Hello, everyone. We are back with Part-3 of The Ocean Series started by Saathi to help explore menstrual waste, ocean pollution, ocean plastics, and how it impacts us. Before, in Part-2, we talked about how menstrual products contribute to plastic pollution which in turn harms our ocean. In this blog, we are going to discuss microplastics, their impact on the ocean, and on living beings.
Different kinds of plastics:
There are not just two but five terminologies for plastics namely Macroplastics, Mesoplastics, Microplastics, Nano plastics, and Microbeads. Macroplastics such as plastic bags are the largest of all plastics and the smallest are microbeads. All hold equal capacity to wreak havoc in ocean ecosystems. According to the Indian Chemical Society, about 57 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated by us every year and 15 million tonnes of it ends up in our surroundings particularly in the ocean-beds. But, in this blog, we are going to focus on microplastics and microbeads.
Microplastics VS Microbeads:
Microplastics are small fragments of Macroplastics present in plastic water bottles, regular plastic disposable sanitary pads, tampons, etc. These items can easily end up in the ocean. The problem of menstrual product plastic discussed in Part-2 of The Ocean Series, taught us how through improper disposal methods, menstrual products end up in the ocean. We discussed how these plastics break down into microplastics and harm ocean life. According to research by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the ocean will contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025. And, by 2050, more plastic than fish by weight.
Microplastics are larger in size than microbeads. Microbeads are plastic granules present in your personal care products. Just like the tiny shining squares in your toothpaste or the small beads in your facial scrubs. Microbeads, due to their small size, can pass through the drain and litter the environment. There are almost 330,000 microbeads floating in one tube of facial scrub.
According to the American Chemical Society, every day, in the United States, about 8 trillion microbeads wash down the household drains and 99% of them settle down as sludge during the wastewater treatment process. This sludge is often used as fertilizer. Further, this fertilizer can enter the ocean through runoffs by rain or irrigation methods. When it comes to India, it is hard to find these statistics but in India also we use this product so the number is most likely similar to the USA.
Image Credit: 5Gyres
The Bigger Issue with Microplastics:
You might wonder why is this problem of ocean pollution such a big deal. Why should we be so worried about plastics in the ocean? How do microplastics and microbeads affect us? We must remember that all the natural resources on Earth are interconnected. The problem of microplastics does not just end with plastic pollution. Plastics can never be properly disposed of as it breaks down into microplastics. If you burn plastics, it releases toxic chemicals into the air causing air pollution. This air pollution increases the chances of respiratory diseases. And, it even causes cancer among humans. If you leave it in an open area, it can destroy the soil and any plants growing in it. And, by entering the ocean, it contaminates the water and harms life underwater. It is a vicious cycle that pollutes the environment and harms humans and marine life.
Plastics and Humans:
About 663 species of marine wildlife are affected by plastic pollution and a single plastic particle can absorb 1,000,000 times more toxic chemical pollutants than the water. These microplastics are then ingested by aquatic life. As per Nature’s Scientific Reports, in Indonesia, about 28% of individual fish and 55% of all species were known to contain marine debris, and all of the debris turned out to be plastic. These species are often consumed as seafood and can cause biological problems like cellular necrosis and lacerations in the gastrointestinal tract in humans due to the presence of toxins in them. In 2015, Dr. Choy and Drazen, two well-known researchers from the University of Hawaii found marine debris in Tuna, Opah, Swordfish collected through a research vessel. (1) According to the American Chemical Society, 15 times more microplastics were found in babies than adults. They also claim that plastics can be turned into microplastics by simply nibbling on chew toys.
Microplastics and microbeads have added to our existing problem of ocean pollution. It harms the land, air, ocean, and us. Plastics did make our lives easier but now it is causing more harm than benefits. Even though plastics have been with us for a long time as a convenient product, now it is high time we move on to better alternatives and switch to sustainable products. At Saathi, we create sustainable products in a responsible way. Using environment-friendly products such as menstrual cups and 100% compostable and biodegradable sanitary pads is a good step towards a greener planet.
Thank you for following The Ocean Series. We hope this blog helps you understand the threat of microplastics and how it impacts us. Read Part-4 to learn more about what sustainable products are, and how they can reduce the problem of menstrual plastics and ocean pollution.
- Plastic Free Blog Series - https://saathipads.com/blogs/menstrual-musings/lets-spread-the-word-plastic-free-july
- Happy Earth Day - https://saathipads.com/blogs/menstrual-musings/here-are-4-things-you-can-do-to-live-ecofriendly-period
Saathi, an award-winning social venture has patented technology to convert agri-waste into absorbent materials. It is known for its 100% biodegradable and compostable sanitary pads made from banana and bamboo fibers. Saathi pads are better for the body🩸, community 🌎 and environment 🌱. We are on a mission to make products sustainably and responsibly.
We are recognized by the UNESCO Green Citizens project, University of St. Andrews, Solar Impulse Foundation, and Global Cleantech Innovation Program among others for our innovative, social impact, and sustainable work. We are working towards 8 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).