Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic that pollute the environment. Microplastics are not a specific kind of plastic, but rather any type of plastic fragment that is less than 5 mm in length according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric.
Are Microplastics harmful?
There is concern that microplastics could have adverse health effects on humans as they move through the marine food web. Microplastics both absorb and give off chemicals and harmful pollutants. Plastic’s ingredients or toxic chemicals absorbed by plastics may build up over time and stay in the environment.
We know that we have written several missives on human-induced devastation of the marine ecosystem. Right from the ocean warming up, danger at coastlines, depleting kelps, falling oxygen levels or an ongoing clean–up project.
But is it ever enough? The damage seems higher than anyone can cover.
Try to imagine underwater dunes. There’s a catch though, these are not made of sand, but plastic.
Humans dump around five to twelve million tonnes of plastic pieces annually in oceans, mostly through rivers. The researchers at the University of Manchester have identified the highest level of microplastic (smaller than 1mm) ever recorded on the seafloor. In fact, various studies in the past two years show that plastic remains are present in the deepest parts of the oceans.
Researchers have also tracked deep-sea currents and demonstrated how these currents act like “conveyor belts” to transport microplastics across the seafloor.
Scientists have found plastic waste of 1.9 million pieces of synthetic microfibers per square metre in the Mediterranean sea. Just imagine – Around two million small plastic pieces in an area of 1-metre length * 1-metre width. Unbelievably dense and micro pieces! Needless to say, this is fatal for marine life that can ingest countless such microplastics.
These tiny fragments are formed by the breakdown of larger objects over time. Further investigations lead the scientists to believe that such microplastics are concentrated in specific locations on the ocean floor by powerful bottom currents. These powerful currents build what are called drift deposits, or simply a hotspot (relate it with corona hotspot).
We have heard of the infamous ocean ‘garbage patches’ of floating plastic. The ‘garbage-patches’ have been widely researched for a long time. But researchers were surprised at their findings i.e. plastic travelled right to the depths of the sea, that too in such high concentrations.
Nevertheless, to put the matter at hand into perspective, the visible floating plastic accounts for less than one percent of the ocean’s total plastic. The other ninety-nine percent live in the deep ocean or have already been consumed by animals. The new study can helps us in explaining how that microplastic remains ended up there in the form of dunes. Its now a serious concern to act.
Few Quick steps to reduce Plastic/Microplastics in Environment:
Avoid Plastic Waste
1. Never leave any waste on the street, in nature, on the beach.
2. Avoid pre-packed fast food or dispose of the packaging in the waste bin.
3. Only put your waste bags on the street just before the waste truck arrives.
4. Do not launch balloons at a party.
5. Clean up plastic waste if you find it.
6. Sort your plastic waste as efficiently as possible.
7. Use reusable bags and pouches.
8. Avoid the use of plastic disposable material.
9. Avoid plastic packaging.
10. Do not buy water in plastic bottles.
11. Drive less by car and choose a lightweight car.
12. Avoid plastic micro beads in personal care products.
13. Avoid synthetic clothing and/or buy a filter for your washing machine.
14. Be careful with paint.
Interestingly, if 1% visible plastic could lead us to famous anti-straw and anti-plastic bag movements, let’s see what 99% microplastic can onsets.
Lets join hands to protect our environment to tackle its, harsh impacts.