Antarctica is considered one of the few remaining “untouched” environments on the planet, but a recent study found evidence of microplastics in the Antarctic snow, indicating that plastic pollution has extended to this remote region.
Microplastics are plastic particles smaller than 0.3 in (5 ml) in size that break down from larger plastic objects like plastic bottles or straws. When microplastic is introduced to an ecosystem, it’s consumed by animals and enters the food chain, posing potential risks to wildlife and humans.
Further studies are required to determine the extent of microplastic contamination in Antarctica and its effects on the region’s delicate ecosystems. However, the findings emphasize the urgent need for global action to combat plastic pollution and safeguard the environment.
Where Does Microplastic Come From?
Microplastics, as the name suggests, are microscopic plastic particles that have broken down from various types of man-made products. There are two main categories concerning microplastics – primary and secondary.
Primary microplastics include cosmetic products, clothing, and synthetic fibers in textiles. Secondary microplastics come from larger plastic products, such as plastic packaging or water bottles, and break down into tiny particles.
Both types of microplastics are of significant concern because they occupy microscopic spaces, which makes them extremely difficult to remove. The abundance of microplastics has resulted in their presence in animals, plants, and even humans.
Since the 1950s, humans have produced over nine billion tons of plastic, yet there is still no efficient recycling method in place. Although there has been a shift in mindset towards recycling and sustainability, billions of tons of plastic still end up in landfills or oceans.
Oceanic garbage patches like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, along with others are the primary sources of microplastics in the ocean. The Pacific Garbage Patch contains over 80 000 tons of plastic alone, and if it’s not cleared, it could release millions of microplastic particles into the ocean.
Several cleanup initiatives are in the pipeline for the ocean garbage patches, but there is currently no plan in place to eliminate all the microplastic. There have been various proposals to remove microplastics from the ocean, but none have proven to be effective yet.
Ways To Reduce The Amount Of Microplastics In The Environment
Practicing the 3Rs of sustainability- reusing, reducing, and recycling – is crucial to protect the planet. However, only 10% of plastic can even be recycled, while the remaining 90% ends up in landfills or the ocean. While individuals should make an effort to practice the 3Rs, it’s not the only solution to the problem.
More responsibility should fall on plastic manufacturing companies to produce more recyclable materials or invest a percentage of their profits into plastic recycling plants. Governments also need to enforce regulations on factories to ensure all plastic industries prioritize sustainability.
However, this does not absolve the consumer of their responsibility. People need to be mindful of their long-term impact on the environment. While many make an effort to reuse and recycle, the majority don’t, due to a lack of available facilities or negligence.
In the future, companies and consumers must collaborate to produce environmentally friendly and sustainable products. Governments must also introduce more stringent regulations on commercial industries to encourage them to prioritize a better future over profit margins.