Microplastics in water? Let’s dig in. Microplastics are defined as “extremely small pieces of plastic debris in the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste”.
These teeny tiny plastics are a HUGE problem. They have become so prevalent in our environment that they can be found everywhere from the ocean to our drinking water. In fact, one study found over 3,500 particles per liter of freshwater. The primary concerns with microplastics in our ecosystem are three-fold: the particles themselves, the chemicals that the plastics release, and the microbial pathogens that grow as biofilms on the tiny plastic pieces.
MICROPLASTICS IN WATER, WHAT CAN WE DO?
While microplastics can be created and released into the environment in a variety of ways, we have the power to prevent some of it right from the comfort of our homes!
Here are some ways that we can avoid creating microplastics at home:
BUY NATURAL FIBER CLOTHING
Every time we do a load of laundry we release an estimated 700,000 synthetics fibers into the water system. Crazy right?! The good news is that buying clothing, sheets, and other laundered items made with natural fibers can eliminate this problem almost completely. Not only do natural fibers shed less, but if and when they do shed, they are able to break down completely in both soil and water systems.
Factors like chemical processing, added dyes, and wrinkle-free treatments all contribute to environmental impact, so choosing natural fibers that are certified by a textile organization, like OEKO-TEX, can be helpful.
Some natural textile fibers include:
Some semi-synthetic fibers like bamboo rayon, Lyocel, and modal are also options, though I prefer other natural fibers first.
For those pieces of clothing that are unavoidably synthetic, like workout clothes and bathing suits (or even one of my favorites, microfiber cleaning cloths) you can get a fiber filter like the Cora Ball, Guppyfriend, or Filtrol.
AVOID SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
Single-use plastics are e v e r y w h e r e. Avoiding them completely is possible, but I’ll admit I have quite a bit of work to do before getting there myself. The first step is awareness around which items actually count as single-use plastics (some are sneaky!). Then we have the opportunity to make small and continuous adjustments towards less plastic.
Some common sources (plastic/disposable versions):
- Plastic bags
- Baby wipes
- Tampon applicators
- Water/drink bottles
- Paper plates and cups (most are lined in plastic!)
- Coffee cups
- Zip storage bags
- Dishwasher and laundry pods
While some of these items can be avoided completely (can we all agree we don’t really need straws?!) almost everything else can be substituted with a reusable and plastic-free alternative.
Some of my favorite replacements (in the same order as their archnemeses above):
- Choosing items with minimal packaging
- Ditching the straw, or choosing stainless steel or bamboo straws
- Reusable shopping and produce bags
- Wild and Pure Dry Wipes
- Unfortunately, I haven’t found a true diaper solution…
- Applicator-free tampons, a menstrual cup, or reusable pads
- Reusable water bottles
- Glass or wooden plates and glass or stainless steel cups
- Reusable coffee cups and avoid k-cups
- Bamboo travel utensils
- Stasher Bags
- Dishwasher tablets and Branch Basics laundry soap
FIND COMPOSTABLE REPLACEMENTS
(and recycle and/or compost them once you’re done!)
Single-use plastics are only one part of the microplastics in water issue. One reason is that the creation of plastic items can produce microplastic waste — so, the microplastic problem occurs both at the birth and death of all plastic products.
PSA, this doesn’t mean that plastic is evil and should never be used. There are times when plastic products are incredibly helpful and necessary! What we can do is weigh the pros and cons of the qualities of each item we purchase, and minimize plastic in any area where it’s not necessary.
Here are some examples:
- Natural sponges and cleaning brushes, instead of synthetic
- Metal razor and replacement blades
- Wild and Pure Wipe + Wash Concentrate for body and hand-washing soap
- Bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic
- Wooden + natural material toys
- Glass storage containers
- Shampoo bars
There are so many wonderful plastic-free home and body care alternatives that can help to reduce microplastic pollution. I’d love to hear yours in the comments below!
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