Microplastics

Microplastics

Microbeads

Plastic beads found in soaps and cosmetics

Fibers

Made from synthetic materials, such as polyester and nylon

Fragments

Small pieces of larger plastic objects

Foam

Styrofoam is a toxic plastic that will not degrade

Common sources of microplastics in our waters:

Rope

Fishing Nets

Floats

Packaging

Cigarette butts

Storm drains and street litter

Plastic production/ other industrial sources

Microbeads

Plastic beads found in soaps and cosmetics

Fibers

Made from synthetic materials, such as polyester and nylon

Fragments

Small pieces of larger plastic objects

Foam

Styrofoam is a toxic plastic that will not degrade

Common sources of microplastics in our waters:

Rope

Fishing Nets

Floats

Packaging

Cigarette butts

Storm drains and street litter

Plastic production/ other industrial sources

5 most common items collected in Canada’s shoreline cleanups

5 most common items collected in Canada’s shoreline cleanups

Help us clean up our mess by voicing stronger policies on non-recyclable plastics, disposable products, and harmful materials that shed microplastics in our waterways.

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are small particles of plastic debris smaller than 5mm in length, and have been found everywhere scientists have looked, from the deep sea, to the arctic and Antarctica, to remote mountain tops, and in our home.

There are two types of microplastics: primary and secondary.
Primary microplastics are small pieces of plastic already made small, such as plastic pellets, fibres and microbeads. These plastics are found in clothing, toothpaste, and skincare products. Secondary microplastics are the result of larger plastics breaking down into smaller pieces.

Microplastics enter the environment either by being directly introduced through wastewater or runoff, or when larger plastics already present in the environment break up into smaller pieces. Microplastics are already present in all oceans, lakes, and rivers on Earth. This poses a problem because many marine creatures mistake them for tiny bits of food.

Where are they going?

Microplastics have been found in organisms ranging from plankton to fish, birds, and whales. In fact, researchers have found microplastics in 114 aquatic species. Every year, between 5 and 14 million tons of plastics leach into our ocean from coastal areas. It is not known if humans are exposed to their toxic residues by eating contaminated seafood, and research to determine how these contaminants may transfer through the food chain and their impact on human health in ongoing.

Experiments show that microplastics damage aquatic creatures, turtles, and birds: they block digestive tracts, diminish the urge to eat, and alter feeding behavior, all of which reduce growth and reproductive output. We know that these tiny plastics can penetrate cells and move into tissues and organs. However, because researchers lack analytical methods to identify nanoplastics in food, there is very little data on their occurrence or absorption by humans.

0billion
plastic particles are released into the ocean each year in Vancouver
0million
microfibres released annually through home laundry in Canada and U.S
0trillion
microfibres enter freshwater and ocean environments in Canada and U.S each year

OCEAN WISE SCIENCE FEATURE

Me, My Clothes and the Ocean
THE ROLE OF TEXTILES IN MICROFIBER POLLUTION

What can be done?

Nations can enact bans on certain types of plastic, focusing on those that are the most abundant and problematic.
Chemical engineers can formulate polymers that biodegrade.
Consumers can eschew single-use plastics.
Industries and government can invest in infrastructure to capture and recycle these materials before they reach the water.

As a consumer, some things you can do to help protect our marine environments from microplastics include:

Purchasing a washing machine lint filter or Guppy friend wash bag for your washing machine.
● Buy clothes made from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool. Natural fibers will eventually break down in the environment.
Plastic fibers will never go away.
● Avoid purchasing cheaply made, synthetic, “fast-fashion” clothes whenever possible.
● Join the coalition! Take the pledge to refuse single use plastics, and share this knowledge with your friends and family.

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