Turtles are not the only animals facing a plastic problem. We are too.
Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are 5 millimeters and smaller and can come from commercial production or the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic. Due to their varying size, shape, and plastic composition, they can be much more difficult to clean up.
In the past few years, microplastics were found near Mount Everest’s peak at 27,700 feet elevation but also found in the Mariana Trench at 36,000 feet in the deepest part of the ocean. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation conducted a study claiming that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. The ocean covers almost 71% of the Earth and it’s littered with plastic. So what happens to all this plastic?
Unfortunately, it harms the biodiversity of the ocean and its ecosystem. Millions of marine animals end up killed or injured after ingesting or getting entangled in plastic debris. Plastics can absorb chemicals and can also take upwards of 100 years to completely break down. So over time, marine animals can ingest plastics and pollutants that are toxic, threatening the quality and safety of our food.
Microplastics are already in so many of our daily items and can enter our waterways and our bodies. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal conducted a study and found that a single plastic tea bag released 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics. On average, we consume around 5 grams of plastic per week, which is about the size of a credit card. Most of us are unknowingly ingesting toxins through our food, water, and even the air we breathe.
Avoiding plastic products altogether is easier said than done. However, the best thing you can do is support businesses who are conscious of their plastic usage and those who are creating policies to limit single-use plastics.