the use of microbeads. So far, Canada, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zeeland, Sweden, South Africa, Taiwan, the UK, and the United States have imposed bans related to the sale, manufacturing, import, and use of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics.
If you live in a country other than those in the list you can take action to avoid using products that contain microbeads.
Look at the list of ingredients for polyethylene or polypropylene, which are two types of plastic microbeads
Go for DIY sugar/salt/coffee grounds scrub
Talk to others about the impact of microbeads on the environment, marine life, and human health
If you have the necessary skills, you can launch your own line of eco-friendly exfoliating soaps and scrubs.

If you consider microplastic pollution a burning issue you can also find a solution. Take our free online training to gain an entrepreneurial mindset or join one of our competitions.

Photo: Flickr, courtesy of Oregon State University

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11 Comments

  1. This issue needs awareness,i understand alot of people are un aware of the issue of micro plastic and micro beads, people needs awareness in some of this pollution matters.even if one comes up with a solution,but
    It will be of no value if people doesn’t see a problem there hence awareness is very important

  2. Education on awareness is very important about plastic pollution and especially micro plastic and micro beads.In order to save the world must focus on SDGs like no poverty,climatic action.

  3. this is a serious problem that needs immediate attention. I never knew about microplastics until today. If we cannot take care of the plastics we can see, what of what we cannot see? This calls for thorough research.

  4. Prior to this read I never came across the term microfibres. In Africa more awareness and education has to be created.

  5. Environmental sustainability in our projects

  6. Wow… This is great. Thank you for the enlightenment.

  7. I never heard of microplastics neither did I know that the fashion industry contribute to substances that may be harmful to water bodies. Unfortunately, cotton, wool and linen materials are some of the most sought fabrics in the fashion industry. My question is, how can the fashion industry reduce or stop the emission of microplastics and still be able to use these fabrics?

  8. We are destroying the ecosystem and foodchain by using a lot of plastic. There have been efforts to reduce this, so everyone please comply.

  9. Yeah this is the thing i’m talking about through my idea. This microplastic is killing for aquatic life and especially for soil which is the mother of Agriculture. Have a look on my idea to study a great alternative.

  10. In support of Isaandram point “This issue needs awareness,i understand alot of people are un aware of the issue of micro plastic and micro beads, people needs awareness in some of this pollution matters.even if one comes up with a solution,but
    It will be of no value if people doesn’t see a problem there hence awareness is very important”

  11. “These are tiny pieces of plastics less than one millimeter in diameter. They are used in the cosmetic industry, mostly in skin care and personal hygiene products such as toothpaste, facial and body scrubs or exfoliators. Several countries have taken action to restrict the use of microbeads. So far, Canada, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zeeland, Sweden, South Africa, Taiwan, the UK, and the United States have imposed bans related to the sale, manufacturing, import, and use of microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics.
    If you live in a country other than those in the list you can take action to avoid using products that contain microbeads.
    Look at the list of ingredients for polyethylene or polypropylene, which are two types of plastic microbeads
    Go for DIY sugar/salt/coffee grounds scrub
    Talk to others about the impact of microbeads on the environment, marine life, and human health
    If you have the necessary skills, you can launch your own line of eco-friendly exfoliating soaps and scrubs”.

    This is a call for action for every young person. Oh I am really challenges by this article.

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