Microplastics are plastic debris that are smaller than 5 millimeters. Microplastics can originate from large plastic piece that degrade to smaller ones. In addition to this, one very common microplastic is microbeads. They are small polyurethane plastic beads that are used in beauty products such as facial exfoliants.
Affects On Marine Life
The small size of microplastics make them easily mistakable for fish and other sea animals to mistake them for small fish, plankton, or seaweed. This ingestion can cause both and physical and chemical consequences for the animal. Physical consequences include blockages and internal injuries. physical consequences are the toxic chemicals from the plastic leaching out into the animal during digestion. This can cause decreases in growth, block the digestive tract, alter feeding behavior, reduce reproduction, and even cause death.
How Microplastics Are Affecting Us As Humans
Scientists have found microplastics in 114 species so far, and nearly half of those, end up on our dinner plate. With Between 5 million and 14 million tons of plastic flowing into our oceans every year, it is no surprise that the numbers of species affected is rapidly growing. Chemicals in the plastic that leach into the animal can be directly transmitted to us if eaten. Some of these chemicals are considered endocrine disruptors. They interfere with normal hormone function and can cause weight gain. Other compounds that cling to plastics may interfere with brain development in fetuses and young children and cause cancer and birth defects.
It is said by scientists that more definite and long term conclusions will be found in 5 to 10 years time. By then, at least 25 million more tons of plastic will flow into our oceans.
A Call To Action- What you can Do
The amount of trash and plastic in the ocean might seem quite overwhelming to most. It may seem that it is impossible that you can make a change that would be noticeable. That is not true. Small changes you can easily make in everyday life can have a large impact on the environment.
Tips- 1. Sort your plastics as efficiently as possible for recycling 2. Use recyclable bags and pouches 3. Avoid single use plastics such as plastic cutlery, straws, coffee stirrers etc. 4. Avoid plastic packaging whenever possible 5. Clean up after yourself. Refrain from leaving waste on the beach, in nature, and outside 6. Do not launch balloons or lanterns into the sky. Sea turtles easily mistake these for their main source of food, jellyfish.