We’ve talked about microplastics in the past, but what exactly are they?

We can see the destruction caused by plastic bottles, bags, caps, etc. But what about all the little bits of plastic that are too small for us to really notice? How can so much pollution possibly come from something that is smaller than your pinky nail? Where do they come from and how can we keep them from infecting our environment? There are a lot of questions that surround these petite polluters, so we are giving you a crash course on everything you need to know about microplastics.

What are they and how are they produced?

Microplastics are plastic pieces that are less than five millimeters long that pollute drinking water, oceans, lakes, ponds, etc. Typically made from polypropylene, polyethylene, terephthalate, or nylon-microplastics are most commonly found in health and beauty products. However, they can be introduced to the environment from a variety of other sources. Such as…

  • Larger plastics that break down
  • Clothing-synthetic clothes release microfibers while being washed
  • Resin pellets that are used for plastic manufacturing
  • Microbeads- polyethylene beads found in soaps and toothpastes
  • Sewage dumping

According to National Geographic, there are anywhere between 15 to 50 trillion pieces of microplastics in our oceans, that’s about 93,000 to 236,000 metric tons of just microplastics! They don’t stay there either, plastic contaminates have made their way into our drinking water, salt and food! Filtration systems can’t catch the contaminates either, so that means every day you are ingesting countless amounts of microscopic bits of plastic. If that made you gag a little you’re not alone, we did too.

How can we help?

Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to keep these demon bits from entering the environment…

  • In 2015, President Obama banned the use of contaminating plastic microbeads, and companies instead must use organic alternatives.
  • Try buying clothes that are made of organic fabrics instead of synthetic alternatives.
  • If you see polypropylene in your soaps or cleaning products-don’t buy them!

If you want to seriously cut your contribution to microplastic pollution, go plastic free! Make your own products at home or refill bottles of detergent, shampoo and cleaning products. No refill stations in your town? Make it happen! Sign the petition below and tell your favorite retailors that #WeWantRefill!