Graphic: Maria Scherlies

There is a gigantic plastic island — which has the approximate size of Texas — floating in the North Pacific Ocean: the so-called Great Pacific garbage patch. Microplastics are found in every part of the ocean but the Grat Pacific garbage patch shows the highest concentration of plastic. So far, nobody has a solution or plan to clean the ocean from the plastic and the garbage island keeps growing bigger and bigger. Where do all these microplastics come from? And how to save the oceans from microplastic pollution? Read further…

Where Do The Microplastics Come From?

The issue of plastic pollution is a very complicated one and many industries are responsible for it. The fashion and beauty industry has a huge impact on it. Basically, microplastics are hidden in all synthetic garments and many cosmetic products such as toothpaste, scrub or shower gel. But also bigger pieces of plastics such as packaging material turn into microplastics end up as invisible parts of the huge plastic island. Since plastic materials are not biodegradable like organic materials, all things, which ever have been made of plastic still exist on the planet as invisible pieces of microplastic. And the other bad fact is, that plastic can also contain all sorts of toxic substances such as antistatic- and softening agents and even metals. Scientists have found a high concentration of toxic substances on the porous surface of plastic particles.

The Impact Of Microplastics On The Environment

The impact of microplastics on the environment and human health is bad. The difficulty with the tiny pieces is that they are hard to filter out of the sea. Animals confuse plastic with plankton and eat them. The result is: animals get sick. Scientists found out that microplastics can end up in the blood stream of mules and fishes. And once the particles are in the blood, there is no way to get them out of the animal. In the end, the fish lands on our plate and we will eat the plastic as well.

How To Avoid Micro Plastics

Cosmetics: Check the labels of each product you want to buy. Try to buy organic cosmetic products as well as eco-friendly plastic-free packaging. If you discover one of the following ingredients listed on the packaging, keep your hands off the product. Here is a list of the most used types of microplastics:

Polyethylene (PE), Polyethylene Glycol (you can find them as PEG- followed by a number for example PEG-32), Polypropylene (PP), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Nylon.

Textiles: Each time we wash a piece of synthetic garment, tiny fibers of polyester or nylon are released and washed off by the washing machine. There is no filter that can hold these plastic microfibers back and so they are sent out with the drain water. Even though there was a prototype developed to filter synthetic fibers, it has never actually been realized because nobody funded the project.

So as long as we don’t have filter systems and microplastics are not banned by the beauty and fashion industry, take a close look at what you buy and how you treat it. Think of alternatives and buy organic materials wherever possible.