Pollution: Plastic In Our Oceans

| April 24, 2012

Written By: Michelle, The Green-Mother

What goes on during the wash cycle has completely changed my perspective on doing laundry. A simple chore such as washing our clothing has the capacity to cause damage to our environment and the fish that we consume. I once believed using natural based laundry detergents was enough to protect Mother Earth and our oceans.

According to a recent study reported in Environmental Science and Technology, it was discovered that bits of polyester and acrylic rinse off clothing during the wash cycle. The bits are smaller than a pinhead. These bits have been found on the ocean shorelines.

It has been discovered that this type of micro-plastic contamination can be observed along eighteen coasts world wide. What are micro-plastics?

“Micro-plastics refer to particles of plastic that are generally invisible to humans and are smaller than 5 millimetres in size and so are often missed in any coast clean-up efforts”.

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This type of problem is most common in densely populated areas. Polyester and acrylic contain harmful ingredients that fish consume. Humans who consume these fish are also ingesting these toxins.

Research conducted by Mediterranean EnDangered (MED), has discovered that  at least 250 billion particles of micro-plastic may be floating around the Mediterranean Sea.

What are the consequences of micro-plastic?

–  Plastic is a significant contributor to pollution of the marine environment.

– According to Pierre Fidenci ( president of Endangered Species International (ESI)) , “the amount of plastic that will be manufactured in the next ten years will nearly equal the total produced in the 20th century”.

– ESI has stated that more than 180 species have been documented to absorb plastic debris, including species of plankton which is of particular concern. Fidenci stated that a laboratory study has shown that krill species ingested significant amounts of polyethylene fragments, the type of plankton that feeds whole ecosystems.

-MED says “it is widely known that large predators – especially cetaceans, turtles, sea birds and seals – ingest human-caused debris”. In addition, affected animals suffocate or starve to death due to their breathing or digesting system being blocked. The task now is to try and understand just what the consequences of plankton species absorbing plastic micro-fragments are.

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What can be done to decrease microplastics in our oceans?

– Dr Boxall stated: “It is not questions of saying oh gosh we can never go in the sea again because of the amount of plastic. We do need to monitor it. We do need to keep an eye on it. The main problems are that we can’t do much about it.”


– Better waste management which includes far improved plastics recovery and recycling is obviously a major factor in preventing waste plastic reaching the sea.

– So many more components of the plastics industry are actively supporting recycling and that is a good thing because it is keeping plastics in use rather than sitting in landfill or in the ocean.

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To conclude, to help decrease ocean pollution, one can start by recycling. Together, everyone can make a difference.

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Category: The Laundry Room

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