Microplastics are very small pieces of plastic that pollute the environment. Microplastics are not a specific kind of plastic, but rather any type of plastic fragment that is less than 5 mm in length according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They enter natural ecosystems from a variety of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.
Two classifications of microplastics currently exist. Primary microplastics are any plastic fragments or particles that are already 5.0 mm in size or less before entering the environment. These include microfibers from clothing, microbeads, and plastic pellets (also known as nurdles). Secondary microplastics are microplastics that are created from the degradation of larger plastic products once they enter the environment through natural weathering processes. Such sources of secondary microplastics include water and soda bottles, fishing nets, and plastic bags. Both types are recognized to persist in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems.
Additionally, plastics degrade slowly, often over hundreds if not thousands of years. This increases the probability of microplastics being ingested and incorporated into, and accumulated in, the bodies and tissues of many organisms. The entire cycle and movement of microplastics in the environment is not yet known, but research is currently underway to investigate this issue.
- 1 Classification
- 2 Sources
- 3 Potential effects on the environment
- 4 Where microplastics can be found
- 5 Proposed solutions
- 6 Policy and legislation
- 7 Action for creating awareness
- 8 Cleanup
- 9 Notes
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
Microplastics are common in our world today. In 2014, it was estimated that there are between 15 and 51 trillion individual pieces of microplastic in the world's oceans, which was estimated to weigh between 93,000 and 236,000 metric tons.
Primary microplastics are small pieces of plastic that are purposefully manufactured. They are usually used in facial cleansers and cosmetics, or in air blasting technology. In some cases, their use in medicine as vectors for drugs was reported. Microplastic "scrubbers", used in exfoliating hand cleansers and facial scrubs, have replaced traditionally used natural ingredients, including ground almonds, oatmeal, and pumice. Primary microplastics have also been produced for use in air blasting technology. This process involves blasting acrylic, melamine, or polyester microplastic scrubbers at machinery, engines, and boat hulls to remove rust and paint. As these scrubbers are used repeatedly until they diminish in size and their cutting power is lost, they often become contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, and lead. Although many companies have committed to reducing the production of microbeads, there are still many bioplastic microbeads that also have a long degradation life cycle similar to normal plastic.
Secondary plastics are small pieces of plastic derived from the breakdown of larger plastic debris, both at sea and on land. Over time, a culmination of physical, biological, and chemphotodegradation, including photodegradation caused by sunlight exposure, can reduce the structural integrity of plastic debris to a size that is eventually undetectable to the naked eye. This process of breaking down large plastic material into much smaller pieces is known as fragmentation. It is considered that microplastics might further degrade to be smaller in size, although the smallest microplastic reportedly detected in the oceans at present is 1.6 micrometres (6.3×10−5 in) in diameter. The prevalence of microplastics with uneven shapes suggests that fragmentation is a key source.
Other sources: as a by-product/dust emission during wear and tear
There are countless sources of both primary and secondary microplastics. Microplastic fibers enter the environment from the washing of synthetic clothing. Tires, composed partly of synthetic styrene-butadiene rubber, will erode into tiny plastic and rubber particles as they are used. Furthermore, 2.0-5.0 mm plastic pellets, used to create other plastic products, often[quantify] enter ecosystems due to spillages and other accidents. A Norwegian Environment Agency review report about microplastics published in early 2015 states it would be beneficial to classify these sources as primary, as long as microplastics from these sources are added from human society at the "start of the pipe", and their emissions are inherently a result of human material and product use and not secondary defragmentation in nature.
Various researchers treat very small microplastic particles - nanoplastics - separately, with varying cut-off points between microplastics and nanoplastics.
The existence of microplastics in the environment is often established through aquatic studies. These include taking plankton samples, analyzing sandy and muddy sediments, observing vertebrate and invertebrate consumption, and evaluating chemical pollutant interactions. Through such methods, it has been shown that there are microplastics from multiple sources in the environment.
Microplastics could contribute up to 30% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch polluting the world’s oceans and, in many developed countries, are a bigger source of marine plastic pollution than the visible larger pieces of marine litter, according to a 2017 IUCN report.
Sewage treatment plants
Sewage treatment plants, also known as wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), remove contaminants from wastewater, primarily from household sewage, using various physical, chemical, and biological processes. Most plants in developed countries have both primary and secondary treatment stages. In the primary stage of treatment, physical processes are employed to remove oils, sand, and other large solids using conventional filters, clarifiers, and settling tanks. Secondary treatment uses biological processes involving bacteria and protozoa to break down organic matter. Common secondary technologies are activated sludge systems, trickling filters, and constructed wetlands. The optional tertiary treatment stage may include processes for nutrient removal (nitrogen and phosphorus) and disinfection.
Microplastics have been detected in both the primary and secondary treatment stages of the plants. A groundbreaking 1998 study suggested that microplastic fibers would be a persistent indicator of sewage sludges and wastewater treatment plant outfalls. A study estimated that about one particle per liter of microplastics are being released back into the environment, with a removal efficiency of about 99.9%. A 2016 study showed that most microplastics are actually removed during the primary treatment stage where solid skimming and sludge settling are used. When these treatment facilities are functioning properly, the contribution of microplastics into oceans and surface water environments from WWTPs is not disproportionately large.
However, it is important to note that in certain countries sewage sludge is used for soil fertilizer, which exposes plastics in the sludge to the weather, sunlight, and other biological factors, causing fragmentation. As a result, microplastics from these biosolids often end up in storm drains and eventually into bodies of water. In addition, some studies show that microplastics do pass through filtration processes at some WWTPs (Microplastics as Contaminants, 2011). According to a study from the UK, samples taken from sewage sludge disposal sites on the coasts of six continents contained an average one particle of microplastic per liter. A significant amount of these particles was of clothing fibers from washing machine effluent.
Car and truck tires
Wear and tear from tires significantly contributes to the flow of (micro-)plastics into the environment. Estimates of emissions of microplastics to the environment in Denmark are between 5,500 and 14,000 tonnes (6,100 and 15,400 tons) per year. Secondary microplastics (e.g. from car and truck tires or footwear) are more important than primary microplastics by two orders of magnitude. The formation of microplastics from the degradation of larger plastics in the environment is not accounted for in the study.
The estimated per capita emission ranges from 0.23 to 4.7 kg/year, with a global average of 0.81 kg/year. The emissions from car tires (100%) are substantially higher than those of other sources of microplastics, e.g., airplane tires (2%), artificial turf (12–50%), brake wear (8%), and road markings (5%). Emissions and pathways depend on local factors like road type or sewage systems. The relative contribution of tire wear and tear to the total global amount of plastics ending up in our oceans is estimated to be 5–10%. In air, 3–7% of the particulate matter (PM2.5) is estimated to consist of tire wear and tear, indicating that it may contribute to the global health burden of air pollution which has been projected by the World Health Organization (WHO) at 3 million deaths in 2012. The wear and tear also enter our food chain, but further research is needed to assess human health risks.
Some companies have replaced natural exfoliating ingredients with microplastics, usually in the form of "microbeads" or "micro-exfoliates". These products are typically composed of polyethylene, a common component of plastics, but they can also be manufactured from polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, and nylon. They are often found in face washes, hand soaps, and other personal care products; the beads are usually washed into the sewage system immediately after use. Their small size prevents them from fully being retained by preliminary treatment screens at wastewater plants, thereby allowing some to enter rivers and oceans. In fact, wastewater treatment plants only remove an average of 95–99.9% of microbeads because of their small design . This leaves an average of 0-7 microbeads per litre being discharged. Considering that one treatment plant discharges 160 trillion liters of water per day, around 8 trillion microbeads are released into waterways every day. This number doesn’t account for the sewage sludge that is reused as fertilizer after the waste water treatment that has been known to still contain these microbeads.
This is an issue at the household level because it has been estimated that around 808 trillion beads per household are discharged in a single day whether due to cosmetic exfoliates, face wash, toothpaste, or other sources. Although many companies have committed to phasing out the use of microbeads in their products, according to research, there are at least 80 different facial scrub products that are still being sold with microbeads as a main component. This contributes to the 80 metric tons of microbead discharge per year by the United Kingdom alone, which not only has a negative impact upon the wildlife and food chain, but also upon levels of toxicity, as microbeads have been proven to absorb dangerous chemicals such as pesticides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Studies have shown that many synthetic fibers, such as polyester, nylon, acrylics, and spandex, can be shed from clothing and persist in the environment. Each garment in a load of laundry can shed more than 1,900 fibers of microplastics, with fleeces releasing the highest percentage of fibers, over 170% more than other garments. For an average wash load of 6 kg, over 700,000 fibres could be released per wash.
