When we mention “plastic in oceans”, many people may relate it to the plastic trash left on the beach or floating in the oceans. Plastic trash can be seen virtually everywhere on every beach at any time worldwide. As plastic pollution is produced and found everywhere and, it has become a global problem. Many may suppose that the issue of plastic trash in the oceans is not as pressing as other environmental issues since we do not drink water directly from the sea and we do not live in the oceans like the marine wildlife. However, few of us know that the visible plastic pollutants are only part of the plastic pollutant family, namely “Marine Debris”. Marine debris can be “any manufactured or processed solid waste material that enters the marine environment from any source” (“The Problem With Marine Debris”). Which is consisted of three different types of plastic debris including micro debris, meso debris, and macro debris according to size (“Plastic Trash in the Oceans”). The plastic garbage we understand in common sense should fall into the category of macro debris and meso debris while the impacts of micro plastic pollutants are usually overlooked.
Besides trash dumped by fishing industries, pleasure and cargo ships, eighty percent of trash ends up in the oceans are created by human activities such as litter from beachgoers, industrial discharges, improper garbage management, and most surprisingly – the use of personal care products. Here is how you may contribute to poisoning the oceans every day: when you wake up every morning and walk into your bathroom, you are probably washing your face or brushing your teeth with plastic microbeads. These tiny plastic beads used in face and body scrubs and toothpaste are directly washed into the drain and in our water systems, where they harm our waterways and the animals that live there (“Campaigns”). This is the one of the most dangerous pollutants and we are creating them every single day. The micro plastic particles absorb the persistent pollutants and are consumed by a variety of marine life, including the fish we harvest for food (“Campaigns”).
According to recent research and studies, an estimate of 268,000 metric tons of plastic debris plastic and 5.25 trillions of micro plastic particles are floating in the oceans worldwide; marine debris has already imposed great safety and health hazards on human beings (“Campaigns”). In a broader perspective, plastic, to our surprise, also exists in the form of micro plastic particles which cannot be seen with the naked eye; it “endangered marine wildlife and their aquatic habitats, impacts the health and safety of human beings, costs local and national economies million dollars in wasted resources, and lost revenues” (“The Problem With Marine Debris ”).
Until today, we are still living in a fantasy that the vast ocean can thin out any trash or pollutants dumped in and then we can continue consuming plastics without worries. However, studies and numerous real stories have shown us that we need to redefine the tolerance of the ocean against plastic pollutants and start facing the critical problem.
How do we identify any products contain microbeads and how we can help the micro-plastic pollution.
A Look at the Research
Corley, Cheryl. “Why Those Tiny Microbeads In Soap May Pose Problem For Great Lakes Corley, Cheryl. “Why Those Tiny Microbeads In Soap May Pose Problem For Great Lakes.” NPR. NPR, 21 May 2014. Web. 31 May 2015.
This article describes that the microbeads used in personal care products such as exfoliants and soap acan slop through water treatment plants and be washed down to the oceans and, now Great Lakes. These microbeads look like food can be mistaken eaten by organisms living under the water, and they are making their way into food web. The article provides industry exploring alternatives to replace these microbeads since they are not the essential parts of cleansing products. Banning microbeads in consumer products is an important first step and there is a long way to go in order to get rid of them. The article relates readers with Great Lakes and even other waterways they feel closer to their lives. And banning microbeads have been passed in some states already. The experts in the article makes the source convincing.
MacNeil, Sean. “Bloom’s Ban on Plastic Microbeads Passes California Assembly.” Santa Monica Daily Press. Santa Monica Daily Press, 25 May 2015. Web. 31 May 2015.
|It is a very recent news that Ban on plastic microbeads has been passed on May 25 2015 in California. This progress makes readers see more organizations and states, even legislation are supporting this ban.|
Fendall, Lisa S., and Mary A. Sewell. “Contributing to marine pollution by washing your face: Microplastics in facial cleansers.” Marine Pollution Bulletin 58.8 (2009): 1225-1228
Plastics pollution in the ocean is an area of growing concern, with research efforts focusing on both the macroplastic (>5 mm) and microplastic (
How to Get Involved
Plastics are entering the marine environment from a large variety of sources. Do your best to minimize your plastic consumption and try to ensure that little of it gets into the environment. Here are a few suggestions:
-Be a conscious consumer! For example, switch to bars of soap, cosmetics, and personal care products free of microbeads. The good news is that several companies are committing to phasing them out over the next few years. Several states are considering bans, and there is federal legislation under consideration (The Microbead-Free Waters Act). With all of these efforts, hopefully finding microbead-free products will get easier! Also pay attention to what your clothing is made of and buy materials that will not break down into microplastics.
– Support the petition for banning microbeads (www.5gyres.com
– Don’t litter! If you see plastic litter, pick it up and dispose of it.
-Ditch the bottled water and carry a reusable water bottle.
-Use glass food containers and reusable fabric lunch bags to transport your food between school/work and home.