Microplastics, Macro Problem
by mohashi on October 7, 2016 - 9:41pm
Image source: http://www.azom.com/images/Article_Images/ImageForArticle_11577(1).jpg
It’s scary to think that something so small has the potential to have devastating consequences. Microplastics are one of the small terrifying things concerning many people these days. Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that are less than 5 millimetres in size and are usually found in large areas of water such as lakes or rivers. More recently microplastics have been becoming a larger issue in the media since they are growing faster and faster in numbers. All because of human activity. These particles aren’t natural, every spec was human created, these particles are just the result of many years of plastics breaking down. A 2014 study of the great lakes found an average of 43,000 microplastic particles per square kilometre. Closer to cities this number rose to a shocking 466,000 particles.
These particles are found everywhere worldwide making it practically impossible to clean up all of them. Which is why the best solution at the moment is to put a stop to creating microplastics. Microbeads found in toothpastes, makeup and body cleaners make up a large category of microplastics and multiple states including Illinois and California have started to ban these micro beads in products. Although microbeads aren’t banned in Canada yet, they are working towards the ban under the Environmental protection act.
At this point you are probably thinking “small plastics in water? Okay, then I just won’t drink the water. Why should I care?”. The scariest part about these microplastics isn’t the fact that you can’t see them, it’s the fact that they have the ability to “soak up” toxins in the water like a sponge. These plastics are then consumed by marine life which can make the animals sick. In some cases, we as humans end up eating these animals which can have an impact on our lives long term. Example of this can be found in the Ottawa river article where people tend to eat the fish in this river. But this is just a single example. If these microplastics are all over the world, that means any marine life that we eat has the potential to be impacted by these microplastics.
Personally, after learning about this issue it really put certain aspects of life into perspective. Such as every plastic bottle that ends up in a landfill doesn’t sound as bad as it ending up in the ocean. But both cases are still really bad when it comes to human life sustainability on Earth. I also agree with the article when it says that we need to start somewhere (in the case of the article its banning micro beads) when it comes to cleaning up this problem. As mentioned earlier it is physically impossible for us as human being to clean up every piece of plastic out there because over half of them we cannot even see! However, what we can do is manage the situation that we have gotten ourselves into in the first place and work toward a better future.
A few people in the government can’t manage a problem like this alone, just like a few students in school can’t fix this problem alone. It is up to everyone worldwide to work together to help reduce this issue before these microplastics become a major problem.
Cowan, M. (2015, July 17). Microplastics at ‘Alarming levels’ in Canadian lakes and rivers. CBC News. Link: http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/microplastics-at-alarming-levels-in-canadian-lakes-and-rivers-1.3157701
Foote, A. (2016, August 24). Scientists find ‘troubling’ levels of microplastics polluting Ottawa River. CBC News. Link: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ottawa-river-microplastic-study-1.3734042