What is a microplastic?
Micro plastics as the name suggests are minute particles of plastic that probably we can not see with our eyes. They are not a specific quality or type of plastic.
With the help of a microscope its easier to look at. After having a look at a lot of pictures one can only imagine. Unless you see it with your own eyes you can’t feel it.
Not to overlook, plastic has helped us for decades.
It saves our food from getting wasted. It’s easy to carry and light in weight and flexible too. Do you think invention of plastic was a biggest danger we could have faced. We have been spending millions of dollars to research into space and forget about our oceans and rivers.
This stage is becoming like a crumbling block, on one side being the climate change danger and on the other is species extinction. The second is what could be equally serious situation as the first one. Alongside people fighting against the water pollution, there are those that are working on tackling this issue of how to get rid of this micro plastics problem.
Did you know that its not just the oceans. The Problem lies in the root of where the plastic problem arises. The main reason micro plastics are found in water creatures is because of the inability to distinguish between it and food they consume.
Reflection on our daily plastic waste
The one thing we all do is put our litter in the waste bin bags that are also made of plastic. How many of us have actually paid attention to separate plastic?
From the days beginning to the end we are surrounded with plastic. Take the 1st thing you do which is from brushing your teeth with a plastic tooth brush. Plastics that are made to last longer actually last longer even after they are disposed. Marine plastics are meant to last long too, these could be Life jackets, boat plastic sheeting and buoyant materials.
These are the Companies you can contact if you wish to get your plastic recycled
There are companies in your city that could give you cash for your recycled plastic waste as well. Simply google them and you can find a one near you.
If you are a small business then you can contact the local plastic recycling companies. Ask them if they pay you and how much. In any case its better to get your plastic recycled and be a responsible business then not thinking about it.
The following are some of the plastic waste recycling companies
- Biffa UK
- B&B Plastics Inc (USA,California)
- TGM environmental group UK
- Pyrolysisplant (India)
- California Recyclers (USA)
Click here to get the list of plastic recyclers in the USA.
Why are microplastics harmful?
The entire food chain is in danger including us. Zooplankton as studied by the university of Exeter were able to ingest micro plastics. Small fishes mistake micro plastics to be their food like plankton.
These small fishes when eaten by big fishes such as sharks or whales could collect weigh more micro plastic. The phenomenon of sea lions beaching out and dead in hundreds.
Remember the Fishes in Australian river dead in 100s and 1000s even.
Did you ever think of why big fishes die after coming on the beach. These news worthy issues can be linked with micro plastics but as of now we can assume plastic to be one of the reasons. The reasons for the death of many water creatures. Too bad news for those that consume mussels as every single mussel that was tested had fibers present in them2.
Reliance on each other even in the oceans
These marine animals whether large or small size rely on each one for their nutrients. Just like on land we rely on meat products and vegetables they too have a whole circle of food chain. Make money using your own plastic waste for which you spend 5 p or more when you bought something.
By doing this you can not only have a good practice of responsibly getting rid of your plastic waste but also get something in return. This option is not just available for the household waste but is there for the businesses too.
Micro plastics are a water pollution that affects health
After reading and researching about micro plastics & plastic pollution, I found something interesting. I am sure many of us know about it and that is, that it is a pollution. Just as Carbon monoxide is harmful for humans.
Fumes from the vehicles and fires affect us humans but micro plastics are also affecting us and we have to take action collectively. We all know how this is affecting us by now.Biggest contributors of micro plastic waste is also tires and synthetic clothing.
Plastic waste disintegrates in different stages. The problem is that it doesn’t biodegrade and simply breaks in to smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes like fibers.
In these stages it can be a problem to different creatures.
When the plastics starts to break in to pieces while disintegrating, it happens in different shapes and sizes depending upon the impact it gets hit with and the strength it had as a plastic. As this pieces of plastic starts to break up further with impact and pressure (cold or hot) they again split into further small pieces. Microplastics in the ocean are a problem in the real sense as you may see here.
Microplastics danger can be explained in the following ways
Choking hazard for the sea creatures.
Plastics as we know have already affected our drainage systems by clogging the gutters.
What is causing turtles to consume plastic?
Turtles were affected by Plastic it was proven. Turtles like to eat something that looks like a plastic bag and that is jelly fishes. The single use plastic bags which turtles mistook as jelly fishes caused them to die due to inability to digest and excrete the plastic out of their body.
Due to the lack of nutrients and loss of energy had an affect on turtles.
