micro plastic

How to Stay Away from Micro Plastics?

In the present times, we are all much more environmentally conscious and are taking several steps to avoid polluting our planet. However, though we are doing what we can to save the planet, it’s crucial to understand the key problems. It will help us understand the surrounding issues and focus on better solutions. So, we take a step towards understanding “Microplastics”, one of the most concerning pollutants in modern times.

It almost took a fiery research of two decades on marine and freshwater sources to understand the existence of microplastics and the extent of damage they cause. It was not until 2004 when  Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS, along with the team, established that microplastic is prevalent in the sea and a major concern for humanity. They stated that these contaminants are present even in the remotest locations in the ocean and are erasing marine life at a fast pace. It is after this study that the UK Parliament has a tax on single-use plastics, a ban on microplastics in cosmetics and much more.

Just like UK and many other countries that took solid steps to prevent plastic and safeguard our environment, it’s crucial for everyplace on the earth to follow the practise. For that, we need to first understand the extent of the issue and ways to combat it. So, here we are with an article that takes a deeper look at the dangers of microplastics and informs how to eliminate them from our everyday lives.

Understanding Microplastics

It’s of great importance to figure out how to stay away from microplastics. In any case, before that, we should have a more profound plunge into grasping it more. Microplastics are small plastic sections, under 5 millimetres in size, that have become a growing concern for our current circumstances and well-being. These minuscule bits of plastic come from different sources, and sadly, they’re tracking down their direction into our seas, soil, and, surprisingly, the food we eat. We can categorize microplastics into two types:

Primary Microplastics: These are tiny plastic particles deliberately manufactured for various uses. Examples include microbeads in exfoliating scrubs, synthetic fibers in clothing, and plastic pellets used in industrial processes.

Secondary Microplastics: These are formed when larger plastic items break down over time due to sunlight, weathering, and wear and tear. Plastic bottles, bags, and packaging materials are some common sources of secondary microplastics.

A shocking study by CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography researchers revealed that microplastics are present in almost 86% of water samples collected from Indian rivers. It highlights the growing threat these tiny pollutants pose to our water resources.

Are Microplastics Dangerous?

As mentioned above, microplastics are available in different forms. Learning about these is crucial if we want to avoid them and prevent them from entering our environment. As we know, these do not just disappear. Instead, they persist in our surroundings and become a substantial threat to the ecosystem.

Today, we’re concerned about the marine line being dismantled due to the ingestion of microplastics. Tomorrow, it will most probably directly affect human health. So, it’s better we take little steps today and save the planet. But before that, let’s recognize how these affect us and our environment in the present times:

Harm to Marine Life

Marine animals often mistake microplastics for food. They ingest these, which leads to blockages in their digestive systems and, ultimately, death. Studies have shown plastic fragments in the stomachs of fish, seabirds, and even zooplankton form a plastic food chain that disrupts the natural balance of our oceans.

Soil Contamination

Microplastics can contaminate soil, impacting its fertility and hindering plant growth. It can have a domino effect on the entire food chain, affecting agricultural productivity.

Human Health Concerns

The latest UNDP research mentions the harsh impacts of microplastics on humans. These can get into your body through water bottles, plastic cutting boards, plastic knives, and other plastic apparatus that come in contact with your food. A few potential diseases mentioned in the research were endocrine disruption, weight gain, insulin resistance, decreased reproductive health, and cancer.

How to Avoid Microplastics from Your Household?

Though the human race has already made a big blunder through excessive plastic products, and it’s present in the environment in quantities beyond our imaginations, we can all still take steps to curb the damage. When we minimize our exposure to microplastics, we contribute to a cleaner environment. So, let’s explore some practical ways to do this:

Choose Organic Clothing

We know there are various pros to using synthetic fibers in your clothing. These are durable, cheap, and do not shrink. Few materials also have a slight sheen, making your overall outfit look classy and posh. However, these are all short-term gains. In the long run, synthetic clothing made from polyester, nylon, and acrylic releases microplastic fibers when washed and eventually play a severe role in contaminating the environment.

So, opting for natural fabrics like cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, silk or wool whenever possible is one way to say goodbye to microplastics. These materials are lightweight and keep you cool in the blazing sun. Also, the texture of organic clothing gives it an elegant look that makes you stand out on every occasion.

Rethink How You Do Laundry

Even if you’ve swapped your wardrobe for clothing made with natural fabrics, it’s pivotal to know that fibre shedding occurs during washing. These can create clogs and also add to the pollutants. Thankfully, there are different ways to combat the issue. Below are a few:

  • Wash clothes only when truly dirty.
  • Use cold water for laundry, as hot water increases fiber shedding.
  • Wash full loads to reduce friction between clothes.
  • Avoid the delicate cycle, which uses more water and may lead to more shedding.
  • Consider using a Guppyfriend washing bag, a special laundry bag that captures microplastic fibers during washing.

