You may have been hearing more about microplastics in the media lately, and with images of plastic in marine animals' bodies and proof of it existing in humans, it is a cause for concern that can no longer be ignored. Microplastics are a problematic byproduct that creates a larger issue for all living things, so LJP Waste Solutions is here with some information on microplastics to keep you informed.
What are Microplastics?
Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are less than 5 millimeters long. They occur when larger plastic items begin to decompose and, in some cases, are also produced for use in manufactured items. They collect heavily in bodies of water, whether they are being discarded or created, and have a direct and detrimental effect on marine life.
There are five main kinds of microplastics, including:
● Microbeads: A non-biodegradable plastic particle commonly found in cleansers and toothpaste.
● Fibers: These fibers are commonly found in diapers, fleece clothing, and cigarette butts.
● Fragments: Occurs when the breakdown happens from larger pieces of plastic.
● Nurdles: These are smaller pieces that are used to manufacture plastic goods.
● Foam: Styrofoam is commonly used for food containers and coffee cups and has chemicals that leach into our food.
Primary microplastic particles have been found in water samples worldwide and even in some of the seafood that we consume. There are also other ways that microplastics are used commercially; some products include toothpaste, toiletries, and cosmetics. In addition, they are used in textiles such as clothing and fishing nets and are becoming a common part of everyday life for people around the world.
Secondary microplastics also result from the breakdown of items like water bottles through exposure to environmental occurrences such as ocean waves and the sun's radiation. This means finding more sustainable waste solutions that help promote reusable and biodegradable choices that will not seep into our natural world as the materials break down.
How Do They Affect Our World?
Millions of tons of plastic are produced daily worldwide, and very little is recycled. Leaving the question, where does the remaining waste go? In most cases, it ends up in a landfill, and because landfills do not biodegrade, they are considered the largest polluter of soil and oceans.
Once the microplastics begin to get into the water source, it creates a much larger problem because it negatively impacts marine life due to the microplastics being mistaken for food. In most cases, the material is colorful and may look like a regular food source for the animal. So, when zooplankton and other marine wildlife eat them, their stomach fills up, meaning they cannot eat normal food, leading to starvation and death.
The cycle continues into an even larger problem because when larger animals consume the other small animals, it gets passed on and ultimately can affect the entire balance of the ecosystem through this pollution.
How do They Get into the Body?
With humans producing over 8.3 billion tons of plastic to date that does not break down easily, these microplastics have had plenty of time to become part of our food chain. It's estimated that over 8 million metric tons of plastics get into the oceans annually, and 24 trillion plastic particles are in the waters, with 80% coming from land sources.
The process also happens through the daily use of plastics in households. Toothpaste and facial scrubs are commonly known for having micro bead additions inside them, but when they are washed down the drain, they are too small to be filtered out in the treatment plants, and they will end up back in a lake or river and eventually in the ocean.
Clothing also has large amounts of microplastics in them, and as they are worn or washed, some synthetic fibers will begin to break down and come apart from the larger piece of clothing. As they are being worn, they will separate from the larger material and can end up in the air, and when washed, they will end up in the wastewater system.
This all becomes problematic because as the microplastics enter a living being's system, they circulate into the blood which carries to the organs. They have been found to accumulate in the kidneys, liver, and gut and show adverse effects on areas including nutrient absorption, reproduction, and cause inflammation.
How Can You Help?
And while there is funded research currently happening to help reduce the level of contaminants going into the ocean and into living systems, one of the main ways to reduce the number of particulates is to choose more sustainable options as a collective whole. Adjusting eating habits and working to actively take care of your environment through recycling are also ways to help reduce the number of microplastics in the environment.
Your Leading Professionals in Sustainability Solutions
Microplastics are becoming a larger part of our world that are still being studied for their long-term effects, so finding ways to reduce use is essential. If you're looking for sustainable options for your home or business, LJP Waste Solutions are your local Minnesota experts that you can trust. Our main priority is to create zero landfill options combined with waste solutions for our world through education.
We work hard to create a streamlined process for all of our clients to help enhance their sustainability practices, so message us online or call us at 507-625-1968 today.