These microfibers have been found to persist throughout the food chain from zooplankton to larger animals such as whales. The primary fiber that persist throughout the textile industry is polyester which is a cheap cotton alternative that can be easily manufactured. However, these types of fibers contribute greatly to the persistence to microplastics in terrestrial, aerial, and marine ecosystems. The process of washing clothes causes garments to lose an average of over 100 fibers per liter of water. This has been linked with health effects possibly caused by the release of monomers, dispersive dyes, mordants, and plasticisers from manufacturing. The occurrence of these types of fibers in households has been shown to represent 33% of all fibers in indoor environments.
Textile fibers have been studied in both indoor and outdoor environments to determine the average human exposure. The indoor concentration was found to be 1.0–60.0 fibers/m^3, whereas the outdoor concentration was much lower at 0.3-1.5 fibers/m^3. The deposition rate indoors was 1586-11,130 fibers per day/m^3 which accumulates to around 190-670 fibers/mg of dust. The largest concern with these concentrations is that it increases exposure to children and the elderly, which can cause adverse health effects.
The manufacture of plastic products uses granules and small resin pellets as their raw material. In the United States, production increased from 2.9 million pellets in 1960 to 21.7 million pellets in 1987. Through accidental spillage during land or sea transport, inappropriate use as packing materials, and direct outflow from processing plants, these raw materials can enter aquatic ecosystems. In an assessment of Swedish waters using an 80 µm mesh, KIMO Sweden found typical microplastic concentrations of 150–2,400 microplastics per m3; in a harbor adjacent to a plastic production facility, the concentration was 102,000 per m3.
Many industrial sites in which convenient raw plastics are frequently used are located near bodies of water. If spilled during production, these materials may enter the surrounding environment, polluting waterways. “More recently, Operation Cleansweep, a joint initiative of the American Chemistry Council and Society of the Plastics Industry, is aiming for industries to commit to zero pellet loss during their operations”. Overall, there is a significant lack of research aimed at specific industries and companies that contribute to microplastics pollution.
Recreational and commercial fishing, marine vessels, and marine industries are all sources of plastic that can directly enter the marine environment, posing a risk to biota both as macroplastics, and as secondary microplastics following long-term degradation. Marine debris observed on beaches also arises from beaching of materials carried on inshore and ocean currents. Fishing gear is a form of plastic debris with a marine source. Discarded or lost fishing gear, including plastic monofilament line and nylon netting, is typically neutrally buoyant and can, therefore, drift at variable depths within the oceans. Various countries have reported that microplastics from the industry and other sources have been accumulating in different types of seafood. In Indonesia, 55% of all fish species had evidence of manufactured debris similar to America which reported 67%. However, the majority of debris in Indonesia was plastic, while in North America the majority was synthetic fibers found in clothing and some types of nets. The implication from the fact that fish are being contaminated with microplastic is that those plastics and their chemicals will bioaccumulate in the food chain.
One study analyzed the plastic-derived chemical called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the stomachs of short-tailed shearwaters. It found that one-fourth of the birds had higher-brominated congeners that are not naturally found in their prey. However, the PBDE got into the birds' systems through plastic that was found in the stomachs of the birds. It is therefore not just the plastics that are being transferred through the food chain but the chemicals from the plastics as well.
Packaging and shipping
Shipping has significantly contributed to marine pollution. Some statistics indicate that in 1970, commercial shipping fleets around the world dumped over 23,000 tons of plastic waste into the marine environment. In 1988, an international agreement (MARPOL 73/78, Annex V) prohibited the dumping of waste from ships into the marine environment. In the United States, the Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act of 1987 prohibits discharge of plastics in the sea, including from naval vessels.. However, shipping remains a dominant source of plastic pollution, having contributed around 6.5 million tons of plastic in the early 1990s. Research has shown that approximately 10% of the plastic found on the beaches in Hawaii are nurdles. In one incident on July 24, 2012, 150 tonnes of nurdles and other raw plastic material spilled from a shipping vessel off the coast near Hong Kong after a major storm. This waste from the Chinese company Sinopec was reported to have piled up in large quantities on beaches. While this is a large incident of spillage, researchers speculate that smaller accidents also occur and further contribute to marine microplastic pollution.
Plastic water bottles
In one study, 93% of the bottled water from 11 different brands showed microplastic contamination. Per liter, researchers found an average of 325 microplastic particles. Of the tested brands, Nestlé Pure Life and Gerolsteiner bottles contained the most microplastic with 930 and 807 microplastic particles per liter (MPP/L), respectively. San Pellegrino products showed the least quantity of microplastic densities. Compared to water from taps, water from plastic bottles contained twice as much microplastic. Some of the contamination likely comes from the process of bottling and packaging the water.
Potential effects on the environment
According to a comprehensive review of scientific evidence published by the European Union's Scientific Advice Mechanism in 2019, microplastics are now present in every part of the environment. While there is no evidence of widespread ecological risk from microplastic pollution yet, risks are likely to become widespread within a century if pollution continues at its current rate.
Participants at the 2008 International Research Workshop on the Occurrence, Effects and Fate of Microplastic Marine Debris at the University of Washington at Tacoma concluded that microplastics are a problem in the marine environment, based on:
- the documented occurrence of microplastics in the marine environment,
- the long residence times of these particles (and, therefore, their likely buildup in the future), and
- their demonstrated ingestion by marine organisms.
So far, research has mainly focused on larger plastic items. Widely-recognized problems facing marine life are entanglement, ingestion, suffocation and general debilitation often leading to death and/or strandings. This causes serious public concern. In contrast, microplastics are not as conspicuous, being less than 5 mm, and are usually invisible to the naked eye. Particles of this size are available to a much broader range of species, enter the food chain at the bottom, become embedded in animal tissue, and are then undetectable by unaided visual inspection.
Microplastics have been detected not just in marine but also in freshwater systems in three continents (Europe, North America and Asia). Samples collected across 29 Great Lakes tributaries from six states in the United States were found to contain plastic particles, 98% of which were microplastics ranging in size from 0.355mm to 4.75mm.
Biological integration into organisms
Microplastics can become embedded in animals' tissue through ingestion or respiration. Various annelid species, such as deposit-feeding lugworms (Arenicola marina), have been shown to have microplastics embedded in their gastrointestinal tracts. Many crustaceans, like the shore crab Carcinus maenas, have been seen to integrate microplastics into both their respiratory and digestive tracts.
Additionally, bottom feeders, such as benthic sea cucumbers, who are non-selective scavengers that feed on debris on the ocean floor, ingest large amounts of sediment. It has been shown that four species of sea cucumber (Thyonella gemmate, Holothuria floridana, H. grisea and Cucumaria frondosa) ingested between 2- and 20-fold more PVC fragments and between 2- and 138-fold more nylon line fragments (as much as 517 fibers per organism) based on plastic-to-sand grain ratios from each sediment treatment. These results suggest that individuals may be selectively ingesting plastic particles. This contradicts the accepted indiscriminate feeding strategy of sea cucumbers, and may occur in all presumed non-selective feeders when presented with microplastics.
Not only fish and free-living organisms can ingest microplastics. Scleractinian corals, which are primary reef-builders, have been shown to ingest microplastics under laboratory conditions. While the effects of ingestion on these corals has not been studied, corals can easily become stressed and bleach. Microplastics have been shown to stick to the exterior of the corals after exposure in the laboratory. The adherence to the outside of corals can potentially be harmful, because corals cannot handle sediment or any particulate matter on their exterior and slough it off by secreting mucus, and they expending energy in the process, increasing the likelihood of mortality.
Zooplankton ingest microplastics beads (1.7–30.6 μm) and excrete fecal matter contaminated with microplastics. Along with ingestion, the microplastics stick to the appendages and exoskeleton of the zooplankton. Zooplankton, among other marine organisms, consume microplastics because they emit similar infochemicals, notably dimethyl sulfide, just as phytoplankton do.[verification needed] Plastics such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and polypropylene (PP) produce dimethyl sulfide odors. These types of plastics are commonly found in plastic bags, food storage containers, and bottle caps.
