The Problem with Microplastics & How You Can Help the Ocean

Giada Nizzoli

The Problem with Microplastics & How You Can Help the Ocean

Sometimes, the biggest threats are tiny in size, and tasks as trivial as doing the laundry can have terrible consequences miles away from us.

Scary, we know!

But, once you discover what microplastics are and why they’re dangerous, there’s actually a lot that you can do to help the ocean.

What are microplastics and why are they a problem?

What are microplastics and why are they a problem? Picture credit: Raceforwater / CC BY-SA Microplastics are simply pieces of plastic smaller than 5 mm.

When they hang around on makeup, they also go by the name of microbeads or are camouflaged as polyethylene, polypropylene or polymethyl methacrylate on ingredient lists.

How do microplastics get into the ocean?

Sadly, it’s estimated that there are 1.4 million trillion plastic fibres in the ocean. They either get there as:

  • Secondary microplastics: when larger plastic items break down into tiny non-biodegradable pieces;
  • Primary microplastics: especially makeup beads and the microfibres that detach themselves from synthetic materials like polyester when you wash your clothes

The problem with microplastics - Project Cece

Here's a little overview:

Why are microplastics in the ocean a problem?

Once microplastics reach the ocean, they can be ingested by… well, anything that swims in it!

From the smallest zooplankton to bigger fish, mammals, turtles and seabirds, they infiltrate the entire ocean food chain. Some of the problems caused by microplastics in the ocean are starvation and endocrine disruption, as well as affecting reproduction and growth.

On top of ingesting microplastics directly, these animals are highly likely to eat some that already have.

Why are microplastics in the ocean a problem?

By now you’ve probably figured it out: if a fish eats microplastics and you eat it, you’re going to ingest them, too. 

Actually, an average European seafood consumer ingests around 11,000 plastic particles EVERY YEAR. Yuck!

What can we do to reduce microplastics

How you can reduce your microplastic footprint

We definitely need a big change across several industries, but, in the meantime, here are a few tips to help the ocean by reducing your microplastic footprint.

Switch to plastic-free makeup

Don’t worry: to avoid makeup with microbeads, you don’t have to spend hours researching brands or deciphering every single label. 

Beat the Microbead has a handy list of sustainable plastic-free alternatives.

Reduce your plastic footprint

Unfortunately, recycling doesn’t work miracles, and that’s exactly why it’s at the very end of the ‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra. 

When only 32% of plastic is recycled in the UK, it’s much better to focus on the first two parts.

Wash your clothes less often

Because microplastics are mainly shed when washing synthetic garments, doing your laundry less often can help you reduce them... and it will also make your clothes last longer! 

Here are some tricks to keep your clothes fresh and clean.

Capture them after each wash

Innovative products like the Cora Ball or Guppyfriend collect most of these fibres, stopping them from heading straight to the ocean.

A handy solution while we help the industry change!

Choose sustainable clothes

Vernat Dress - Avoiding synthetic clothes

Instead of relying on cheap synthetic garments that are designed to fall apart after a few wearings and are bound to shed lots of microplastics, switch to ethical and eco-friendly clothes.

It can be tricky, since even natural fabrics like cotton can cause other problems, but here’s an article to help you understand what the most sustainable fabrics are.

On Project Cece, you can find ethical clothes from over 200 brands, and you can use our filters to scout for the right ones for you.

Spread the word

Not everyone knows about the dangers or even the existence of microplastics. Why not share this article to encourage your friends and family to implement these simple tips?

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