The pervasiveness of microplastic pollution is scary. Stories on where these tiny plastics are found continually fill my inbox. Here is a personal list I have been keeping regarding where microplastics have been found in:
- the air we breath (see this article published in The Guardian);
- all oceans (see the AdventureScientists.org);
- drinking water (see this article published in The Guardian);
- planktonic organisms, as well as other invertebrates, such as polychaetes, bivalves, echinoderms and decapods;
- shellfish (see this article posted on NPR.org);
- fish (see this article published in Nature);
- American black ducks and mallards;
- lobster; and
Email me (email@example.com) if you want the primary sources for any of the above.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics are tiny plastic pieces less than 5 millimeters long, or about the size of a pencil eraser. These tiny plastics have made their way into our rivers, lakes, estuaries, oceans and even our groundwater. We release them when we launder our synthetic clothes, like fleece, athletic wear, and polyester items. And we drain them down our sinks when we use deodorants, make-ups, and other personal hygiene products that contain polyethylene. Finally, some microplastics result from the breakdown by wind, wave, and weathering of larger pieces of plastic, such single-use plastic bags, water bottles, fishing line and other debris.
Looking for microplastics in Sarasota County
UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County partnered this spring with three local high school teachers to engage students in the Florida Microplastics Awareness Project. This partnership resulted in 65 water samples taken throughout Sarasota County. Fifty-three percent of the samples contained microplastic. The average number of microplastic pieces per sample was 2.17, which was inline with the state average. Fibers accounted for the overwhelming majority (80 percent) of the microplastics found. Figure 1 shows the distribution of microplastics found locally.
What can YOU do about microplastic pollution?
- Take 10 minutes to think about your plastic use, marvel at all the plastic products that surround you, and then take the Florida Microplastics Awareness Pledge.
- Be aware: Did you know that most plastic ever made still exists, just in smaller and smaller pieces? That is a lot of plastic. In fact, researchers estimate that more than 9 billion tons of plastic have been produced since large-scale production of these synthetic materials begun back in the 1950s.
- Think about your plastic consumption and reduce your use where possible.