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Invisible Polluters: The Issue of Microplastics and the Urgency to #BeatPlasticPollution

Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic, that depending on the size might only be visible through a microscope. Microplastics can be found almost everywhere on Earth. From Antarctica to the Arctic and everywhere in between, including the bottom of the ocean, in soil, air, and in our food.

“Schematic of the transport pathways of microplastics in the ocean”, National Academy of Sciences (2022), p.221.

Some of the microplastics are designed and manufactured for a specific purpose, and these are called primary microplastics. Yet, the largest portion of the microplastics has been degraded, through sunlight, wind, or abrasion from bigger pieces of plastic, such as food containers, bags, or fishing equipment, these are called secondary microplastics, (Yale University, n.d.). According to the National Academy of Sciences (2022), oil absorbents made of plastic are another source of secondary microplastics.


“Boom material used for oil absorption of oil spills is made of plastic compounds. As a result, once oiled, such booms may become another part of the plastics waste stream.”
- National Academy of Sciences (2022), p.220.

The issue with microplastics is that they harm wildlife and humans. When fish swallow the particles, it is fatal to the digestive system since the body cannot decompose them and because of the toxic chemicals. The substances accumulate and get carried up the food chain. Humans can take in microplastics by eating food that contains it, inhaling the particles, or from our drinking water, yet the effect on the human body is uncertain.

To reduce microplastics, many governments have implemented regulations on plastics, primarily single-use plastics, which are only made for a short period of use. For example, in 2021 EU implemented a ban on single-use plastics due to the issues with marine and land littering, (European Commission, n.d.). This year's topic for World Environment Day, by the UN Environment programme, was also to spread awareness about the issues with plastic pollution with the hashtag #BeatPlasticPollution (World Environment Day, n.d.). In addition, EPA has written a proposal to reduce plastic production and prevent trash (Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). Despite governmental organizations, companies have also put in measures to reduce plastic in their packaging, products, and overall use.

"World Environment Day 2023 is a reminder that people's actions on plastic pollution matters. The steps governments and businesses are taking to tackle plastic pollution are the consequence of this action. It is time to accelerate this action and transition to a circular economy. It is time to #BeatPlasticPollution."
- UN Environment Programme, (n.d).

As much of the absorbents for oil spill cleanups are made out of plastic for a short period of usage, the regulatory effects of the oil spill cleanup industry are yet to be seen. Green Boom is proud to be the only company that produces 100% biodegradable and non-plastic oil-only absorbents.



Sources:


Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Draft National Strategy to Prevent Plastic Pollution. Retrieved from: https://www.epa.gov/circulareconomy/draft-national-strategy-prevent-plastic-pollution


European Commission. (n.d.). EU Restrictions on Certain Single-Use Plastics. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from: https://environment.ec.europa.eu/topics/plastics/single-use-plastics/eu-restrictions-certain-single-use-plastics_en


National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2022). Oil in the Sea IV Inputs, Fates, and Effects.


World Environment Day. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2023, from: https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/


Yale University. (n.d.). Yale Experts Explain: Microplastics. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from: https://sustainability.yale.edu/explainers/yale-experts-explain-microplastics

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