Primary microplastics: A global contamination we don’t see.

The way things are going now, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050”, a report from Ellen MacArthur Foundation predicts. This shocking statistic comes to us while 9.5 million tons of additional plastic waste flows into the ocean every year.

The latest study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, called “Primary Microplastics in the Oceans: a Global Evaluation of Sources” is one of the first to provide data about the global impact of primary microplastics. Primary microplastics enter the oceans directly in the form of small particles, as opposed to secondary microplastics that are created through plastic waste degradation. These primary microplastics are the result of our daily life, and come from, synthetic clothes, car tyres, or cosmetic products. The report reveals that this type of plastic could be accountable for 30% of the “plastic soup” polluting the world’s oceans. And the results are astounding: The equivalent of one grocery bag per person is thrown into the ocean each week in the form of microplastics. But in North America the situation is so bad that the statistic increases to one bag every two days!

Indeed, this report can educate readers about a plastics issue which remains understudied. “The invention of plastic based on a synthetic polymer in 1907 changed our lives forever, for better and for worse”, IUCN Director General Inger Andersen argued in the report’s introduction. Indeed, the past year’s reports have tremendously challenged the advantages of plastics, stressing the numerous disadvantages for ocean sustainability, biodiversity, and human health.

clean-1223168_1280Consequently, the purpose of this report is to provide new information and to call for action on plastic pollution once again. Furthermore, this data fills a knowledge gap, representing an important reference point for policy makers, who wish to enact transformative policies and production practices. Action is needed to reduce the level of contamination in our oceans. This is particularly so, as the issue becomes a worldwide human health threat with plastic entering our food and water supplies. As it is part of our daily activities, everyone has not only the responsibility but the duty to get involved. It is up to the private sector to invest in the necessary R&D for the needed production shifts. But it also belongs to the governments to force real change by legislation and on-the-ground policies. Finally, populations could choose sustainable practices, by promoting natural fabrics rather than synthetic ones. We must act if we don’t want plastic soup in our plates.

On February 15-16, GFDD attended to the UN preparatory meeting for the Ocean Conference, a UN Conference scheduled to take place from June 5 to 9, 2017. These two preparation days were an opportunity for voluntary countries to raise awareness on different issues. Many representatives talked about plastic waste but also microplastics, which should be one of the main topics of discussion next June.

 

For the full report, please read: https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2017-002.pdf

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