The Plastics are Everywhere

Plastics are everywhere. They are in our clothes, our furniture, our cars, our cutlery and dinnerware, and our bodies. A recent study by Orb Media found that plastics exist in the tap water of our largest cities, with 80% of samples from five continents testing positive for the presence of plastic fibers. 94% of samples in the U.S. contained microplastics. While many of us have heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch, we may not have realized that microplastics are so pervasive that we likely consume them many times a day.

For those wondering if this is an issue – it is. Plastics are known to absorb toxic chemicals linked to numerous serious illnesses, and these substances release into an organism that consumes the plastic. Sources for these plastics are varied. Synthetic clothing loses microfibers during washing, tire’s release plastic dust, paints and microbeads breakdown in water, and disposable plastics fragment over time.

Image from JPI Oceans, an intergovernmental platform to address plastic pollution.

Plastics last for thousands of years, and our current capacity gives little hope for removal of microplastics from our water. However, there are technologies that present hope for future remediation efforts. In the meantime, we must focus on reducing our plastic usage to prevent further deterioration of water and further pervasiveness of microplastics in human bodies.

So what can be done? First, plastic can be used as an energy source through a variety of methods. This “waste-to-energy” method constituted a $20bn industry in 2015. Second, we must focus on the three R’s-Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Only by limiting our reliance on single-use plastics and reducing overall plastic use can we prevent further microplastic pervasiveness. Third, we need to embrace technologies and materials that allow for the phasing out of synthetic materials containing plastics. Fourth, we must reduce individual household plastic use.

Although consumers play a role in each of these four solutions, the final step is where you can make the biggest impact. Buy less plastic. Buy less synthetic materials. When you must buy plastics and synthetics, recycle and reuse as much as possible. Finally, search for products, like the Cora Ball, that catch microplastics and synthetic fibers released during the laundry process. Every reduction of plastic makes a drastic difference for our future.

To read more about Orb Media’s investigation and findings, click here.