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Microplastics? Not fantastic!
What are microplastics?
Microplastics are plastic pieces that measure less than five millimetres across. Some microplastics have formed by breaking away from larger plastics that have fragmented over time – think debris from tyre wear. Others have been made small intentionally, for example, cosmetic microbeads used in facial scrubs. In this guide, we will discuss the impact of microplastics on the environment and suggest six ways businesses can address the issue.
Why care about microplastics?
Microplastics have now been found all over the planet from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from the peak of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Although we do not currently understand all the environmental impacts of microplastics we do know that they are causing harm to marine life by accumulating in respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, causing blockages which have been linked to an increase in mortality rate. Because plastics degrade slowly (often over hundreds or thousands of years), microplastics have a high probability of ingestion, incorporation into, and accumulation in the bodies and tissues of many organisms. The toxic chemicals that come from both the ocean and land runoff can bind to microplastics and bio-accumulate up the food chain. In terrestrial ecosystems, microplastics have been demonstrated to reduce the viability of soil ecosystems and reduce the weight of earthworms. They help illustrate the reach of human pollution and remind us that we all must take steps to reduce our impact on the environment.
6 ways to tackle the issue of microplastics
1. Check the tech
One of the greatest sources of microplastics is laundry where a single garment can release more than 1900 microplastic fibres. There is now new technology that can greatly reduce this by adding a simple filter to the output of washing machines and tumble dryers. Here’s an example of a unit you could install in your business.
2. Flush the toiletries
Another great way to reduce microplastics is to be mindful of the products you use. One of the worst offenders of microplastic pollution is cosmetic products that contain microbead exfoliators. Although these products have been banned in many countries, they are still legal in some places. Consider checking any stock of toiletries you may have and appropriately disposing of any containing microbeads.
3. Reduce single-use
Cutting down on all plastic (especially single-use plastics) is a great way to reduce microplastics as they are formed by almost all types of plastics and can be ingested easily while consuming food and drink from plastic containers. Recent studies detected microplastics in human blood for the first time, with scientists finding the tiny particles in almost 80% of the people tested.
4. Increase awareness
Staff training and awareness are key to cutting down on microplastics. Once staff are aware, they can help employ the measures to reduce microplastic pollution such as air-drying clothes, bringing fabric bags or backpacks while shopping, asking for paper instead of plastic bags, buying plastic-free cosmetics, regularly dusting and vacuuming, and many more.
5. Go natural
Another great way to reduce microplastic pollution is to replace synthetic fabrics with natural alternatives such as cotton or wool. Although this is not always possible, choosing products that contain the smallest percentage of synthetic fibres will go a long way to reducing microplastics.
6. Communicate your commitment
Promote your commitment to reducing microplastics on your social media channels. By sharing your journey in reducing microplastics you help spread awareness of the issue and communicate your business’ commitment to sustainability.
For more information on microplastics, see:
28/09/2023 Nine ways your business can do more to avoid, reduce, reuse, and recycle waste
25/09/2023 Our Green Story: Sheepdrove - Bringing Back Nature to a Downland Farm
07/08/2023 Microplastics? Not fantastic!
03/08/2023 Our Green Story: Vakanananu Retreat, Fiji