It can take up to 14 days for microplastics to pass through an animal (as compared to a normal digestion period of 2 days), but enmeshment of the particles in animals' gills can prevent elimination entirely. When microplastic-laden animals are consumed by predators, the microplastics are then incorporated into the bodies of higher trophic-level feeders. For example, scientists have reported plastic accumulation in the stomachs of lantern fish which are small filter feeders and are the main prey for commercial fish like tuna and swordfish. Microplastics also absorb chemical pollutants that can be transferred into the organism's tissues. Small animals are at risk of reduced food intake due to false satiation and resulting starvation or other physical harm from the microplastics.
Marine biologists in 2017 discovered that three-quarters of the underwater seagrass in the Turneffe Atoll off the coast of Belize had microplastic fibers, shards, and beads stuck to it. The plastic pieces had been overgrown by epibionts (organisms that naturally stick themselves to seagrass). Seagrass is part of the barrier reef ecosystem and is fed on by parrotfish, which in turn are eaten by humans. These findings, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, may be "the first discovery of microplastics on aquatic vascular plants...[and] only the second discovery of microplastics on marine plant life anywhere in the world."
A study done at the Argentinean coastline of the Rio de la Plata estuary, found the presence of microplastics in the guts of 11 species of coastal freshwater fish. These 11 species of fish represented four different feeding habits: detritivore, planktivore, omnivore and ichthyophagous. This study is one of the few so far to show the ingestion of microplastics by freshwater organisms.
Fish is a significant source of protein for the human population, accounting for 6.1% of all protein consumed globally in 2007. The microplastics ingested by fish and crustaceans can be subsequently consumed by humans as the end of the food chain. In a study done at the State University of New York, 18 fish species were sampled and all species showed some level of plastics in their systems. Many additional researchers have found evidence that these fibers had become chemically associated with metals, polychlorinated biphenyls, and other toxic contaminants while in water. The microplastic-metal complex can then enter humans via consumption.
The primary concern with human health in regards to microplastics is more directed towards the different toxic and carcinogenic chemicals used to make these plastics and what they carry. It has also been thought that microplastics can act as a vector for pathogens as well as heavy metals. More specifically, pregnant women in particular are in danger of causing birth defects to male infants such as anogenital distance, penile width, and testicular descent. This comes from phthalate exposure and DEHP metabolites that interfere with the development of the male reproductive tract.
BPA is a substance that is an ingredient used to harden plastic that can also cause a wide range of disorders. Cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and abnormalities in liver enzymes are a few disorders that can arise from even small exposure to this chemical. Although these effects have been more widely studied than other types of plastics, it is still used in the production of much clothing (polyester).
A flame retardant called Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) is used in many different types of plastics such as those found in microcircuits. This chemical has been linked to disruptions in thyroid hormones balance, pituitary function, and infertility in lab rats. The endocrine system is affected by TBBPA through disruption of the natural T3 functions with the nuclear suspension in pituitary and thyroid.[clarification needed]
Many people can expect to come in contact with various types of microplastics on a daily basis in the aforementioned sources (see sources). However, the average citizen is exposed to microplastics through their various types of food included in a normal diet. The report "Human Consumption of Microplastics" mentions that the average person eats at least 50 000 microplastic particles a year and breathes in a similar quantity. Researchers in China for instance tested three types of table salt samples available in supermarkets and found the presence of microplastics in all of them. Sea salt has the highest amounts of microplastics compared to lake salt and rock/well salt. Sea salt and rock salt which are commonly used table salts in Spain have also been found to contain microplastics. The most common type of microplastic found in both these studies was polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
An example of bioaccumulation in the food chain that leads to human exposure was a study of the tissue samples of mussels to approximate concentration of microplastics. The study extrapolated that an average citizen might be exposed to 123 particles/year/capita of microplastics through mussel consumption in the UK. Considering different diets, it was also estimated that microplastic exposure could rise to 4,620 particles/y/capita in countries with higher shellfish consumption. Humans, on average, are exposed to microplastics more in household dust than by consuming mussels.
A 2018 study conducted on eight individuals from Europe and Japan found microplastics in human feces for the first time. All participants were found positive for at least one type of microplastic after all of them had consumed plastic-wrapped food and drunk water from plastic bottles while six had also eaten seafood. It was noted though that the study was small-sized, preliminary and unable to reveal the true origin of the plastic particles.
According to a comprehensive review of scientific evidence published by the European Union's Scientific Advice Mechanism in 2019, "little is known with respect to the human health risks of nano- and microplastics, and what is known is surrounded by considerable uncertainty". The authors of the review identify the main limitations as the quality or methodology of the research to date. Since "the poison is in the dose", the review concludes that "there is a need to understand the potential modes of toxicity for different size-shape-type NMP combinations in carefully selected human models, before robust conclusions about ‘real’ human risks can be made".
Approximately half of the plastic material introduced to the marine environment is buoyant, but fouling by organisms can cause plastic debris to sink to the sea floor, where it may interfere with sediment-dwelling species and sedimental gas exchange processes. Several factors contribute to microplastic’s buoyancy, including the density of the plastic it is composed as well as the size and shape of the microplastic fragments themselves. Microplastics can also form a buoyant biofilm layer on the ocean’s surface. Buoyancy changes in relation to ingestion of microplastics have been clearly observed in autotrophs because the absorption can interfere with photosynthesis and subsequent gas levels. However, this issue is of more importance for larger plastic debris.
|Plastic Type||Abbreviation||Density (g/cm3)|
Persistent organic pollutants
Plastic particles may highly concentrate and transport synthetic organic compounds (e.g. persistent organic pollutants, POPs), commonly present in the environment and ambient seawater, on their surface through adsorption. Microplastics can act as carriers for the transfer of POPs from the environment to organisms.
Additives added to plastics during manufacture may leach out upon ingestion, potentially causing serious harm to the organism. Endocrine disruption by plastic additives may affect the reproductive health of humans and wildlife alike.
Plastics, polymers derived from mineral oils, are virtually non-biodegradable. However, renewable natural polymers are now in development which can be used for the production of biodegradable materials similar to those derived from oil-based polymers.
Where microplastics can be found
The Ocean Conservancy has reported that China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam dump more plastic in the sea than all other countries combined. Though there is debate over exactly how much microplastic is in the world’s oceans, a 2015 study estimated that there was between 93 and 236 thousand metric tons of microplastics in the world’s oceans. A study of the distribution of Eastern Pacific Ocean surface plastic debris helps to illustrate how the concentration of plastics in the ocean is on the rise. Though the study admits further research is needed to predict trends in ocean plastic concentration, by using data on surface plastic concentration (pieces of plastic km−2) from 1972-1985 n=60 and 2002-2012 n=457 within the same plastic accumulation zone, found the mean plastic concentration increase between the two sets of data, including a 10-fold increase of 18,160 to 189,800 pieces of plastic km−2. And though this study is based on data from surface plastic concentration, not specifically microplastic, additional research has found microplastics to account for 92% of plastic debris on the ocean’s surface, which adds context to the study.
Though there have only been a few studies of microplastics in freshwater ecosystems, microplastics are being increasingly detected in the world’s aquatic environments. The first study on microplastics in freshwater ecosystems was published in 2011 that found an average of 37.8 fragments per square meter of Lake Huron sediment samples. Additionally, studies have found MP (microplastic) to be present in all of the Great Lakes with an average concentration of 43,000 MP particle km−2. Microplastics have also been detected in freshwater ecosystems outside of the United States. The highest concentration of microplastic ever discovered in a studied freshwater ecosystem was recorded in the Rhine river at 4000 MP particles kg−1.
A substantial portion of microplastics are expected to end up in the world’s soil, yet very little research has been conducted on microplastics in soil. There exists some speculation that fibrous secondary microplastics from washing machines could end up in soil through the failure of water treatment plants to completely filter out all of the microplastic fibers. Furthermore, geophagous soil fauna, such as earthworms, mites, and collembolans could contribute to the amount of secondary microplastic present in soil by converting consumed plastic debris into microplastic via digestive processes. Further research, however, is needed. There is concrete data linking the use of organic waste materials to synthetic fibers being found in the soil; but most studies on plastics in soil merely report its presence and do not mention origin or quantity. Controlled studies on fiber-containing land-applied wastewater sludges (biosolids) applied to soil reported semiquantitative[clarification needed] recoveries of the fibers a number of years after application.
