The world is waking up to a big issue with microplastics. Authorities are beginning to introduce legislation to phase out microplastic use and manufacturers need to stay informed to remain compliant.
What are Microplastics?
The definition of a plastic is a “synthetic material made from a wide range of organic polymers such as polyethylene, PVC, nylon etc., that can be moulded into shape while soft, and then set into a rigid or slightly elastic form”.
Microplastics are small particles of plastics which are defined as smaller than five millimetres, however they may be as small as 15 microns. Although the public perception of microplastics is generally the beads added to care or cleaning products that provide abrasive properties, they are also found in clothing and occur in the process of washing. Microplastics are not commonly associated with garments, however this is a significant contributor to microplastics entering water bodies. Microplastics also occur as a result of fragmentation of plastic waste and textile fibres, and as by-products of plastic production. In fact, 35% of microplastics released into water bodies, especially oceans, are from synthetic fibres.
Why are Microplastics a Problem?
The small size of microplastics results in effluent treatment plants often not capturing these materials before they enter water bodies. Therefore, they are proving to be a pollution factor through contaminating aquatic organisms which may mistake small particles as a food source. As a result of ingesting microplastics has the potential to cause injury and/or death in aquatic organisms. Ultimately the microplastics can enter the food chain which then proves a risk to human consumption. It is estimated that approximately 4% of plastic waste in water systems are microfibres.
Much of the issue originates from a lack of knowledge of where the microplastics have come from to enter the water body. Without knowledge of where the microplastics have originated, they cannot be prevented or reduced.
Can It Be Tested?
Eurofins | BLC offers a test that calculates and quantifies microplastic discharge from synthetic materials and clothing. Please contact us for further details and information on +44 (0)1604 679999.