Microplastics are small plastic particles five millimeters or less in size. They come from commercial and product development and the breakdown of larger plastics. In addition, individuals and corporations have a hand in microplastics blanketing our planet.
Microplastics are small but mighty – and not in a good way. As tiny as these particles are, they can cause serious harm to our environment and our health. Let’s look at this in more detail below.
Why Microplastics are Such a Huge Issue
Small or not, plastic doesn’t break down. If you’re waiting for plastic to decompose, you’ll be waiting hundreds, probably thousands of years, for that process to complete, if it ever does. So that means plastic keeps breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces the more it’s handled and thrown around.
The dangerous thing about microplastics is that they’re known to absorb toxic chemicals and carry harmful bacteria, and are everywhere. Our marine ecosystems, in particular, are full of microplastics. When marine life consumes these particles, it can ruin their ability to eat, breathe, grow, and live.
In addition, microplastics are in the air. So, people inhale and eat them, whether they know it or not. When this happens, it could affect your health, causing damage to cells or inducing inflammation.
With these harmful effects in mind, solutions for reducing microplastics are necessary.
How Individuals Can Reduce Microplastics
Each of us can and should play a role in reducing microplastics. Here are three ideas to get you started reducing microplastic pollution on an individual level.
1. Rethink your water usage
Contrary to popular belief, reducing your water usage can positively impact your efforts to reduce microplastics in your home. Think about laundry, dishwashing, and single-use plastic water bottles.
The more single-use plastic water bottles you buy and use, the more microplastic you contribute, as those plastic bottles don’t decompose. So, reducing your use of single-use plastics and relying on reusable water bottles instead will have a great impact.
The dishwashing, the sponges, towels, and plastic dish soap bottles you throw away all contribute to higher levels of microplastics. If you’re doing dishes all the time, you can see how this can be harmful.
Instead, wait for full loads of dishes, use sponges and towels made of organic material, and find an alternative to plastic dish soap bottles.
Lastly, dryers can produce up to 40 times more microfibers than washing machines. Every time you wash a load of laundry, you’ve got to dry it, right? Reduce how much you wash, and you’ll reduce how much you dry, lowering the number of microplastics produced in the process.
2. Reduce, reuse, and recycle
Reduce, reuse, and recycle. This should be your mantra if you want to make reducing microplastics a priority.
Reducing your use of resources, reusing items, and recycling diligently will make you more mindful of the microplastics you’re producing and helps you live more sustainably – your mental and physical health will get better too. For example, your oxygen intake gets better, you aren’t exposed to harsh chemicals and toxins as often, and your mood and well-being improve.
3. Dust and vacuum often
As mentioned above, microplastics are everywhere, including the air you breathe. They’re floating around in your home and finding ways into your food. If you aren’t cleaning often, microplastics can stay in your home longer than you’d like.
So, dust, vacuum, sweep, mop, and clean regularly. You’ll be able to absorb microplastic particles and get rid of them so they aren’t lingering in your home.
How Businesses Can Reduce Microplastics
As critical as individual efforts are to reduce microplastics, corporations can also play a big role in this movement. Businesses should adopt these three practices to reduce microplastic pollution significantly.
1. Revisit your manufacturers
One of the first places corporations should look when they embark on a mission to reduce microplastics is their manufacturers. If you’re using manufacturers with systems, tools, and materials that produce tons of microfibers, you can’t genuinely be a part of the reduction movement.
Businesses should revisit their manufacturing relationships and determine their commitment to sustainability, particularly in reducing plastic use. If your manufacturers lack this commitment, it’s time to look for new ones.
Of course, building new relationships with manufacturers will take time, and there’s a process to fully transitioning to something new. But if you really want to make a difference with microplastics, you’ve got to take that time and engage in that process.
2. Create solid waste and recycling systems
Companies produce a lot of waste and items to recycle. Throwing away synthetic textiles or constantly recycling the single-use plastic water bottles you stock the employee fridge with can create the microplastics you’re trying to eliminate.
Just like individuals, businesses should have solid waste and recycling systems. Each employee should know what items to recycle, which to throw away, and where to do both in the building.
You should also have a regular recycle and waste pick-up schedule. It wouldn’t hurt to develop relationships with your recycling and waste people to learn more about how to reduce microplastics through how you handle your recycling and company waste.
3. Partner with organizations in the microplastic movement
One of the most direct ways corporations can contribute to reducing microplastics is to partner with organizations dedicated to this.
Many nonprofits are dedicated to reducing plastic pollution, such as Plastic Free Foundation, City to Sea, or Plastics for Change. You could even seek out enthusiasts or influencers to learn about more solutions for ridding the environment of microplastics.
There’s a whole lot that can be done about microplastics. But it’ll take an individual, business, and collective effort to completely rid our environment of them. You can start reducing microplastics today with the tips above.