Airborne microplastics have been detected in the atmosphere, as well as indoors and outdoors. A 2017 study found indoor airborne microfiber concentrations between 1.0–60.0 microfibers per cubic meter (33% of which were found to be microplastics). Another study looked at microplastic in the street dust of Tehran and found 2,649 particles of microplastic within 10 samples of street dust, with ranging samples concentrations from 83 particle – 605 particles (+/- 10) per 30.0 g of street dust. Microplastics and microfibers were also found in snow samples. However, much like freshwater ecosystems and soil, more studies are needed to understand the full impact and significance of airborne microplastics.
Some researchers have proposed incinerating plastics to use as energy, which is known as energy recovery. As opposed to losing the energy from plastics into the atmosphere in landfills, this process turns some of the plastics back into energy that can be used. However, as opposed to recycling, this method does not diminish the amount of plastic material that is produced. Therefore, recycling plastics is considered a more efficient solution.
Increasing education through recycling campaigns is another proposed solution for microplastic contamination. While this would be a smaller scale solution, education has been shown to reduce littering, especially in urban environments where there are often large concentrations of plastic waste. If recycling efforts are increased, a cycle of plastic use and reuse would be created to decrease our waste output and production of new raw materials. In order to achieve this, states would need to employ stronger infrastructure and investment around recycling. Some advocate for improving recycling technology to be able to recycle smaller plastics to reduce the need for production of new plastics.
Biodegradation is another possible solution to large amounts of microplastic waste. In this process, microorganisms consume and decompose synthetic polymers by means of enzymes. These plastics can then be used in the form of energy and as a source of carbon once broken down. The microbes could potentially be used to treat sewage wastewater, which would decrease the amount of microplastics that pass through into the surrounding environments.
Policy and legislation
With increasing awareness of the detrimental effects of microplastics on the environment, groups are now advocating for the removal and ban of microplastics from various products. One such campaign is "Beat the Microbead", which focuses on removing plastics from personal care products. The Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation run the Global Microplastics Initiative, a project to collect water samples to provide scientists with better data about microplastic dispersion in the environment. UNESCO has sponsored research and global assessment programs due to the trans-boundary issue that microplastic pollution constitutes. These environmental groups will keep pressuring companies to remove plastics from their products in order to maintain healthy ecosystems.
China banned in 2018 the import of recyclables from other countries, forcing those other countries to re-examine their recycling schemes.[a] The Yangtze River in China contributes 55% of all plastic waste going to the seas.[b] Including microplastics, the Yangtze bears an average of 500,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer. Scientific American reported that China dumps 30% of all plastics in the ocean.
In the US, some states have taken action to mitigate the negative environmental effects of microplastics. Illinois was the first US state to ban cosmetics containing microplastics. On the national level, the Microbead-Free Waters Act 2015 was enacted after being signed by President Barack Obama on December 28, 2015. The law bans "rinse-off" cosmetic products that perform an exfoliating function, such as toothpaste or face wash. It does not apply to other products such as household cleaners. The act took effect on July 1, 2017, with respect to manufacturing, and July 1, 2018, with respect to introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce.
On July 25, 2018, a microplastic reduction amendment was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation, as part of the Save Our Seas Act designed to combat marine pollution, aims to support the NOAA's Marine Debris Program. In particular, the amendment is geared towards promoting NOAA’s Great Lakes Land-Based Marine Debris Action Plan to increase testing, cleanup, and education around plastic pollution in the Great Lakes. President Donald Trump signed the re-authorization and amendment bill into effect on October 11, 2018.
On June 15, 2018, the Japanese government passed a bill with the goal of reducing microplastic production and pollution, especially in aquatic environments. Proposed by the Environment Ministry and passed unanimously by the Upper House, this is also the first bill to pass in Japan that is specifically targeted at reducing microplastic production, specifically in the personal care industry with products such as face wash and toothpaste. This law is revised from previous legislation, which focused on removing plastic marine debris. It also focuses on increasing education and public awareness surrounding recycling and plastic waste. The Environment Ministry has also proposed a number of recommendations for methods to monitor microplastic quantities in the ocean (Recommendations, 2018). However, the legislation does not specify any penalties for those who continue manufacturing products with microplastics.
The European Commission has noted the increased concern about the impact of microplastics on the environment. In April 2018, the European Commission's Group of Chief Scientific Advisors commissioned a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence on microplastic pollution through the EU's Scientific Advice Mechanism. The evidence review was conducted by a working group nominated by European academies and delivered in January 2019. A Scientific Opinion based on the SAPEA report was presented to the Commission in 2019, on the basis of which the Commission will consider whether policy changes should be proposed at a European level to curb microplastic pollution.
The Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (England) Regulations 2017 ban the production of any rinse-off personal care products (such as exfoliants) containing microbeads. This particular law denotes specific penalties when it is not obeyed. Those who do not comply are required to pay a fine. In the event that a fine is not paid, product manufacturers may receive a stop notice, which prevents the manufacturer from continuing production until they have followed regulation preventing the use of microbeads. Criminal proceedings may occur if the stop notice is ignored.
Action for creating awareness
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched its "Trash-Free Waters" initiative in 2013 to prevent single-use plastic wastes from ending up in waterways and ultimately the ocean. EPA collaborates with the United Nations Environment Programme–Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP) and the Peace Corps to reduce and also remove trash in the Caribbean Sea. EPA has also funded various projects in the San Francisco Bay Area including one that is aimed at reducing the use of single-use plastics such as disposable cups, spoons and straws, from three University of California campuses.
Additionally, there are many organizations advocating action to counter microplastics and that is spreading microplastic awareness. One such group is the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project (FMAP), a group of volunteers who search for microplastics in coastal water samples.
Computer modelling done by The Ocean Cleanup, a Netherlands foundation, has suggested that collecting devices placed nearer to the coasts could remove about 31% of the microplastics in the area. In addition, some bacteria have evolved to eat plastic, and some bacteria species have been genetically modified to eat (certain types of) plastics.
On September 9, 2018, The Ocean Cleanup launched the world’s first ocean cleanup system, 001 aka “Wilson”, which is being deployed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. System 001 is 600 meters long that acts as a U-shaped skiff that uses natural oceanic currents to concentrate plastic and other debris on the ocean’s surface into a confined area for extraction by vessels. The project has been met with criticism from oceanographers and plastic pollution experts, though it has seen wide public support.
- "In January 2018, China banned imports of plastic recyclables from other countries. By shutting its doors to half of the world’s plastic waste, China is forcing countries and industries to revisit their plastics usage and recycling programs."
- "The Yangtze River contributes 55 percent of the estimated 2.75 million metric tonnes of plastic waste going into oceans each year."
- Blair Crawford, Christopher; Quinn, Brian (2016). Microplastic Pollutants (1st ed.). Elsevier Science. ISBN 9780128094068.[page needed]
- Arthur, Courtney; Baker, Joel; Bamford, Holly (January 2009). "Proceedings of the International Research Workshop on the Occurrence, Effects and Fate of Microplastic Marine Debris" (PDF). NOAA Technical Memorandum.
- Collignon, Amandine; Hecq, Jean-Henri; Galgani, François; Collard, France; Goffart, Anne (2014). "Annual variation in neustonic micro- and meso-plastic particles and zooplankton in the Bay of Calvi (Mediterranean–Corsica)" (PDF). Marine Pollution Bulletin. 79 (1–2): 293–298. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.11.023. PMID 24360334.
- Cole, Matthew; Lindeque, Pennie; Fileman, Elaine; Halsband, Claudia; Goodhead, Rhys; Moger, Julian; Galloway, Tamara S. (2013-06-06). "Microplastic Ingestion by Zooplankton". Environmental Science & Technology. 47 (12): 6646–6655. doi:10.1021/es400663f. hdl:10871/19651. PMID 23692270.
