The term “microplastics” has become a common buzzword in the sustainability world. As we learn more about microplastics and the impact to human and environmental health, scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the prevalence of these nearly microscopic plastics. Let’s take a look at what microplastics are, the impacts they are making, and why this could be the next massive environmental problem to tackle.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics are just what the name implies - tiny pieces of plastic. They are defined as 5 mm wide or smaller, often hardly visible to the naked eye. Microplastics can be intentionally minuscule plastics that are found in many beauty and personal care products to create texture or exfoliation effects (also called primary microplastics) or can be the result of plastics breaking down over time (called secondary microplastics). Microplastics are so small that they can pass undetected through waterways and water treatment facilities, leading to a build-up of plastic particles in our waterways without proper channels to adequately filter them out.
Why are microplastics dangerous?
Imagine you’ve just been sent a replacement credit card in the mail with a new expiration date, and instead of tossing your old credit card in the trash can, you ate the whole thing.
This sounds pretty gross, but (absurdly) it’s not far from the truth. Through medical studies, microplastics have been found throughout the human body, including the lungs, bloodstream, and even in embryos in-utero. Scientists are still conducting research to determine the extent of impact on human health, but due to the already strong evidence of damage to aquatic life, it’s likely the findings will not be benign.
What we do know is that microplastics have had a direct impact on our planet, and in particular, our aquatic ecosystems. Marine organisms often mistake these tiny pieces of plastic for food, which causes internal damage and can even lead to death when ingested. Microplastics have been detected in the fish that end up on our dinner plate. It’s no wonder that as we learn more about the impact of microplastics, we become more concerned for their long-terms impacts on our planet and our own human health.
What can we do about microplastics?
Plastic appears everywhere in our daily lives, from the food we eat and the water bottles we drink out of, to the products we use everyday and even the fabrics we clothe ourselves with. All these different types of plastics break down over time, causing microplastic shedding. While a chunk of the world’s plastic use (such as industrial fishing nets and sterilized medical equipment) is out of most of our daily control, there’s still much we can do to reduce our microplastics impact. To reduce our microplastics usage, the best thing we can do is minimize the amount of plastic we use every day. Here are some starter ideas for reducing your plastic intake:
Replace plastic water bottles with reusable metal water bottles, or even opt for single-use canned water.
When grocery shopping, purchase items in bulk when possible, or from the package-free aisle of natural grocery stores. Opt for unpackaged fresh produce rather than choosing that half of a watermelon wrapped in feet of plastic film.
Purchase from local shops that prioritize minimizing plastic packaging.
Be mindful of the clothing you purchase, and choose natural fiber fabrics whenever possible.
Remember that microplastics have become so prevalent due to large corporations’ disregard for current environmental research as well - this won’t be solved by just one of two of us making a switch. Our plastic problem is a systemic one, and thus needs action from the industry and corporate levels more than anything. Voting for representatives who will advocate for environmental and human health, and making your voice heard to massive corporations about their dependence on plastics are other great tools to enact change.
Shop Plastic-Free With Us!
At Summit Sustainable Goods, we take extra steps while vetting products to ensure that all our zero waste household care and personal care products are truly environmentally friendly and plastic-free. No microplastics here! None of our products will go home with you in plastic packaging, and we work with our suppliers to make sure there is as little plastic as possible used from the back-end shipping side of our business. It’s just another way we live into our values of being as environmentally and ethically conscious as possible.
Where can you find our curated selection of high quality and sustainable products? You know we’ve got you covered! Check out our website at www.summitsustainablegoods.eco or visit us at a local pop-up around town. (Info available through our website or socials.) Want to follow our journey and learn about future zero waste events and happenings? Adventure with us by signing up for our email list or follow us on Instagram or Facebook to keep up-to-date on all things Summit.