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.

References:

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

Comments

Evening classmate, really liked your title as a play on words on ECON classes. That's what initially caught my attention, but what kept it is the revelation that microbeads in certain products are still legal in Canada. I seriously had to look it up to see if you were pulling my leg or not. I thought for sure they were banned because I remember not too long ago at my most recent visit to the dentist's that they told me to not use those toothpastes because they actually damaged your teeth and could get stuck in your gums, leading to further oral health complications down the road. I have no idea who thought it'd be genius to put them in toothpaste or beauty products, but they obviously weren't thinking, or thought, much like your title might imply that it would be a good marketing scheme. I can just see the commercials now; "The beads help scrub plaque off your teeth!", but I digress. The biggest problem with microplastics is that even though they soak up toxins, we still don't know the extent of the damage they can cause to the surrounding wildlife and humans. So using the precautionary principle like you're hinting at, I'd say you're right in that we should probably address it now before something other than biomagnification appears on our radar in relation to them and stress at least banning use of products with microbeads in them. Only time will tell what else will come of this.

Hello mohashi, great post. Initially, I was intrigued with your post by your clever title and was pleasantly interested on the subject throughout your assignment. Your suggestion to ultimately put a stop to creating all micro plastics puts this devastating concern into perspective. The massive amount of damage being caused globally is detrimental to various ecosystems and especially fish health, with the plastics associated ability to absorb toxins within the water body. Your addition of statistical information regarding the abundance of toxic micro plastic particles as well puts an effective representation in the reader’s head, allowing them to realize the detrimental results ahead in our future regarding the implications of micro plastics.

I thought that you grasped an accurate and effective way of presenting the results of micro plastics and the harmful implications resulting from them. Additionally, I completely agree with your statement of how at this point, it is up to everyone worldwide to reduce the use of micro plastics in the hopes of removal from our markets rather than the blame and duty to fall only on governmental figures. Again, great post mohashi.

Hey mohashi,

Very catchy and appropriate title! Microplastics are a relatively new issue for me to be hearing about and I believe that in the life cycle of an environmental issue it’s moving out of the spotlight; which is extremely unfortunate. The impacts you highlighted in your post are awful. I can’t even fathom 43 000 particles per square kilometre. The fact that this issue is being minimized so slowly is very concerning to me; why hasn’t Canada acted faster? I makes me sad to think about the animals unknowingly ingesting these plastics and in my own research of this topic, learned that these microplastics cause animals to feel full and essentially starves the unknowingly. I agree with you that this really does put life into perspective. We created this issue and need to make major steps to solve it. Overall, you made a great post highlighting these super unfortunate impacts and agree that this is a worldwide problem. Hopefully people can become aware of this issue and begin to put “face scrubbing beads” behind the safety of ecosystems.

Hello! Very interesting post! You’re title automatically caught my attention through the creative pun, very good job. You’re post was well written and was very relatable to read. Microplastics, I feel, is a topic that is currently in the pre-problem stage. The problem of microplastics or microbeads is a very uncommon discussion among society. For example, my roommate used Neutrogena face washes that contain hundreds of microbeads. It wasn’t until I told her that these beads are extremely hard to filter and end up in our oceans that made her change face washes. Much of society are in the ignorance or indeterminacy stage of uncertainty, either ignoring or lack of knowledge about microplastic. My question for you is: what implementations have to be put into place for both society and the state to realize this is a major impact on ecosystems?