What are microplastics?

Their effects on our health and the environment


Microplastics are choking our oceans and threatening our health. A guide to the key facts on what microplastics are, where they come from and what is being done to eliminate them.

Various scientific studies have shown that microplastics are hazardous to human health and the environment, especially marine and aquatic habitats. This occurs because plastic melts in the span of a few years and as long as it remains submerged in water, it can be swallowed and accumulated in the body and tissues of multiple organisms.

Microplastics are small plastic particles that pollute our seas and oceans. Their name is given by their small size, as their diameter measures between 330 micrometres and 5 millimetres.

Even smaller particles called nanoplastics exist but sampling them is impossible with the technology currently available, due to their size. Therefore, we still know very little about them.

According to the latest United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, every square kilometre of the ocean contains on average 63,520 microplastic particles, with significant variations on a regional level. For example, the levels in Southeast Asia are 27 times higher compared to othes. The Mediterranean is one of the most polluted seas in the world: 7 per cent of all the microplastics in the world are found here. Furthermore, there are five oceanic regions (called gyres) where currents funnel the largest amount of debris.

The fibres in synthetic materials contain large amounts of microplastics that then end up in wastewater and aquatic environments. The use of synthetic fibres has largely increased in the fashion industry – satisfying almost 61 per cent of the global demand for fibres……..
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