Tiny particles of plastic waste called microplastics resulting from the breakdown of grocery bags, water bottles and even the fibres of certain synthetic clothing are making their way into our landfills and more importantly large bodies of water such as oceans and Great Lakes.
According to research compiled for the UN’s International Maritime Organization, this infiltration of plastic debris into our waterways poses a huge risk for ocean and aquatic life such as fish. It is currently unclear as to if microplastics are dangerous to human life when ingested through drinking water or eating fish but it is the contaminants they carry which seem to be of a particular concern. Microplastics can be carriers of various toxins and contaminants.
National Geographic recently reported that while Asia manufactures up to half of the world’s plastics, the amount recycled globally is less than one fifth. The bigger question might be how much of the water pollution caused by microplastics is called by the consumption, usage and recycling habits of humans. While legislation is moving towards drafting a ban against microbeads in Canada, it does not adequately address the issue of microplastics. However, Canadians can advocate for the Government to create a “New Plastics Economy” – that would change the way that we use plastic.
While the Canadian government is gradually making progress on the issue of plastic pollution by honing in first on microbeads, a German duo have founded a product called Guppy Friend which is a solution to microplastics released during the process of washing synthetic clothing. The making of such a product shows that green entrepreneurship can be a tool for affirmative action towards protecting the environment. Apart from entrepreneurship, there are also several other ways in which anyone can take a stand to prevent microplastics in our water.
Please discuss ways in which you can take action using some of the questions outlined below.
What are microplastics?
How are microplastics affecting our waterways? What contaminants do they carry?
Does it make sense to place government regulations around plastics and why?
Knowing what you know now about microplastics, would you use plastic bags, buy bottled water or wear synthetic clothing? Please give a reason for your answer.
What can you do in your own community to prevent microplastics from getting in our water?