“91% of plastic wasn’t recycled in 2018”( National Geographic , 2018)
Plastic waste continues to be a concern for our world. Watersystems, wildlife and city streets are continually littered with plastic that is causing problems now and will remain for generations ahead of us. Our demand for single use and virgin plastics still causes an influx that can’t be managed acceptably to save the environment. In a new study, we can see how other plastics are now causing damage.
Human health and marine health are at a higher risk than previously thought due to plastic waste in the Atlantic Ocean. The U.K.’s National Oceanography Centre confirmed that the level of microplastics was 10 times higher than it was previously estimated in the higher levels of the Atlantic. 12 to 21 million tonnes of microscopic plastic particles were found in the top 200 metres from the three most commonly used plastics - Polyethylene, Polypropylene and Polystyrene.
‘Microplastics have been detected in marine organisms from plankton to whales, in commercial seafood, and even in drinking water.’
(National Geographic, 2019)
A plastic particle smaller than 5 millimeters is considered a microplastic. They come from many sources of plastic as they begin to degrade and break down. Microbeads are also an increasing contributor to plastic pollution in water. They’re made of Polyethylene and found in many personal care products like face washes, make up and toothpastes. The term microplastic was formed in 2004 but the negative consequences still were relatively unknown up to 2012.
In 2015, Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act that prohibited the use of microbeads in personal care products in the United States. The deadline for stopping the manufacture of these items was July 2017.
In an attempt to reduce plastic pollution by 400,00 tonnes in 2019, the EU proposed a ban on polluting microplastics. However, any ban on microbeads could breach EU free trade law. Currently no EU countries have been able to enforce a reduction or ban on harmful plastics that pollute waterways.
‘Blue Planet II may not have caused a change in plastic preference’
(The Independent, 2020)
In 2017 David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II raised awareness for the detrimental consequences of plastic in the oceans. The phrase ‘Blue Planet effect’ was coined as it looked promising that viewers were likely to reduce their plastic consumption. Unfortunately, new studies now show that this did not translate into affecting our use of single use plastics. Although positively raising environmental awareness and educating viewers on marine conservation, the excitement for change didn’t result in what the world needed.
With new studies continuing to show the effects of plastic continuing to cause problems, the environment is putting pressure on us for change. More and more activists are raising awareness and Free-Water acts will soon be able to show how change is possible. Microplastics are still a huge problem, if consumers change their purchasing habits and consider the life cycle of their products a change can begin to happen.