Say No to Single-Use Plastics

Is there anything that’s more convenient than using a single-use plastic product? Whether it’s a plate, water bottle, cutlery, sanitary pads or cotton bud sticks, all are such easy-to-use things. All you need to do is use the items and chuck them away into the environment. But have we ever thought about what happens to these after that? They degenerate into minuscule sizes of plastic, invisible to the naked eye yet highly prominent in the atmosphere. When these enter our water system, they return to us through tap water, and we again use it. So, making the below swaps can be a sensible choice to avoid such a situation:

  • Invest in reusable shopping bags made from cloth or jute.
  • Carry your own water bottle made from glass or stainless steel.
  • Refuse plastic straws and opt for reusable metal or bamboo alternatives.
  • Use reusable containers for food storage and avoid cling wrap whenever possible.
  • Buy household items in bulk (when practical) to reduce packaging.
  • If possible, use a menstrual cup instead of pads
  • Opt for cloth diapers and nappies
  • Choose loose tea over tea bags

Be Cautious with Cosmetics

There is a huge market for exfoliating scrubs in beauty products and tubes of toothpaste. These scrubs claim to give deeper cleaning and are a prominent USP for many brands. However, these plastics such as Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Polyethylene terephthalate, Polymethyl methacrylate, and Nylon do nothing but damage your skin’s outer layer and enter our atmosphere as toxins.

Similarly, we see unnecessary plastic wrappings on cosmetics that drain into the water bodies. All of these are potential microplastics that will eventually cause significant damage to the environment. It’s better we make wiser decisions now for a safer planet. But how? Below are a few options to try:

  • Use homemade scrubs for skin care, e.g. gram flour, sugar, etc.
  • Opt for a pumice stone to remove dead cells in feet
  • Choose cosmetic products with natural packaging
  • Avoid sheet masks, instead try hydrating serums from renowned brands

Reduce Shellfish Consumption

Shellfish, especially filter feeders like mussels and oysters, can accumulate microplastics from the water they consume. While avoiding them completely isn’t necessary, consider moderating your intake and choosing shellfish from cleaner sources.

Opt for Public Transport

Cars contribute to microplastic pollution through tire wear. The tires form almost 28% of microplastics in the ocean and these keep on degenerating when you drive. So, avoiding travel by personal vehicles can bring down microplastics substantially. When feasible, opt for public transport, cycling, or carpooling to reduce your individual footprint.

Avoid Plastic Containers to Reheat Food

Microwave OTG is now an inseparable part of every household. Whether it’s cooking quick one-pot dishes, grilling meat, or heating food, we’re all used to the convenience this offers. However, OTGs are compatible with glassware, aluminium, silicon, ceramic and plastic containers. Of these, using plastic utensils is the most hazardous to our bodies. When we heat food, plastics in small quantities can melt into the food and eventually reach our stomachs. Therefore, it’s best to transfer leftovers to glass or ceramic containers before reheating them.

Keep Your Household Clean

Every day, while sweeping, there is so much dust lying around the house. Isn’t it? However, do you know that 29% of this accumulates to microplastics that come flying into your house with dust and air pollution? These can get into your system as you breathe. Though, for adults, it may show signs of irritation or illness in the long term, it will be an instant bother for children and pets. Microplastics can enter your home through dust and air pollution. The only way out is to regularly vacuum and dust your space and keep it clean, which to minimize their presence indoors.

Always Choose Sustainability

When making purchasing decisions, consider the environmental impact of the products. You can conduct detailed research and find brands committed to sustainable practices and plastic-free packaging. It’s pivotal to know that sustainability practices tackle microplastics at the root of the problem: plastic production and consumption. Here’s how:

Reducing Plastic Use: This is a central guideline of maintainability. By utilizing less plastic generally, there’s intrinsically less plastic to separate into microplastics. This can include things like using reusable sacks, choosing bundling-free items, and staying away from single-use plastics.

Better Product Design: A manageable plan centers around items that last longer and are simpler to reuse. This diminishes the requirement for consistent plastic creation, which opens the door for microplastic shedding.

Improved Recycling: Indeed, even reused plastic can make microplastics during the reusing system. Supportable practices intend to further develop reusing advancements to limit the age of microplastics during handling.

Alternative Materials: Maintainability frequently investigates elective materials that biodegrade or are normally determined, decreasing dependence on plastics.

By implementing these practices, sustainability helps prevent microplastics from entering the environment in the first place. This protects ecosystems and potentially reduces human health risks.

Taking Action Beyond Your Home

While individual actions are important, tackling the microplastic problem requires a collective effort. Here are some ways you can make a bigger impact:

  • Support legislation that bans single-use plastics and promotes sustainable practices.
  • Spread awareness among your family, friends, and community about the dangers of microplastics.
  • Advocate for businesses to use eco-friendly materials and packaging.

Together, we can create a cleaner and healthier environment for ourselves and future generations.

Wrapping Up

By making these small changes in your daily routine, you can significantly reduce your exposure to microplastics and contribute to a healthier environment. Remember, every little bit counts! Here’s a quick recap:

  • Minimize synthetic clothing and laundry loads.
  • Ditch single-use plastics and invest in reusable alternatives.
  • Be mindful of microplastics in cosmetics and food sources.
  • Make sustainable choices whenever possible.

Let’s all become responsible homeowners and work towards a future free from microplastic pollution.