Microplastics are everywhere. These tiny pieces of plastic measuring less than 5mm (0.2 in) long have been found in oceans, rivers, and even air, as well as in food, bottled water, and tap water. Microplastics are in over 94% of tap water in the USA and 72% in Europe and, shockingly, in 93% of all bottled drinking water on Earth.
Skyrocketing plastic production and poor waste management have led to 4-12 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean annually, an amount that is projected to more than double in the next decade unless some radical change in human behavior takes place.
Microfibers and microbeads are two main subcategories of microplastics. Microfibers are produced through the washing, drying and regular wear and tear of synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon. Microbeads are extra small bits of plastic---less than 1mm in width. They are used in the cosmetic industry, particularly in exfoliating soaps, toothpaste and other products.
Microbeads are intentionally manufactured to be small bits of plastic. Avoid buying or using products containing plastic microbeads by looking for “polythelene” and “polypropylene” on the ingredient labels of cosmetic products.
Here are some meaningful ways to reduce our microplastic consumption and impact:
Boycott bottled water. Buy a water filter and always carry a reusable water bottle with you. Get one made of stainless steel or glass, not plastic.
Choose non-synthetic clothes made of natural materials like cotton.
Use a laundry ball to catch microfibers shedding off clothes in the washing machine.
Air dry instead of using the dryer.
Use public transport, and favor rail infrastructure.
Reduce meat and fish consumption.
Cut single-use plastics out of your life -- say no to plastic items that are used once and then discarded.
Recycle plastic -- find a place to recycle plastic waste near you via the Earth911 recycling directory.
Organize or participate in a beach or river cleanup
Support bans on single use plastics and the adoption of such policies in your community.
Avoid products that contain microbeads
Stay informed on issues related to plastic pollution and help make others aware of the problem.