As the name suggests, microplastics are small pieces of plastic.
They measure between 0.33mm and 5mm in length and can come from a number of sources, and there are two main categories these fall into; primary microplastics and secondary microplastics. Primary microplastics come mainly from the plastic used in beauty products and fibres from synthetic clothing, while secondary microplastics are those that have been created as a result of the breaking down of larger pieces of plastic.
There’s relatively little known about microplastics, other than they’re a type of marine debris. It’s expected that as further research and sample-taking begins, more light will be shed on the effect of they have on the environment.
How they are harmful
From the little we do know, it’s clear that the impact is negative.
Microplastics can cause numerous issues in the ocean, the most problematic being when they are digested by marine life.
Microplastics can become trapped in the gills of fish, making them feel full when they haven’t consumed any nutrients, and as a consequence can mean they starve.
And it’s not just marine life that are suffering, with a recent study revealing that 90% of birds have plastic present in their stomach.
Recent studies show that there is no significant impact on human health of microplastics, but it has been acknowledged that further research into the subject would be beneficial. The same research concluded that the current levels of microplastics present in the ocean are unlikely to influence the breeding of fish stocks, nor will they pose a risk to people through tap water.
You might remember some news coverage of microbeads, which are a type of microplastic that are used in beauty products – most commonly those which exfoliate.
These small pieces of polyethylene plastic were banned from use in beauty products in the UK in January this year, with a ban on selling products that contain microplastics coming into force in July. This result was a resounding win for our oceans and environment, but there’s still some way to go.
Microplastics in bottled water
One of the largest and most comprehensive studies on the subject has revealed that most bottled waters have been found to contain some type of microplastics.
Scientists from the University of East Anglia tested over 250 bottles of water from 11 different companies in March, and found that “almost all were contaminated to some degree”.
Using a method of staining the plastic red so they were able to clearly see it in sediment and water, researchers were able to count the microplastics that were present.
Dr Andrew Mayes, lead researcher for UEA’s School of Chemistry, said: “What the results don’t show is where these plastic particles are coming from – but I would expect that most is coming from the processing and packing process, though some may be coming from the original water source in some cases.
Dr Mayes went on to point what he believes to be a huge issue – the sheer amount of disposable water bottles used in the UK.
He said: “It creates so much waste, which itself feeds into the environmental problem whether or not the microplastics in bottled water turn out to be harmful to us.”
There are small changes you can make to your everyday life that can help to reduce the amount of plastic (and microplastic) that enter oceans and harm the health of both wildlife and humans.
Opting for a reusable bottle that’s sourced from sustainable materials, opposed to a disposable plastic bottle, will mean you’re doing your bit for the environment rather than contributing to the problem.
Bee Blissful’s bottles are reusable, eco-friendly glass bottles made from strengthened ti-borosilicate glass, which means it won’t degrade like reusable plastic bottles will.
Check out the full range of Bee Blissful bottles here.