How can we prevent microplastics?

Updated: Sep 24, 2020


Surely, if you’ve been a part of the zero waste movement for any amount of time, you’ve heard this word. But, what does it mean? Briefly, it is pieces of plastic that are less than 5 mm long. Of course this can be harmful to the ocean, marine life, and even our own lives. For more information on microplastics and their impact on the environment, I am writing this blog post and creating my own video (goes live on 6 August) in collaboration with Quest For Eco on YouTube. Be sure to check out her video too to learn more about how harmful microplastics are (that video also goes live on 6 August).

Of course, I’m sure most of you know, plastic pollution is the largest polluter in the world and is most prevalent in the oceans and other waterways like lakes and rivers. Our goal is to stop it before it gets to any waterways.

What I would like to focus on, though, is what can we do as consumers and as citizens of the Earth to reduce the impact of plastic and microplastics?

1. Quit buying and using things with microbeads/microplastics. Things like:

  • Certain face washes

  • Certain hand sanitizers

  • Whitening toothpaste

  • Glittery make-up/sprays

  • And more

  • The products that are designed to scrub your face or teeth actually have plastics in them. These small bits of plastic that of course cannot be recycled. Not only this, but they are almost impossible to track down and place in the trash can versus down the drain. They will most likely end up in the ocean and will never break down.

2. Quit using and buying commercial glitter. If you must use it, opt for an eco-friendly, decomposable option. Glitter is plastic. Just like with the few products I listed earlier, it cannot be recycled, it is very hard to track down and pick up, and it will most likely make its way to the ocean.

3. Chances are, by doing laundry in a normal fashion releases microplastics into our water. That is because, most of our clothing these days contain synthetic fibers which are often made of polyester which is plastic-based. When these clothes get washed, they release tiny fibers made of plastic and end up in our waterways. So, to prevent this you have a couple options:

  • Get a bag for your synthetic clothing. This way, they don’t release their microfibers and microplastics into the water

  • OR, you can get one of these things (insert photo) to stop ALL microplastics no matter the clothing. This works kind of like a lint catcher in a drying machine

4. Along those lines, avoid certain laundry and dishwasher detergents. Like with those products mentioned in the first point, many detergents also contain certain disinfectants and scrubbing agents that are made out of polyethylene or polypropylene. Though these beads are becoming less common, and even sometimes banned, in cosmetics, this is not the case for these detergents. Opt for a plastic free option like soap nuts or concentrated sheets. If you’re interested in more information about zero waste laundry, let me know below and I’d love to make a video about it.

5. Still in the realm of laundry, air dry your clothing. Especially if you don’t have a garment bag or a little tool to catch the microplastics, letting them air dry will avoid more microplastics breaking down and of course make your clothing last longer!

6. Don’t flush unnecessary and unwanted things down the toilet. Only flush your waste and toilet paper, nothing else. Things like tampons, wet wipes, floss, cotton buds, and more. Even if you don’t think it to be plastic, just avoid flushing it.

7. Same with the sinks, don’t put anything in there besides dirty dishes. No trash! Watch out for stickers on fruit, tea bags, coffee filters, and other things you might commonly find in your kitchen. Keep the trash out of the sink!

8. When you see plastic (or any waste for that matter) pick it up. This way you prevent it from even getting to the ocean and breaking down in the first place. I don’t just mean bottles either. Pick up broken plastic too and small pieces

9. Reduce your plastic consumption. The less we buy, the less that has to be created and inevitably wasted. The less we waste, the less we risk ending up in the oceans and turning into microplastics in the first place. I have a lot of resources that will help with this I have linked down below. Everything from free ways to live low waste, how to reuse single-use items, and more.

10. Learn how to recycle properly. I have made a few videos on this topic as well that will be linked below. But, learning how to recycle properly means that your recycling has a better chance of being recycled instead of either being sent to landfill, or, more likely, end up in the ocean.

  • The basics for recycling properly are learn what your facility will and will not take

  • Wash any recyclables before putting them in your bin or bag to avoid contamination

  • Don’t just throw anything in there out of guilt, not everything can be recycled

11. Of course, avoid plastic when possible. If you can avoid plastic cutlery or a plastic bottle, do it. Refusing single-use items is one of the easiest ways to live low waste. Choose packageless oranges versus packaged, opt for other materials, and so forth.

12. When buying new clothing, avoid synthetic fibers. Opt for linen, cotton, hemp, and other plant-based materials. Even when shopping second hand, try to opt for organic and natural materials.

I hope that this post was useful. Don't forget to check out Quest for Eco's video on 6 August to learn more about what microplastics are and how they are affecting the environment.

Remember that the small changes you make have a big impact in the long run!

Emma :)

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