On World Oceans Day let’s talk about the problem of microplastics in our oceans and what you can do to help.
Plastic wreaks havoc on marine ecosystems. As plastic swirls around in the water, much of it breaks down to tiny pieces called microplastics. We’ve all seen pictures of the plastic rubbish that gets washed up onto our beaches, maybe you’ve heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and seen the damage that floating plastic bags can do to marine animals who mistake it for food.
However, most of the plastic in the ocean is not floating on the surface. In fact, there are estimates that only 1% of marine plastic is visible – the rest consists of microplastics. These are all forms of plastics less than 5mm, either the result of larger pieces of plastic which have broken down or Primary microplastic from clothing fibres and personal care products. These microplastics flow straight from your sink into the sewer system. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to filter them out so they carry on straight into our oceans where they contribute to the ‘Plastic Soup’. Microplastics are not biodegradable and once they enter the (marine) environment, they are almost impossible to remove.
Sea animals absorb or eat microplastics and they are then passed along the marine food chain, ending up in our dinner.
From June 2018, retailers across England, Scotland and Wales were banned from selling rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products that contain microbeads, a huge step forward. However, did you know that the majority of cosmetics and personal care products still contain plastic? The legislation only applies to microbeads and doesn’t cover leave-on products such as makeup removers, moisturisers, body lotions, and even sunscreens. A lot of these products, particularly suncream, still get washed down the drain eventually. Given that what isn’t washed off your skin has been absorbed into your body, plastics in cosmetics and skincare are definitely a cause for concern!
More information https://www.mygreenpod.com/articles/the-microplastics-dodge/ https://www.beatthemicrobead.org/plastic-free-sunscreens/ https://www.beatthemicrobead.org/exposure-to-micro-nanoplastics/
So what can you do?
Buy from companies who guarantee not to use microplastics – https://www.beatthemicrobead.org/ have lists of the ingredients to avoid and a handy app which tells you which brands do not use microplastic ingredients (Weleda is one).
Use less and think about making your own products.
Join the Plastic Challenge https://www.mcsuk.org/campaigns/plastic-challenge-home