- "Where Does Marine Litter Come From?". Marine Litter Facts. British Plastics Federation. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
- Boucher, Julien; Friot, Damien (2017). Primary Microplastics in the Oceans: a Global Evaluation of Sources (PDF). IUCN. doi:10.2305/IUCN.CH.2017.01.en. ISBN 978-2-8317-1827-9.[page needed]
- Conkle, Jeremy L.; Báez Del Valle, Christian D.; Turner, Jeffrey W. (2018). "Are We Underestimating Microplastic Contamination in Aquatic Environments?". Environmental Management. 61 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1007/s00267-017-0947-8. PMID 29043380.
- Grossman, Elizabeth (2015-01-15). "How Plastics from Your Clothes Can End up in Your Fish". Time.
- "How Long Does it Take Trash to Decompose". 4Ocean. 20 January 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
- Ioakeimidis, C.; Fotopoulou, K. N.; Karapanagioti, H. K.; Geraga, M.; Zeri, C.; Papathanassiou, E.; Galgani, F.; Papatheodorou, G. (2016). "The degradation potential of PET bottles in the marine environment: An ATR-FTIR based approach". Scientific Reports. 6: 23501. doi:10.1038/srep23501. PMC 4802224. PMID 27000994.
- "Ocean Life Eats Tons of Plastic—Here's Why That Matters". 2017-08-16. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
- Sebille, Erik van. "Far more microplastics floating in oceans than thought". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
- Karbalaei, Samaneh; Hanachi, Parichehr; Walker, Tony R.; Cole, Matthew (2018). "Occurrence, sources, human health impacts and mitigation of microplastic pollution". Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 25 (36): 36046–36063. doi:10.1007/s11356-018-3508-7. PMID 30382517.
- Patel, Mayur M.; Goyal, Bhoomika R.; Bhadada, Shraddha V.; Bhatt, Jay S.; Amin, Avani F. (January 2009). "Getting into the Brain: Approaches to Enhance Brain Drug Delivery". CNS Drugs. 23 (1): 35–58. doi:10.2165/0023210-200923010-00003. PMID 19062774.
- Cole, Matthew; Lindeque, Pennie; Halsband, Claudia; Galloway, Tamara S. (December 2011). "Microplastics as contaminants in the marine environment: A review" (PDF). Marine Pollution Bulletin. 62 (12): 2588–2597. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.09.025. hdl:10871/19649. PMID 22001295.
- Masura, Julie; Baker, Joel; Foster, Gregory; Arthur, Courtney (July 2015). Herring, Carlie (ed.). "Laboratory Methods for the Analysis of Microplastics in the Marine Environment: Recommendations for quantifying synthetic particles in waters and sediments". NOAA Marine Debris Program.
- Conkle, Jeremy L.; Báez Del Valle, Christian D.; Turner, Jeffrey W. (2017-10-17). "Are We Underestimating Microplastic Contamination in Aquatic Environments?". Environmental Management. 61 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1007/s00267-017-0947-8. ISSN 0364-152X.[verification needed]
- Grossman, Elizabeth (2015-01-15). "How Plastics from Your Clothes Can End up in Your Fish". Time.[verification needed]
- "What are the Sources of Microplastics and its Effect on Humans and the Environment? - Conserve Energy Future". Conserve Energy Future. 2018-05-19. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
- Sundt, Peter and Schulze, Per-Erik: "Sources of microplastic-pollution to the marine environment", "Mepex for the Norwegian Environment Agency", 2015
Pinto da Costa, João (2018). "Nanoplastics in the Environment". In Harrison, Roy M.; Hester, Ron E. (eds.). Plastics and the Environment. Issues in Environmental Science and Technology. 47. London: Royal Society of Chemistry. p. 85. ISBN 9781788012416. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
First, it is necessary to define what constitutes a 'nanoplastic'. Nonoparticles exhibit specific properties that differ from their bulk counterparts and are generally considered as particles with less than 100nm in at least one dimension. [...] However, for nanoplastics, a clear consensus classification has not been reached and multiple size-based definitions have been proposed. [...] although nanoplastics are the least known type of plastic waste, they are also, potentially, the most hazardous. [...] Nanoplastics may occur in the environment as a result of their direct release or from the fragmentation of larger particles. They may, similarly to microplastics, [...] therefore be classified as either primary or secondary nanoplastics.
- Ivar do Sul, Juliana A.; Costa, Monica F. (February 2014). "The present and future of microplastic pollution in the marine environment". Environmental Pollution. 185: 352–364. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2013.10.036. PMID 24275078.
- Carr, Steve A.; Liu, Jin; Tesoro, Arnold G. (15 March 2016). "Transport and fate of microplastic particles in wastewater treatment plants". Water Research. 91: 174–182. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2016.01.002. PMID 26795302.
- Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Treatment (PDF) (Report). Wastewater Treatment Manuals. Wexford: Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland. 1997.
- Habib, Daniel; Locke, David C.; Cannone, Leonard J. (1998). "Synthetic Fibers as Indicators of Municipal Sewage Sludge, Sludge Products, and Sewage Treatment Plant Effluents". Water, Air, and Soil Pollution. 103 (1/4): 1–8. doi:10.1023/A:1004908110793.
- Estahbanati, Shirin; Fahrenfeld, N.L. (November 2016). "Influence of wastewater treatment plant discharges on microplastic concentrations in surface water" (PDF). Chemosphere. 162: 277–284. doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.07.083. PMID 27508863.
- Mintenig, S.M.; Int-Veen, I.; Löder, M.G.J.; Primpke, S.; Gerdts, G. (2017-01-01). "Identification of microplastic in effluents of waste water treatment plants using focal plane array-based micro-Fourier-transform infrared imaging". Water Research. 108: 365–372. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2016.11.015. PMID 27838027.
- Murphy, Fionn; Ewins, Ciaran; Carbonnier, Frederic; Quinn, Brian (2016-06-07). "Wastewater Treatment Works (WwTW) as a Source of Microplastics in the Aquatic Environment". Environmental Science & Technology. 50 (11): 5800–5808. doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b05416. PMID 27191224.
- Weithmann, Nicolas; Möller, Julia N.; Löder, Martin G. J.; Piehl, Sarah; Laforsch, Christian; Freitag, Ruth (2018-04-01). "Organic fertilizer as a vehicle for the entry of microplastic into the environment". Science Advances. 4 (4): eaap8060. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aap8060. PMC 5884690. PMID 29632891.
- Browne, Mark Anthony; Crump, Phillip; Niven, Stewart J.; Teuten, Emma; Tonkin, Andrew; Galloway, Tamara; Thompson, Richard (2011). "Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks". Environmental Science & Technology. 45 (21): 9175–9179. doi:10.1021/es201811s. PMID 21894925.
- Microplastics: Occurrence, effects and sources of releases to the environment in Denmark (PDF) (Report). Copenhagen: Ministry of Environment and Food in Denmark, Danish Environmental Protection Agency. 2015. p. 14. ISBN 978-87-93352-80-3. Environmental project No. 1793.
- Kole, Pieter Jan; Löhr, Ansje J.; Van Belleghem, Frank; Ragas, Ad; Kole, Pieter Jan; Löhr, Ansje J.; Van Belleghem, Frank G. A. J.; Ragas, Ad M. J. (2017-10-20). "Wear and Tear of Tyres: A Stealthy Source of Microplastics in the Environment". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 14 (10): 1265. doi:10.3390/ijerph14101265. PMC 5664766. PMID 29053641.
- "International Campaign against Microbeads in Cosmetics". Beat the Microbead. Archived from the original on 15 March 2015.
- Fendall, Lisa S.; Sewell, Mary A. (2009). "Contributing to marine pollution by washing your face: Microplastics in facial cleansers". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 58 (8): 1225–1228. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.04.025. PMID 19481226.
- Anderson, A.G.; Grose, J.; Pahl, S.; Thompson, R.C.; Wyles, K.J. (2016). "Microplastics in personal care products: Exploring perceptions of environmentalists, beauticians and students" (PDF). Marine Pollution Bulletin (Submitted manuscript). 113 (1–2): 454–460. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.10.048. hdl:10026.1/8172. PMID 27836135.
