Microplastics describes the totality of all synthetic plastics and its allied products which come in anything that is smaller than 5mm and which are directly or indirectly released or formed in the environment. Some of them have been formed by breaking away from bigger plastic chunks that have been dismantled or fragmented over a period of time.
Debris that comes out of tyres etc. Likewise in the case of cosmetic microbeads used in facial scrubs. The list of consumer and commercial products with the intentionally added microplastics is beyond imagination. Right from detergents, paints, cosmetics, medicines, pesticides etc. Over a period of time these tiny particles clog and flood into our environment.
Types of Microplastics
Type A — Microbeads, Abrasives, Polymer
Type B — Fibre Abrasion, Tyre
Weathering of Microplastics in the Environment. Microplastics do not just contaminate the ocean. These microplastics use winds as a carrier and fill our lungs when we breathe. The alarming rate at which sources of freshwater and our food has been damaged by microplastics is unimaginable. The health impact of tiny bits of plastic gathering in the lungs, liver, and brain is yet to be fully documented but I guess by the time a holistic exercise is completed it might well be too late.
Stopping the spread of microplastic pollution begins with holding companies accountable that produce and use plastics. This undoubtedly requires government action and strict penalties because companies show no signs of slowing down their plastic production. In the meantime, there are small things you can do in your own life to limit microplastic pollution.
Shop local: When possible, shop local rather than through delivery services like Flipkart or Amazon that use a lot of plastic for packaging.
Public transport: Use public transport instead of a car because that will overall limit the tyre erosion and plastic pollution.
Natural materials: Ensure that the garments that you purchase are made out of natural materials like cotton, wool, silk are organic in nature
Discard your microwave oven: Plastic containers leach plastics when heated and this also includes the so called plastic containers that are labelled microwave safe
Cosmetics: Buy only plastic free cosmetics brands or buy brand which are cruelty free because these brands are more likely to be socially conscious of their actions as compared to the MNCs
Glitter: Avid crafters and young kids usually use glitter. Most glitter is made from polyethylene terephthalate or polyvinyl chloride film which are both very hard to dispose of and end up in the environment as microplastics
Wet wipes: Baby wipes, hand wipes, and makeup wipes are typically made up of various “poly” products or a mixture of these plastics and other fibres
Teabags: Teabags are not entirely biodegradable. Most tea bags are made from paper, but a small amount of plastic is still used to seal them shut in the mesh. This a plastic skeleton breaks down into tiny pieces when the paper breaks down in compost or soil
Stop using single use plastics: Most of the plastic eventually breaks down into microplastics. Simple things to reduce your interaction with plastic – Buy reusable water bottles, multi use or steel straws, tote bags for groceries and food shopping. Always buy fresh food and bulk items at the grocery store
Install additional filters: Add additional filters in your washing machine that can catch microplastics from your existing garments
Reduce dust and vacuum daily: Close to 40% of dust particles around the home is made up of microplastics and therefore that amount can be reduced by ensuring your home is fresh and clean at all times
(The author is India’s First Water Sommelier and Managing Partner at Zero Percent India Pvt Ltd)
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