The Eco Guide To Microplastics.
I’m officially declaring this the Summer of Plastic. With the rising tide of plastic waste – 38.5 million plastic bottles a day in the UK alone and production set to quadruple by 2050 – the plastic pollution crisis in our oceans has become the breakout issue.
Activists are stepping it up from quiet beach cleans to strident zero-tolerance campaigns. In terms of severity, Surfers Against Sewage (sas.org.uk) rates plastic pollution up there with climate change. Its campaign, Wasteland, urges us to boycott throwaway plastics now. Meanwhile, Greenpeace continues to hound soft-drinks brands, mapping their alarming use of plastic and abject failure to take responsibility.
Actually, it’s the Summer of Microplastics. An estimated 5 trillion have rapidly accumulated in our oceans. Often described as “salt and pepper sized” flakes of plastic, microplastics don’t just resemble salt, they’re likely to be in it.
The latest study confirms concentrations of microplastics in 16 out of 17 brands of sea salt from eight countries (with a potential market of 6 billion consumers). If the sea contains plastics, so do the products we harvest from it.
According to research by Ghent University, European seafood consumers are likely to be ingesting up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic per year. Microplastics have been detected in the edible tissues of commercial fish. But they have also been found in milk, beer and honey (where plastic has been deposited in pollen).
Aplasticplanet.com finds that nine out of 10 of us want plastic-free aisles in supermarkets. But the plastic inside our products should be concerning us, too. If we got rid of those, would our plastic-free aisles be empty?
Credit: Lucy Siegle for The Guardian 6 August 2017.