Remember the sea horse swimming with a discarded cotton bud? The photograph was captured by Justin Hofman snorkeling along the reef near Sumbawa Besar, Indonesia and illustrates the shocking extent of pollution in our oceans.
Or the sea turtle, who all too often confuses floating plastic for jellyfish or algae. Unfortunately, research suggests that 52% of the world’s turtles have eaten plastic waste at one time or another, some in alarming quantities according to a University of Tokyo study. So why would we think the impact of plastic waste is confined to the wildlife on our shores.
Recent studies show that plastic is leaving an impact on humans too.
Earlier this year (March) the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that scientists had detected microplastics in human blood. For the first time. Tiny particles present in nearly 80% of the people tested. Half the samples contained PET plastic (Polyethylene Terephthalate) largely used for synthetic fibres, drinks bottles and packaging resins, a third contained polystyrene and a quarter polyethylene – used to make plastic carrier bags. Americans use, on average, 365 plastic bags per person per year, while people in Denmark use on average 4.
Responding to the study, Prof Dick Vethaak, ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands told the Guardian “It is certainly reasonable to be concerned, the particles are there and are transported throughout the body,” explaining that previous studies showed microplastics were 10 times higher in baby’s faeces compared with adults and that babies fed with plastic bottles are swallowing millions of microplastic particles each day.
“We know, in general, that babies and young children are more vulnerable to chemical and particle exposure,” he said. “That worries me a lot.”
While the health impact is still unclear, researchers already know microplastics can damage human cells in the laboratory and air pollution particles cause millions of early deaths each year, so the impact of plastics on humanity, as well as wildlife, is not good.
With the world producing about 300 million metric tons of plastic per year and if reports are correct, 80% of it ending up in landfill, oceans, tributaries and other parts of our environment, it’s a mammoth task eradicating plastic pollution, but there is innovative work underway globally to replace plastics at source, with biodegradable alternatives and there are already simple swaps we can all make.
So, what is a Microplastic?
A plastic - polyethylene, nylon or resin – measuring from 5mm in diameter (think eraser on your pencil tip) to 10 nanometers – smaller than you or I can actually see! These tiny particles could be floating in the air, in your faucet, in bottled water and in the sea and soil. But also closer to home, in your medicine cabinet and your first-aid tin. The very place you go to for help!
From your exfoliants to the bandages you grab for your kids when they scrape their knee or bump their head – there are many simple swaps you can make to eliminate microplastics from your life. PATCH Bamboo bandages are completely natural and sustainable – being made from planet-friendly bamboo. Natural and non-toxic, bamboo doesn’t need pesticides or herbicides, uses less water, and grows much faster than trees, producing up to 35% more oxygen - making it a much more sustainable resource.
Proud to be B Corp certified, our aim at PATCH is to create products that don’t cost the earth but have a positive impact on it, focusing on utilising only sustainable, environmentally friendly materials that won’t leave their mark.
Make a simple swap today.