- Rochman, Chelsea M.; Kross, Sara M.; Armstrong, Jonathan B.; Bogan, Michael T.; Darling, Emily S.; Green, Stephanie J.; Smyth, Ashley R.; Veríssimo, Diogo (2015). "Scientific Evidence Supports a Ban on Microbeads". Environmental Science & Technology. 49 (18): 10759–10761. doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b03909. PMID 26334581.
- "LIFE-MERMAIDS Project". LEITAT. 2014-08-08. Retrieved 2018-02-02.
- Grossman, Elizabeth: “How Microplastics from Your Fleece Could End up on Your Plate”, “Civil Eats”, January 15, 2015
- Katsnelson, Alla (2015). "News Feature: Microplastics present pollution puzzle". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112 (18): 5547–5549. doi:10.1073/pnas.1504135112. PMC 4426466. PMID 25944930.
- Napper, Imogen E.; Thompson, Richard C. (15 November 2016). "Release of synthetic microplastic plastic fibres from domestic washing machines: Effects of fabric type and washing conditions". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 112 (1–2): 39-45. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.09.025. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
- "An Update on Microfiber Pollution". Patagonia. 2017-02-03. Retrieved 2017-05-14.
- Dris, Rachid; Gasperi, Johnny; Mirande, Cécile; Mandin, Corinne; Guerrouache, Mohamed; Langlois, Valérie; Tassin, Bruno (2017). "A first overview of textile fibers, including microplastics, in indoor and outdoor environments" (PDF). Environmental Pollution (Submitted manuscript). 221: 453–458. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2016.12.013. PMID 27989388.
- Rochman, Chelsea M.; Tahir, Akbar; Williams, Susan L.; Baxa, Dolores V.; Lam, Rosalyn; Miller, Jeffrey T.; Teh, Foo-Ching; Werorilangi, Shinta; Teh, Swee J. (2015). "Anthropogenic debris in seafood: Plastic debris and fibers from textiles in fish and bivalves sold for human consumption". Scientific Reports. 5: 14340. doi:10.1038/srep14340. PMC 4585829. PMID 26399762.
- Tanaka, Kosuke; Takada, Hideshige; Yamashita, Rei; Mizukawa, Kaoruko; Fukuwaka, Masa-aki; Watanuki, Yutaka (2013). "Accumulation of plastic-derived chemicals in tissues of seabirds ingesting marine plastics". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 69 (1–2): 219–222. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.12.010. PMID 23298431.
- Derraik, José G.B. (September 2002). "The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: a review". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 44 (99): 842–852. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(02)00220-5.
In the USA, for instance, the Marine Plastics Pollution Research and Control Act of 1987 not only adopted Annex V, but also extended its application to US Navy vessels
- Craig S. Alig; Larry Koss; Tom Scarano; Fred Chitty (1990). "CONTROL OF PLASTIC WASTES ABOARD NAVAL SHIPS AT SEA" (PDF). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ProceedingsoftheSecondInternational Conference on Marine Debris, 2–7 April 1989, Honolulu, Hawaii. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
The U.S. Navy is taking a proactive approach to comply with the prohibition on the at-sea discharge of plastics mandated by the Marine Plastic Pollution Research and Control Act of 1987
- Derraik, José G.B (2002). "The pollution of the marine environment by plastic debris: A review". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 44 (9): 842–852. doi:10.1016/S0025-326X(02)00220-5.
- Teuten, E. L.; Saquing, J. M.; Knappe, D. R. U.; Barlaz, M. A.; Jonsson, S.; Bjorn, A.; Rowland, S. J.; Thompson, R. C.; Galloway, T. S.; Yamashita, R.; Ochi, D.; Watanuki, Y.; Moore, C.; Viet, P. H.; Tana, T. S.; Prudente, M.; Boonyatumanond, R.; Zakaria, M. P.; Akkhavong, K.; Ogata, Y.; Hirai, H.; Iwasa, S.; Mizukawa, K.; Hagino, Y.; Imamura, A.; Saha, M.; Takada, H. (2009). "Transport and release of chemicals from plastics to the environment and to wildlife". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 364 (1526): 2027–2045. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0284. PMC 2873017. PMID 19528054.
- Thompson, R. C.; Moore, C. J.; Vom Saal, F. S.; Swan, S. H. (2009). "Plastics, the environment and human health: Current consensus and future trends". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 364 (1526): 2153–2166. doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0053. PMC 2873021. PMID 19528062.
- Mason, Sherri, A.; Welch, Victoria; Neratko, Joseph. "Synthetic Polymer Contamination in Bottled Water" (PDF). State University of New York at Fredonia.
- SAPEA (Scientific Advice for Policy by European Academies) (2019). A scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society. https://www.sapea.info/topics/microplastics/: SAPEA (Scientific Advice for Policy by European Academies). ISBN 978-3-9820301-0-4.
- Arthur, Courtney; Baker, Joel; Bamford, Holly, eds. (2009). "Proceedings of the International Research Workshop on the Occurrence, Effects, and Fate of Microplastic Marine Debris, September 9-11, 2008". Technical Memorandum NOS-OR&R-30: 49. Retrieved 2018-04-28.
- Eerkes-Medrano, D.; Thompson, R.C.; Aldridge, D.C. (May 2015). "Microplastics in freshwater systems: A review of the emerging threats, identification of knowledge gaps and prioritisation of research needs". Water Research. 75: 63–82. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2015.02.012. PMID 25746963.
- Baldwin, Austin K.; Corsi, Steven R.; Mason, Sherri A. (2016). "Plastic Debris in 29 Great Lakes Tributaries: Relations to Watershed Attributes and Hydrology". Environmental Science & Technology. 50 (19): 10377–10385. doi:10.1021/acs.est.6b02917. PMID 27627676.
- Watts, Andrew J. R.; Lewis, Ceri; Goodhead, Rhys M.; Beckett, Stephen J.; Moger, Julian; Tyler, Charles R.; Galloway, Tamara S. (2014). "Uptake and Retention of Microplastics by the Shore Crab Carcinus maenas". Environmental Science & Technology. 48 (15): 8823–8830. doi:10.1021/es501090e. PMID 24972075. Lay summary – Science News (8 July 2014).
- Thompson, R. C.; Olsen, Y.; Mitchell, R. P.; Davis, A.; Rowland, S. J.; John, A. W.; McGonigle, D.; Russell, A. E. (2004). "Lost at Sea: Where is All the Plastic?". Science. 304 (5672): 838. doi:10.1126/science.1094559. PMID 15131299.
- Wright, Stephanie L.; Thompson, Richard C.; Galloway, Tamara S. (2013). "The physical impacts of microplastics on marine organisms: A review". Environmental Pollution. 178: 483–492. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2013.02.031. PMID 23545014.
- Hall, N.M.; Berry, K.L.E.; Rintoul, L.; Hoogenboom, M.O. (4 February 2015). "Microplastic ingestion by scleractinian corals". Marine Biology. 162 (3): 725–732. doi:10.1007/s00227-015-2619-7.
- Risk, Michael J.; Edinger, Evan (2011). "Impacts of Sediment on Coral Reefs". Encyclopedia of Modern Coral Reefs. Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series. pp. 575–586. doi:10.1007/978-90-481-2639-2_25. ISBN 978-90-481-2638-5.
- Cole, Matthew; Lindeque, Pennie; Fileman, Elaine; Halsband, Claudia; Goodhead, Rhys; Moger, Julian; Galloway, Tamara S. (2013). "Microplastic Ingestion by Zooplankton". Environmental Science & Technology. 47 (12): 6646–6655. doi:10.1021/es400663f. hdl:10871/19651. PMID 23692270.
- Savoca, M. S.; Wohlfeil, M. E.; Ebeler, S. E.; Nevitt, G. A. (2016). "Marine plastic debris emits a keystone infochemical for olfactory foraging seabirds". Science Advances. 2 (11): e1600395. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1600395. PMC 5569953. PMID 28861463.
- Dacey, J. W. H.; Wakeham, S. G. (1986). "Oceanic Dimethylsulfide: Production During Zooplankton Grazing on Phytoplankton". Science. 233 (4770): 1314–1316. doi:10.1126/science.233.4770.1314. PMID 17843360.
- "Plasticology 101". Container & Packaging Supply.
