September Marks Microplastic Awareness Month

September marks Microplastic Awareness Month. If you’re unsure what microplastics are, then what a better time to learn? Microplastics are generally defined as plastics smaller than 5mm or 1/8th of an inch in size. When they get to be really small, we cannot see them without a microscope.

Why should we care?

Microplastics are being found in the ocean. A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine debris grant funded UF/IFAS Extension’s Florida Microplastic Awareness Project. This project supports educational programs to teach the public about microplastics, and allows members of the public to participate in a citizen science project to collect coastal water samples and analyze them for microplastics. Based on current data, one-liter samples of ocean water contain an average of 7.6 pieces of plastic!

florida microplastic

The problem?

It’s two, and potentially threefold. First, toxins that are already existing in the ocean seem to be attracted to these floating plastic particles. Second, these floating plastic particles are being eaten by marine life, starting at the very base of the food chain. Third, there is concern about how these tiny pieces of plastic and their toxins might bioaccumulate up the food chain and ultimately impact seafood consumers.

The term “microplastic” was only coined in 2004, so research is limited on the potential impacts of microplastics to water resources. We can wait until the research studies are published or we can practice the precautionary principal and assume these microplastics are not good.

Sea Education Association_SEA Semester photo credit_2

Tiny pieces of plastic found during a Sea Education Association semester. Photo Credit: Sea Education Association_SEA Semester

So, what can you do to help?

Participate in Microplastic Awareness Month:

  • Get involved with the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project at www.plasticaware.org
  • Take the pledge to reduce your contributions to microplastics
  • Participate in the lunch-n-learn webinar that will take place on Friday, September 16th at 12:15pm. Registration available online at: https://microplasticwebinar.eventbrite.com
  • Use the power of social media!
    • Simply share posts from the facebook page and use #plasticawarenessmonth and #plasticaware to help bring awareness to this topic (twitter, instagram, etc…all social media posts are appreciated)