Reducing microplastics and moving towards a circular economy
“Microplastics are rarely present without macroplastics”
Microplastics are generated both primarily, in which case the product already contains microplastics (eg. raw materials for 3D printing or cosmetics) and from the wear and tear of various materials, such as car tires and textiles (Setälä et al., 2017). A major source of microplastics is also plastic debris left in nature, which decomposes into smaller and smaller over time. In recent years, microplastics have been found especially in water bodies, where it has ended up in e.g. organisms and drinking water. However, it is still unclear exactly how microplastics affect humans, animals and plants.
Microplastics are solid, less than 5 mm. size plastic particles, consisting of polymers and plastic additives. A person gets 30-530 microparticle particles into their body every day, most of which is eliminated from the human body quite quickly. There is currently no evidence that microplastics are harmful to health. Plastic was first found at sea in the western North Atlantic in 1972: plastic pellets used for production and broken plastic were found among the plankton (Marcus Eriksen et al. 2017, 274). Microplastic is found in seas and oceans, but not only is it generated in the sea. Microplastic comes off almost everything, everywhere.
The more plastic pollution, the more microplastics there are. Since microplastic cannot be completely eliminated, it would be important to reduce its use in everyday life. You should try to avoid plastic, and when you do use plastic, recycle it properly. Sorting plastic at home is quite effortless: plastic packaging does not need to be washed clean, just rinsing is enough for recycling. So how do you reduce plastic waste and microplastics in your daily life? Replace plastic bottles with metal / glass bottles, favor natural materials in clothing, replace plastic bags with eg. durable linen bags and use your own eg. glass or metal duration boxes for storing and take away food (instead of plastic take away boxes).
Hence it would be good for all of us to change our own ways of doing things every day by moving from plastic products to other more environmentally friendly materials. In this way, less microplastic would be generated in your own home and living environment. Companies should strive to replace plastic materials with more environmentally friendly alternatives, e.g. food packaging. At the same time, it would be very important to improve the quality, recyclability and recycling of all types of plastic. We can all be part of change and help our choices move from a linear economy to a more sustainable circular economy.