Learn to prevent plastic pollution July 21 at Depot Park

Who: Maia McGuire, Sea Grant agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

What: Residents are invited to a free science café, “Eight ways to save the ocean: How to reduce microplastic pollution,” to learn about microplastics and how to prevent plastic pollution in our oceans. Attendees will have a chance to see microplastics under a microscope and ask McGuire questions.

Where: Boxcar Wine and Beer Garden, 201 SE Depot Avenue, Gainesville, FL 32601

When: July 21, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Most of us know not to throw trash, especially plastic, into the ocean. But some of our daily routines, such as putting on deodorant or doing laundry, do just that, though this plastic may be too small to see with the naked eye.

Though they are small, these microplastics can have negative ecological impacts when eaten by marine life, says Maia McGuire, a Sea Grant agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

July 21, McGuire will hold a science café at Gainesville’s Depot Park, where families can learn more about microplastics, how they get into the ocean and what everyday people can do to reduce their plastic footprint. The Boxcar Wine and Beer Garden, located at 201 SE Depot Avenue, will host the event from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Attendees will have a chance to look through a microscope and see firsthand what microplastics look like. Plastics pose a danger to wildlife in part because they can absorb toxins from the environment and can transfer those to animals when eaten, McGuire said.

“People are really surprised at how small some of the plastics are that are in the ocean, especially the fibers that come off of synthetic fabrics,” McGuire said. “They can’t see them with the naked eye, but can with a microscope. This shows that even the smallest animals in the ocean — plankton — are able to eat microplastics, so the potential impact starts at the bottom of the food chain.”

McGuire’s presentation will focus on reducing use of single-use plastic items, such as disposable cups and straws.

McGuire is the founder of the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project, a large-scale citizen science project that collects data on microplastics and encourages the public to reduce plastic pollution through the microplastic pledge. The pledge lets people commit to taking specific steps to reduce their plastic pollution, such as using reusable containers and wearing natural fabrics.

Science café attendees can take the pledge by paper or mobile device. They are also encouraged to ask questions.

“I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about microbeads and microfibers, but all questions are welcomed,” McGuire said.

Microbeads are tiny plastic beads found in personal care products, such as face washes and toothpaste. The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 banned microbeads in many but not all consumer products. Microfibers get released from synthetic fabrics in the wash. They don’t get filtered out by waste water treatment plants and can end up in the ocean, McGuire said.

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By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

 

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