What are Microplastics?

Plastics are a type of polymer material which has unique properties and is easy to manufacture. These qualities make it one of the most widely used material in the world. Since plastic does not decompose biologically, and cannot be recycled, plastic eventually ends up in landfills or waterways, especially in places where waste is poorly managed. These plastic waste products can break down due to physical influences and environmental effects into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. This results in the formation of microplastics which are defined as fragments of plastic smaller than 5 mm in length. Microplastics that form in the above manner are known as secondary microplastics. Primary microplastics are those that are already smaller than 5 mm before entering the environment. They are manufactured for specific purposes and are often included in cosmetic products and cleaning agents. This is especially dangerous as cosmetics and cleaning agents are often mixed with water and washed off, resulting in the microplastics entering the environment potentially untreated. Microplastics can enter the bodies of humans and animals and potentially be a health hazard. Proper management of waste is crucial in protecting the environment from dangerous substances in our waste. Experienced waste management service providers such as Cleaning services Perth would treat the waste and dispose of it responsibly.

Sources of Microplastics

Some cosmetic products use microplastics as exfoliating agents instead of natural exfoliants. Once used, the microplastic beads are washed along with wastewater and can enter the soil or natural waterways. These are commonly found in face washes, soaps, and other personal care products. Their small size allows them to bypass primary treatment screens at treatment plants and potentially enter the ocean.

Microplastic beads are manufactured for various industrial uses. Mishandling and accidents while transportation over land or water allows these microplastic beads to enter the environment directly. Accidents during transport over sea can result in multiple tons of microplastics entering the ocean.

Clothing made of synthetic fibres can shed microplastic fragments when they are being washed.

The fishing industry also contributes to this issue as fishing nets are made of plastic, which can deteriorate under the rough conditions in the open ocean. This results in microplastic fragments directly entering the ocean.

Health Effects

Microplastics are extremely durable and can withstand biological and chemical processes. They are also able to bypass most physical screening treatments due to their small size. Microplastic fragments are known to persist in the digestive systems of animals across the food chain and eventually reach even humans. The consumption of fish or other animals who may have previously consumed microplastics either directly or by consuming another organism which did so is the primary pathway for microplastics into the human body. They can accumulate inside the body as they made not be fully excreted. The long-term health effects of microplastics are not fully understood, but many western nations have taken steps to eliminate their usage. The United States have made the use of plastic microbeads illegal, although other countries are yet to follow suit.