By: Suzie Vance
When plastic enters our world, it never really goes away. From the day it is manufactured, plastic crosses into a never-ending cycle, continuously re-entering our lives. Plastic slowly breaks down over time into increasingly tinier pieces called microplastics, no larger than a grain of rice (less than 5mm) and many are so small that they can only be seen using a microscope. They never truly go away, even if we can’t see them with the naked eye. These plastic pieces can be found in many aspects of our lives, and are so prevalent that they are almost impossible to avoid.
Where are they coming from? All over the place! Microplastics are the breakdown of well-known plastics such as bags, bottles, and one-time-use containers, as well as face washes, children’s toys, household items, and nylon ropes. Even your regular load of laundry can release millions of tiny plastic microfibers into the water system. Clothes are manufactured with plastic too! The particles are too small to be filtered or diverted from our ecosystem.
The more prolific plastic becomes and the longer it spends cycling around, the more toxic it becomes! Think of these microscopic plastic bits as tiny sponges on hoverboards. They absorb what they come into contact with, creating a cesspool of germs, chemicals, and other pollutants…a cesspool on a hoverboard! You’re probably asking, “Why a hoverboard?” That’s because these microplastics can circumnavigate the world with ease, maneuvering around obstacles and latching on to other vessels to propel them forward. They find their way into our oceans, streams, soil, air, marine and land animals, and even in the rain without ever breaking a sweat. Whatever goes into our eco-system, including our water supply (rain, oceans, groundwater, etc.), our soil, and even into the air that we breathe, eventually ends up in our personal eco-system.
Each of us has our own individual eco-system, and plastic just isn’t a good thing to put into our bodies. We don’t do it intentionally, but it happens nonetheless. And it all starts with the plastics that we use in everyday life. We use a plastic container, which might go into the trash or (hopefully) recycling bin, then ends up in a landfill, incinerator, or recycling plant — hopefully. But, what if it doesn’t end up in any of these places? What if it ends up on the side of the road or in the ocean or a lake or stream? Eventually, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, going into our Earth’s eco-system. As nature takes over, the food chain becomes contaminated with these microplastics eventually finding their way back to us in the food that we consume. What started with us has come back to us…and not in a good way!
So, how do we stop the cycle? It would be ideal to simply eliminate plastic from our lives entirely, and maybe we’ll get to that point someday. But, even little steps can have a profound effect when taken by many people. We can replace single-use plastics with reusable options. We can buy organic clothing, bedding, towels, reusable napkins, etc. We can buy products that are made from recycled materials or were produced using sustainable production processes. We can buy products that last longer, which means less waste overall.
Can you think of other ways to break the cycle? We’d love to hear your tips and success stories! Drop us a line or send us an article that you think will help others on their journey to sustainability.