Many of us underestimate the sheer scale of the issue with plastics in our oceans. Maybe it’s because the vast majority of us don’t live in coastal areas to see the problem physically worsen, or maybe we’re simply turning a blind eye to it, because it’s the easiest thing to do. But the reality is this: in 32 years, in 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than there is fish.
Just let that sink in. Has it sunk in yet? No? Well neither has the plastic. There’s 269,000 tons of the stuff floating on the surface of our precious oceans, and this is only going to worsen as our population grows. But the biggest issue lies in the deepest crevices of our oceans, as well inside the digestive systems of our marine life. Microplastics. A microplastic is defined as a piece of plastic smaller than 5mm, and the problem has escalated to the point where there are more microplastics in the earth’s oceans than there are stars in the milky way.
It might be difficult to picture where all this comes from, and the sheer number of products that contain microplastics may surprise you. For example, they can be found in face and body exfoliators, shampoo, toothpaste, eyeliner and sun cream. So basically, just the entire contents of your bathroom. The main issue with the origins and products of these microplastics is that so many of these products are used daily. Shampoo, shower gel and eyeliner could easily be part of millions of peoples every day routine, and once it all washes off, they go right down the drain, so small that they can easily bypass standard water filter systems. This means they can get through the entire water system, through the rivers, into the ocean, and directly into the digestive systems of our marine life. In fact, it’s got to the point where more than 50% of all turtles on the planet have consumed plastic.
So, what are you going to do about it? Well, you could start by making a difference yourself by reducing your microplastic/microbead usage in your own home. But how do I know what products have microbeads in them, I hear you ask. One way you could do this is to use websites such as www.beatthemicrobead.org. This site has an excellent feature where it gives you a list of products rated either red, orange or green. The red list features products that have commonly been found to contain microbeads, orange contains products whose relative companies have promised to phase out microbeads, and the green list contains products that don’t include any of the main 5 microplastics, which are: Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Polyethylene terephthalate, Polymethyl methacrylate, and Nylon. However, whilst these products don’t contain microbeads, some of these products may contain other types of microplastics, which is why there is another list, branded by the “look for the zero” logo which is a list of products that don’t contain any of the 67 checked microplastics, and has been verified by their producers.
So, equipped with this handy list, you should be able to venture into your local supermarket, to embark upon your quest to defeat the evil villain that is microplastic pollution. Let’s just hope that the rest of the soldiers on our planet turn up too.