In 2019, the World Economics Forum reported that the ocean was teeming with microplastic – a million times more than we had previously thought. The comment was make on the back of new research that reported there might be as much as 8.3 million pieces of microplastics per cubic metre of water in our oceans.
More than one-third (35%) of microplastics in the ocean come from synthetic fabrics, such as polyester or nylon - the clothes you wear everyday without a thought. Car tyres are the second-leading source at 28% - every year, 100,000 metric tonnes of microplastics are shed from tyres, transported through the air and dumped in the ocean. Textiles and tyres account for 63% of all ocean microplastics.
ALTHOUGH OCEAN PLASTICS BREAK DOWN OVER TIME, MICROSCOPIC REMNANTS REMAIN IN THE WATER AND COULD ENTER THE FOOD CHAIN VIA FISH, SEAWEED, SALT.
Microplastics are small fragments of plastic measuring less than 5mm - about the size of a sesame seed. They can be broken down pieces, beads or fibres and smaller than a human hair. Statista, who pretty much make charts of anything that moves, recently published this chart of findings from a Plymoth University study, which sums up the situation nicely.
Microplastics come from a variety of sources, either starting life as one or breaking off larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. Textile fibres and microbeads are common microplastics passed to the ocean via our drains. Microbeads are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and toothpastes. These tiny particles easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in the ocean.
For the broader problem, always always think before buying anything made of plastic. For your own health, keep your home free of dust, stay away from bottled water, don't use any kind of health or beauty products that contain microbeads. Most importantly, avoid synthetic textiles, especially hairy textiles - while a lot of fibres go down the drain when you wash them, you are also shedding them and breathing them in while you wear the garment.