What are Microplastics?
Microplastics are particles of plastic smaller than 5mm in size. These tiny pieces of plastic have been found on the top of Mount Everest and in the depths of the Mariana Trench. Their effects are still being studied, but we do know that 15.5 million tons of them litter the ocean floor.
How are microplastics created?
As plastics slowly break down due to radiation from the sun, scratching up against hard surfaces, or changes in temperature, they become microplastics and can end up in our oceans, bodies, and forests. Microplastics are also created when polymer-based materials (like polyester) shed in the laundry. The Plastic Soup Foundation estimates that up to 35% of plastic pollution in our oceans comes from microfibers shed by synthetic fabrics.
Are microplastics “sustainable”?
No, definitely not. Due to their small size, microplastics can physically enter the bloodstream, and if they get small enough, they can even penetrate and enter the cells in your body. They can cause cell damage, endocrine disruption, and act as a breeding ground for germs. Microplastics pollute the ocean and can disrupt the digestion of marine animals, too.
What kind of products produce microplastics?
There are two types of microplastics: primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are plastics that are intentionally tiny by design, like microbeads that act as exfoliating agents in soaps, body washes, and cosmetics. Secondary microplastics are the result of bigger plastics - everything from trash bags to sponges to packaging - degrading over time. And as you wash your polymer-based textiles, they release microplastics, too.