If you are using a single use plastic then remember that plastic affect many water creatures & it can kill them. If a marine animal is unable to remain healthy in these circumstance this could increase the risk of viruses or they may affect other scavengers of the ocean.
I am happy to learn that the awareness on this issue is continuing to grow. Now children are also taught in schools why these turtles are dying and that they mistake plastic bag as a jelly fish. Its not just turtles but also whales have eaten plastic bags and died. A seal pup was also a victim of plastic bags.
Efforts are being made by the governments all round the world to reduce plastic waste
In the United Kingdom itself this strategy has worked quite well. From the time people started getting charged 5p per bag there has been a considerable reduction the plastic bag waste. It was a surprise to find out synthetic clothing and fibers were one of the highest contributors in the rivers. On studying about microplastics in our rivers, I came across this research results.
- Foam pieces
- Chocolate wrappers
- Synthetic clothing
- Fiber and lines
- Fishing nets
- Plastic bags
- Cigarette butts
In a study conducted by french scientist in French rivers, from the abstract we can see that fishes absorbed these micro plastics. Surface water is already filled with big plastics. We are working on getting rid of this plastic waste from the oceans and rivers.
The newly discovered news is that even under the depths of the oceans micro plastics have gathered. It has started to affect the water creatures. Whether we eat fish or not micro plastics are still going to be affecting us.
Daily products that we buy also have micro plastics
Take a look at the tooth paste next time you brush your teeth. The best ways for you to know is when you see the bottom of the river. If you are a diver, then you may have come across the kind of waste that settles under the river.
Take for example river Thames itself. Since the river stretches across the country and passes through different areas people do throw things in the river. Many people don’t realize when they do this.
Operation Clean Sweep was the measure taken by the US plastic trade association.
By OCS companies that deal with plastic pellets have to have certain measures to make zero waste of plastic pellets. If you are reading this article and you are not in the US or UK , you can still take advantage. By simply contacting your trade associations to get help by collaborating with these associations.
Plastic waste is a huge concern and you could get help easily. Send us an email if your company needs help with handling and training your staff on OCS. Basically this helps people to get rid of the Nurdles that are used in the production of reusable plastics too.
Plastics also enter the water by these ways
In many countries such as India, Brazil and other Asian countries dung is used as a type of fertilizers. On using this the excreted remains of the plastic fibers still exist in the farmland, houses, fertilizer and bio-gas plant facilities too.
Livestock such as cows & goats also consume plastic in when left unattended. India is a great example. During the time of heavy rainfall or floods these fibers do get carried down to the gutters and then end up in the river waters and oceans.
“A lot to digest: are nanoplastics bad for human health?” Microplastics can break down into nanoplastics, which are potentially even more hazardous. Article on @EPAResearchnews funded research in @IrishTimeshttps://t.co/l9pFVwK0Hr
— Impact MicroPlastics (@IMP_UCC) July 31, 2018
Research made on this issue of microplastics that affect the marine life
Research articles are published that clearly indicate the intensity of this problem. It is as if the confetti of celebration is ready to choke us. Did you remember the story of Daniel Webb gathered his plastic for a year and this story was published in the Guardian news.
Studies haven been conducted in the past on micro plastics affecting the marine environment.
Studies conducted by University of Exeter clearly showed that every single mussel they tested had fiber in them. The effects of microplastics are more dangerous because of the way the plastics are treated for its flexibility and lasting longer. There are chemicals that are added while making this plastic.
Now, these contaminants bacteria or viruses could remain on them for years and when consumed by marine species could have an adverse impact on their digestive tract. Fishes eaten by other fishes that carry contaminants bacteria are more likely to have an increased risk of death due to it. When ingested, microplastics increase as they continue to fill but reduces the amount of food they consume moving ahead.
The marine life present in the deep sea bed are also the victims of these pollutants.
‘There has been a lot of contribution and efforts to make this situation known by the University of Plymouth‘s marine laboratory scientists. By helping the government and the concerned bodies in the government know the importance by providing them with evidences on micro plastics’. ( https://www.pml.ac.uk/Research/Research_topics/Facing_the_challenge_of_new_pollutants/Marine_plastics)
These are just a few out of many that are now looking to raise awareness and find solutions to help their countries in any way possible.
Taking control of the micro plastic issue
From Plastic eating bacteria to Ocean Clean up. People are finding ways to fight back the issue which has been created by us. There are also a machine that makes plastic into fuel. Which method of controlling plastic waste in the oceans will work is a question which only time can tell.