- Cozar, A.; Echevarria, F.; Gonzalez-Gordillo, J. I.; Irigoien, X.; Ubeda, B.; Hernandez-Leon, S.; Palma, A. T.; Navarro, S.; Garcia-De-Lomas, J.; Ruiz, A.; Fernandez-De-Puelles, M. L.; Duarte, C. M. (2014). "Plastic debris in the open ocean". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111 (28): 10239–10244. doi:10.1073/pnas.1314705111. PMC 4104848. PMID 24982135. Lay summary – Science News (1 July 2014).
- Wardrop, Peter; Shimeta, Jeff; Nugegoda, Dayanthi; Morrison, Paul D.; Miranda, Ana; Tang, Min; Clarke, Bradley O. (2016). "Chemical Pollutants Sorbed to Ingested Microbeads from Personal Care Products Accumulate in Fish". Environmental Science & Technology. 50 (7): 4037–4044. doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b06280. PMID 26963589.
- McAlpine, Kat J. (Summer 2019). "Have Your Plastic and Eat It Too". Bostonia (Boston University Alumni): 36–37.
- Pazos, Rocío S.; Maiztegui, Tomás; Colautti, Darío C.; Paracampo, Ariel H.; Gómez, Nora (2017). "Microplastics in gut contents of coastal freshwater fish from Río de la Plata estuary". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 122 (1–2): 85–90. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.06.007. PMID 28633946.
- Boots, Bas; Russell, Connor William; Green, Danielle Senga (11 September 2019). "Effects of Microplastics in Soil Ecosystems: Above and Below Ground". Environmental Science & Technology. 53: 11496–11506.
- "The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2010" (PDF). Food and Agriculture Organization. 2010.
- Weis, Judith; Andrews, Clinton J; Dyksen, John; Ferrara, Raymond; Gannon, John; Laumbach, Robert J; Lederman, Peter; Lippencott, Robert; Rothman, Nancy (2015). "Human Health Impacts of Microplastics and Nanoplastics" (PDF). NJDEP SAB Public Health Standing Committee: 23.
- Van Der Ven, Leo T.M.; Van De Kuil, Ton; Verhoef, Aart; Verwer, Cynthia M.; Lilienthal, Hellmuth; Leonards, Pim E.G.; Schauer, Ute M.D.; Cantón, Rocío F.; Litens, Sabina; De Jong, Frank H.; Visser, Theo J.; Dekant, Wolfgang; Stern, Natalia; Håkansson, Helen; Slob, Wout; Van Den Berg, Martin; Vos, Josephus G.; Piersma, Aldert H. (2008). "Endocrine effects of tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA) in Wistar rats as tested in a one-generation reproduction study and a subacute toxicity study". Toxicology. 245 (1–2): 76–89. doi:10.1016/j.tox.2007.12.009. PMID 18255212.
- Human Consumption of Microplastics
- People eat at least 50,000 plastic particles a year, study finds
- Yang, Dongqi; Shi, Huahong; Li, Lan; Li, Jiana; Jabeen, Khalida; Kolandhasamy, Prabhu (2015). "Microplastic Pollution in Table Salts from China". Environmental Science & Technology. 49 (22): 13622–13627. doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b03163. PMID 26486565.
- Iñiguez, Maria E.; Conesa, Juan A.; Fullana, Andres (2017). "Microplastics in Spanish Table Salt". Scientific Reports. 7 (1): 8620. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-09128-x. PMC 5561224. PMID 28819264.
- Catarino, Ana I.; MacChia, Valeria; Sanderson, William G.; Thompson, Richard C.; Henry, Theodore B. (2018). "Low levels of microplastics (MP) in wild mussels indicate that MP ingestion by humans is minimal compared to exposure via household fibres fallout during a meal". Environmental Pollution. 237: 675–684. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2018.02.069. hdl:10026.1/11254. PMID 29604577.
- Picheta, Rob (October 23, 2018). "Microplastics found in human stools, research finds". CNN. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
- Parker, Laura (October 22, 2018). "In a first, microplastics found in human poop". National Geographic. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
- Kooi, Merel; Reisser, Julia; Slat, Boyan; Ferrari, Francesco F.; Schmid, Moritz S.; Cunsolo, Serena; Brambini, Roberto; Noble, Kimberly; Sirks, Lys-Anne; Linders, Theo E. W.; Schoeneich-Argent, Rosanna I.; Koelmans, Albert A. (2016). "The effect of particle properties on the depth profile of buoyant plastics in the ocean". Scientific Reports. 6: 33882. doi:10.1038/srep33882. PMC 5056413. PMID 27721460.
- Eriksen, Marcus; Mason, Sherri; Wilson, Stiv; Box, Carolyn; Zellers, Ann; Edwards, William; Farley, Hannah; Amato, Stephen (2013). "Microplastic pollution in the surface waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 77 (1–2): 177–182. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2013.10.007.
- "Ecological and ecotoxicological effects of microplastics and associated contaminants on aquatic biota". AquaBiota Water Research.
- Driedger, Alexander G.J.; Dürr, Hans H.; Mitchell, Kristen; Van Cappellen, Philippe (2015). "Plastic debris in the Laurentian Great Lakes: A review". Journal of Great Lakes Research. 41: 9–19. doi:10.1016/j.jglr.2014.12.020.
- Mato, Yukie; Isobe, Tomohiko; Takada, Hideshige; Kanehiro, Haruyuki; Ohtake, Chiyoko; Kaminuma, Tsuguchika (2001). "Plastic Resin Pellets as a Transport Medium for Toxic Chemicals in the Marine Environment". Environmental Science & Technology. 35 (2): 318–324. doi:10.1021/es0010498.
- "Great Pacific Garbage Patch". Marine Debris Division – Office of Response and Restoration. NOAA. 11 July 2013. Archived from the original on 17 April 2014.
- Hannah Leung (21 April 2018). "Five Asian Countries Dump More Plastic Into Oceans Than Anyone Else Combined: How You Can Help". Forbes. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam are dumping more plastic into oceans than the rest of the world combined, according to a 2017 report by Ocean Conservancy
- Van Sebille, Erik; Wilcox, Chris; Lebreton, Laurent; Maximenko, Nikolai; Hardesty, Britta Denise; Van Franeker, Jan A.; Eriksen, Marcus; Siegel, David; Galgani, Francois; Law, Kara Lavender (2015). "A global inventory of small floating plastic debris". Environmental Research Letters. 10 (12): 124006. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/10/12/124006.
- "Pesky plastic: The true harm of microplastics in the oceans – National Geographic Blog". blog.nationalgeographic.org. 2016-04-04. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
- Law, Kara Lavender; Morét-Ferguson, Skye E.; Goodwin, Deborah S.; Zettler, Erik R.; Deforce, Emelia; Kukulka, Tobias; Proskurowski, Giora (2014). "Distribution of Surface Plastic Debris in the Eastern Pacific Ocean from an 11-Year Data Set". Environmental Science & Technology. 48 (9): 4732–4738. doi:10.1021/es4053076. PMID 24708264.
- Anderson, Julie C.; Park, Bradley J.; Palace, Vince P. (2016). "Microplastics in aquatic environments: Implications for Canadian ecosystems". Environmental Pollution. 218: 269–280. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2016.06.074. PMID 27431693.
- Ivleva, Natalia P.; Wiesheu, Alexandra C.; Niessner, Reinhard (2017). "Microplastic in Aquatic Ecosystems". Angewandte Chemie International Edition. 56 (7): 1720–1739. doi:10.1002/anie.201606957. PMID 27618688.
- Redondo-Hasselerharm, Paula E.; Falahudin, Dede; Peeters, Edwin T. H. M.; Koelmans, Albert A. (2018). "Microplastic Effect Thresholds for Freshwater Benthic Macroinvertebrates". Environmental Science & Technology. 52 (4): 2278–2286. doi:10.1021/acs.est.7b05367. PMC 5822217. PMID 29337537.
- Rillig, Matthias C.; Ingraffia, Rosolino; De Souza Machado, Anderson A. (2017). "Microplastic Incorporation into Soil in Agroecosystems". Frontiers in Plant Science. 8: 1805. doi:10.3389/fpls.2017.01805. PMC 5651362. PMID 29093730.
- Rillig, Matthias C. (2012). "Microplastic in Terrestrial Ecosystems and the Soil?". Environmental Science & Technology. 46 (12): 6453–6454. doi:10.1021/es302011r. PMID 22676039.
