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What are micro plastics, where do micro plastics come from and what you can do about it



Microplastics are extremely small particles of plastic waste as a result of breakdown of larger pieces. Nowadays these are commonly found in our seas, rivers, oceans, the air we breathe and even human blood. Yeah, you read that right. Microplastics have now found their way even into our bloodstreams… and as if finding out what microplastics are, it is even scarier to find out where they come from. They are literally everywhere.


Thankfully, microplastics have now been subjected to debates of the World Health Organisation (WHO) due to the fact how easy they are to digest and how harmful they are… Despite studies confirming that in theory, we should pass things straight through our gut and out the other end… But here we are, in 2022, with studies detecting microplastics in human blood… of 80% of study's participants!

BIGGEST SOURCES OF MICROPLASTIC POLLUTION

According to A Verschoor, et al. 2014, the largest source of microplastic pollution is single use plastic packaging and disposable products… which doesn’t even surprise me... with the throw away society we live in. Secondary sources were fibres from textiles, dust from construction places and agricultural plastic. The study confirms that the largest source of microplastic pollution in our waterways originated from sewage, identifying shedding of synthetic clothing in washing machines as the main cause... something we most certainly don't talk about enough.

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR EXPOSURE TO MICROPLASTICS


1. Stop storing food in plastic

Many of us heard about harmful effect heating of plastic has on our health. But more and more studies have shown that sometimes all it takes for it to travel is... just the contact. The longer your food or drink has contact with plastic, the more it will transfer… and not necessary due to the heat. Therefore best way to reduce direct consumption of microplastics is replacing plastic containers with other materials such as glass, metal or silicone.


2. Stop consumption of fish (micro plastic in fish is a real problem)

More and more studies show alarming data on how polluted our oceans are. And the more fish we consume, the more more microplastic we are exposed to. Because of the complexity of the topic, I would highly recommend Netflix documentary called “Seaspiracy”. It has blown my mind and it will blow yours too. Not sure what to replace fish with? There are so many delicious plant based alternatives that will make sure you won’t notice the difference.


3. Filter your water

I couldn’t skip this one. Whilst I’m all for reducing our waste, I would not recommend simply going to the tap. Definitely not as a long term solution. Investing in a good water filter is a must for me. At the moment I opt for Brita as I have not found any equally good replacements. I’m definitely considering purchasing a commercial water filter in the future, but until then, Brita has to be enough.

HOW TO STOP CONTRIBUTING TO MICROPLASTICS POLLUTION

Now that we know what microplastics are, where they come from, we should chat about the ways we can all reduce our contribution to this problem.


Most obvious one would be to stop using single use plastic all together, but there is a lot more to it. Changing the way we shop, travel, wash our clothes… Changing the way we live entirely might be unrealistic and overwhelming… But we must remember that this is not about being perfect, but doing best we can and collectively contributing to better future.


With this in mind, here is the list of 4 things you can do right now to make a difference:


1. Switch from synthetic materials to natural ones.

Such simple solution yet so powerful. By simply changing fabrics we wear, we could reduce our microfibre production by whooping 35%!! according to Nature. I’m going to write a separate blog post about all the tips I have, but for now let’s just focus on timeless materials that I love and you will too:


COTTON- most of clothes in my wardrobe are cotton, I tend to opt for organic one (which will massively reduce your exposure to toxins and is a lot more sustainable to produce)


LINEN- an amazing must have for any summer wardrobe. Whilst not the cheapest, I usually opt for some second hand pieces- thrifting is such life saver.


TENCEL- my current obsession. Any piece of clothing I happen to own, seems to be undestroyable. It is so soft, yet durable and so worth the investment. Whilst I usually opt for second hand thrifting, more personal pieces such as underwear are of course new. My absolute favourite has been HUHA. Made entirely from tencel, they are just such good quality. These are definitely pieces that I grab first after each wash.

2. Stop microplastic coming out of your washing machine

If there are any synthetic materials you still need, I would highly recommend purchasing a washing bag which has been designed to stop micro plastics from travelling to our waterways. It is as simple as placing a synthetic material piece inside the bag before the wash. Whilst this is not the final solution, it has been shown to reduce micro plastic shredding significantly.

3. Opt for package free shopping

Whilst we might not be able to avoid this entirely, reducing the amount of plastic we throw away can make a big difference. Opt for loose produce, bring your own bag or reusable water bottle. If purchasing produce plastic free is not an option where you live, try to opt for less packaging. For example, instead of buying small packets of crisps, purchase larger size bag. Purchasing pasta? Opt for a cardboard packaging with a single plastic window instead of entire product wrapped in plastic.

4. Make best use of plastics you already own

Avoiding single use plastic is great but what about the plastic we already own? Best and most sustainable thing would be to keep it until it can no longer serve the purpose and then replace it with more eco-friendly alternatives. If you happen to already having to use plastic bag, bread bag with plastic window or freezer bag, simply let it serve the purpose a couple more times before you dispose it.

I hope this blog post brought some clarity and you have found the answers to the questions on what microplastics are, where they come from, how to filter them and reduce your exposure in long run. Whilst I would encourage you to take action and aim for reduction, please remember that nobody can be perfect and small acts collectively really add up.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Hey, I'm Nicole.

... and I'm so glad you are here.

I created the Sustainable Collective to initially document my sustainable living journey as well as provide some inspiration for others (and of course myself!). Now I'm trying to share what I learnt and I sincerely hope you will find it useful.

 

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