Microplastics are a global problem which threatens the whole marine ecosystem. They measure, at most, five millimetres in size and are abundantly present in our oceans, from the most urbanised regions to the most remote. Because they are not easily degradable, these particles pose a great risk to the environment, having been found in more than 114 aquatic species in 2018, according to the International Maritime Organisation.
Recently, specialists from the Polytechnical University of Hong Kong (PolyU) presented a project to remove this pollutant from the waters. The idea consists of creating networks of microbes, similar to threads, from an adhesive substance naturally produced by the bacteria, called biofilm. This would make it possible to capture microplastics from aquatic environments.
Since 2010, the number of studies on microplastics and their respective effects on the biodiversity and aquatic ecosystem has been increasing. Efforts to act and remove these particles from marine environments have been made worldwide.
They alter marine ecosystems, cause deformities in the fauna and affect human health. But how do microplastics reach the environment? All non-recycled plastic residues end up in landfills and in the environment, where they break down, forming the microparticles that pollute water and air. There are also daily activities and gestures that contribute to an increase in these particles: cosmetic products, such as body scrubs; rubber particles which come from the wear and tear of rubber tyres; the washing of clothes composed of synthetic plastic textile fibres.
Studies have found the presence of microplastics in consumer products, such as bottled water, salt and even honey samples. For that reason, the United Nations Organisation for Food and Agriculture have appealed for changes in behaviour, such as:
- Avoiding disposable, single use plastics. There are always reusable options we can choose from: cloth bags, glass containers, cutlery, and ceramic mugs.
- Avoiding products that might contain microplastics in their formulation, as is the case with exfoliating products which often contain small plastic spheres.
- Whenever you go to the beach, what are the plastics you find the most? Disposable water and soft drinks bottles. Always have a reusable bottle with you so you can refill it whenever you need to.
- Refusing plastic cutlery, straws, and plastic containers. We often receive plastic without having asked for it or needing it.
- And finally, recycling. The majority of plastics used are not recycled, ending up in the environment.
Small gestures that promote the sustainability of the oceans and rivers and which, together with efficient strategies and solutions, can help interrupt the ‘plasticisation’ of aquatic environments.
Source: Época Negócios + The United Nations Organisation for food and Agriculture.