- Zubris, Kimberly Ann V.; Richards, Brian K. (November 2005). "Synthetic fibers as an indicator of land application of sludge". Environmental Pollution. 138 (2): 201–211. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2005.04.013. PMID 15967553.
- Gasperi, Johnny; Wright, Stephanie L.; Dris, Rachid; Collard, France; Mandin, Corinne; Guerrouache, Mohamed; Langlois, Valérie; Kelly, Frank J.; Tassin, Bruno (2018). "Microplastics in air: Are we breathing it in?" (PDF). Current Opinion in Environmental Science & Health. 1: 1–5. doi:10.1016/j.coesh.2017.10.002.
- Dehghani, Sharareh; Moore, Farid; Akhbarizadeh, Razegheh (2017). "Microplastic pollution in deposited urban dust, Tehran metropolis, Iran". Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 24 (25): 20360–20371. doi:10.1007/s11356-017-9674-1. PMID 28707239.
- Gerdts, Gunnar; Trachsel, Jürg; Tekman, Mine B.; Primpke, Sebastian; Mützel, Sophia; Bergmann, Melanie (2019-08-01). "White and wonderful? Microplastics prevail in snow from the Alps to the Arctic". Science Advances. 5 (8): eaax1157. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aax1157. ISSN 2375-2548.
- Kershaw, Peter J. (2016). "Marine Plastic Debris and Microplastics" (PDF). United Nations Environment Programme. Archived (PDF) from the original on 11 October 2017.
- Auta, H.S.; Emenike, C.U; Fauziah, S.H (May 2017). "Distribution and importance of microplastics in the marine environment: A review of the sources, fate, effects, and potential solutions". Environment International. 102: 165–176. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2017.02.013. PMID 28284818.
- Schnurr, Riley E.J.; Alboiu, Vanessa; Chaudhary, Meenakshi; Corbett, Roan A.; Quanz, Meaghan E.; Sankar, Karthikeshwar; Srain, Harveer S.; Thavarajah, Venukasan; Xanthos, Dirk; Walker, Tony R. (2018). "Reducing marine pollution from single-use plastics (SUPs): A review". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 137: 157–171. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.10.001. PMID 30503422.
- "Global Microplastics Initiative". Adventure Scientists. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
- Morris and Chapman: "Marine Litter", "Green Facts: Facts on Health and the Environment", 2001-2015
- Ross, Philip: "'Microplastics' In Great Lakes Pose 'Very Real Threat' To Humans and Animals", International Business Times, 29 October 2013
- Acharya 2019.
- Grace Dobush (7 March 2019). "Microplastic Polluting Rivers and Seas Across the Globe, Says New Research". Fortune. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
- Will Dunham (12 February 2019). "World's Oceans Clogged by Millions of Tons of Plastic Trash". Scientific American. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
China was responsible for the most ocean plastic pollution per year with an estimated 2.4 million tons, about 30 percent of the global total, followed by Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria and Bangladesh.
- Xanthos, Dirk; Walker, Tony R. (2017). "International policies to reduce plastic marine pollution from single-use plastics (plastic bags and microbeads): A review". Marine Pollution Bulletin. 118 (1–2): 17–26. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.02.048. PMID 28238328.
- United States. Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. Pub.L. 114–114. Approved 2015-12-28.
- Dan, Sullivan (2018-07-26). "Text - S.756 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): Save Our Seas Act of 2018". www.congress.gov. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
- "Bill to reduce microplastics released into the environment passed by Japan's Upper House". The Japan Times. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
- "Recommendations by Experts on the Required Parameters for Microplastics Monitoring in the Ocean" (PDF). Ministry of Environment, Japan. June 2018.
- "Microplastic Pollution | SAM - Research and Innovation - European Commission". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
- "A scientific perspective on microplastics in nature and society". www.sapea.info. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
- "Environmental and Health Risks of Microplastic Pollution". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2019-05-11.
- "ECHA proposes to restrict intentionally added microplastics". echa.europa.eu. 2019-01-30. Retrieved 2019-02-03.
- "The Environmental Protection (Microbeads) (England) Regulations 2017" (PDF). Cabinet of the United Kingdom. 2017.
- "The garbage patch territory turns into a new state". United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
- "Rifiuti diventano stato, Unesco riconosce 'Garbage Patch'" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 2014-07-14.
- Benson, Bob; Weiler, Katherine; Crawford, Cara (2013-02-27). "EPA National Trash Free Waters Program" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Presentation at Virginia Marine Debris Summit, 2013.
- "International Initiatives to Address Marine Debris". Trash-Free Waters. EPA. 2018-04-18.
- "Trash-Free Waters Projects". EPA. 2017-09-27.
- Communications, IFAS. "Microplastics - UF/IFAS Extension". sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
- Connor, Steve (2016-01-19). "How scientists plan to clean up plastic waste in the oceans". The Independent. London.
- "Eating Away the World's Plastic Waste Problem". News; Natural Sciences. New York: American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. 2017-01-23.
- www.theoceancleanup.com, The Ocean Cleanup. "System 001 has launched into the Pacific". The Ocean Cleanup. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
- www.theoceancleanup.com, The Ocean Cleanup. "The Ocean Cleanup Technology". The Ocean Cleanup. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
- Martini, Kim; Goldstein, Miriam (14 July 2014). "The Ocean Cleanup, Part 2: Technical review of the feasibility study". Deep Sea News.
- Shiffman, David (13 June 2018). "I asked 15 ocean plastic pollution experts about the Ocean Cleanup project, and they have concerns". Southern Fried Science.
- Kratochwill, Lindsey (26 March 2016). "Too good to be true? The Ocean Cleanup Project faces feasibility questions". The Guardian.
- Blair Crawford, Christopher; Quinn, Brian (2017). Microplastic Pollutants (1st ed.). Elsevier Science. ISBN 978-0-12-809406-8.
- Eerkes-Medrano, Dafne; Thompson, Richard C.; Aldridge, David C. (2015). "Microplastics in freshwater systems: A review of the emerging threats, identification of knowledge gaps and prioritisation of research needs". Water Research. 75: 63–82. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2015.02.012. PMID 25746963.
- Lusher, Amy; Hollman, Peter; Mendoza-Hill, Jeremy (2017). Microplastics in fisheries and aquaculture: status of knowledge on their occurrence and implications for aquatic organisms and food safety (PDF). Fao Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper Nr. 615. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). ISSN 2070-7010.
- Rocha-Santos, Teresa; Duarte, Armando C. (2015). "A critical overview of the analytical approaches to the occurrence, the fate and the behavior of microplastics in the environment". TrAC Trends in Analytical Chemistry. 65: 47–53. doi:10.1016/j.trac.2014.10.011.
- Wagner, Martin; Scherer, Christian; Alvarez-Muñoz, Diana; Brennholt, Nicole; Bourrain, Xavier; Buchinger, Sebastian; Fries, Elke; Grosbois, Cécile; Klasmeier, Jörg; Marti, Teresa; Rodriguez-Mozaz, Sara; Urbatzka, Ralph; Vethaak, A Dick; Winther-Nielsen, Margrethe; Reifferscheid, Georg (2014). "Microplastics in freshwater ecosystems: What we know and what we need to know". Environmental Sciences Europe. 26 (1): 12. doi:10.1186/s12302-014-0012-7. PMC 5566174. PMID 28936382.
- SAPEA, Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (2019). A Scientific Perspective on Microplastics in Nature and Society. https://www.sapea.info/topics/microplastics/: SAPEA, Science Advice for Policy by European Academies. ISBN 978-3-9820301-0-4.
- Acharya, Anjali (2018), Planet over Plastic: Addressing East Asia’s Growing Environmental Crisis, World Bank, retrieved 31 July 2019
- NOAA Marine Debris Program
- Algalita Marine Research Foundation
- Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic – video at TED.com
- International Pellet Watch
- "The plastic in our bodies," Politico Europe, 5 May 2019
- "Microplastics can also travel by wind, new study shows," ZME Science, 15 April 2019
- "Microplastic pollution revealed 'absolutely everywhere' by new research," The Guardian, 7 March 2019
- "Plastic straws are little, but they are part of a huge problem," Washington Post, 9 September 2018
- "Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say scientists," The Guardian, March 2018