Word got around:
Eight to twelve million tons of plastic end up in the sea every year, one container of plastic per minute. Plastic dissolves only slowly, a plastic bottle after 450 years, a fishing line after 600 years. Sea creatures and seabirds suffer and die because of the plastic. – Well, I will no longer use plastic bags, some people might have considered.
In October 2018 there was a short outcry in the media: For the first time researchers from Austria had detected microplastics in the intestines of people!
Microplastics is the smallest particle of perhaps just a few micrometers. We take up micro plastic by eating marine animals such as shrimps or mussels, sea salt, beer, mineral water or tap water. A study with 159 tap water samples from all over the world revealed up to 61 particles per litre. The Scottish professor Ted Henry also found microplastics in the house dust, which settles on our food. In this way we absorb more than 100 particles per meal.
Our dust contains plastic, which comes from tire abrasion, synthetic clothing (outdoor/fleece jackets, etc.), plastic blankets and other plastic articles. We eat plastic, breathe plastic and wash our hands and hair with cosmetics containing plastic. According to a study by the Fraunhofer Institute, 977 tons of microplastics and 46,900 tons of dissolved polymers from cosmetics and detergents and cleaning agents end up in wastewater in Germany every year. Via the drain it reaches rivers and the sea or fields in the form of sewage sludge. A vicious cycle, even if research is still underway into how dangerous plastic is for the human body and whether particles pass from the intestine into the tissue.
Drugstores and discounters respond with microplastic-free seals on their products. What is meant by microplastic is a matter of interpretation, as it is largely a self-certification of the chains of stores. An exception is the Flustix seal, which is awarded by independent testing laboratories and excludes all types of plastics. Flustix also includes bio-based polymers, which sometimes take decades to decompose. Hardly degradable bioplastics such as Polylactic Acid (PLA) are not prohibited even in natural cosmetics. However, the obligation of store chains to ban synthetic polymers in solid and liquid form is an important step.
You can change something immediately:
When buying clothes, consider whether you really need the piece. Living sustainably means less consumption => wearing or exchanging clothes for a long time. 20% of the clothes in the wardrobe are never worn. Prefer natural fibres to polyester. In addition to plastic, harmful chemicals are often also used in production.
To identify cosmetics and detergents with plastic, look for polymers (recognizable by polyethylene, polyacrylate …), AC (acrylate copolymer) or ACS, nylon, dimethiconol, methicone or siloxane. Smartphone apps such as Beat the Microbead or Code Check can help in the search for microplastics or other harmful components.
Through lectures and campaigns, we raise awareness on the subject of sustainability and the avoidance of microplastics. The consumer is challenged not to buy products with microplastics anymore. This requires transparency. We advocate a ban on microplastics in cosmetics and other products.
© Photo Slider: Flickr / Florida Sea Grant