The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that about 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, equivalent to a garbage truck filled with plastic dumped into the sea every minute. Plastics account for 60-90% of the waste that accumulates on coastlines, ocean surfaces and the seabed.
Cigarettes, plastic bags and food and beverage packaging are the most common items in plastic waste, the Environment Agency said. The marine litter threatens the lives of more than 800 species of marine life, including 15 endangered species, and plastic that enters marine organisms such as fish also passes through the food chain and eventually reaches the human table.
The widespread use of plastic particles, plastic microbeads and disposable plastic products over the past 20 years is exacerbating the problem. Plastic particles refer to small plastic particles less than 5 mm in length, smaller than a sesame seed, while plastic microbeads are made by industrial production, diameter less than 1 mm plastic solids, because of its effects of removing dirt and, so in toothpaste and face washes and other personal care products widely used.
Perhaps because these tiny plastic particles are not as conspicuous as plastic bottles washed ashore by waves, they are often overlooked in response to plastic pollution.
UNEP notes that many consumers are unaware that the personal care products they use every day are not only wrapped in plastic, but also contain a number of plastic particles and microbeads less than 5 mm in diameter, which are flushed into sewers and through river networks and eventually into the ocean.
Because of the very small size, the water plant’s filters cannot filter them out, but toxins and bacteria in the water are extremely easy to accumulate on them. In addition, because these small particles look like food, fish, amphibians, insects, larvae, marine life and seabirds in the water can easily eat by mistake, clogging the digestive tract and causing other health problems.
The impact of these small particles on human health is not yet known, but because of its widespread presence in clothing, food, water and personal care products, any impact will be extremely serious and far-reaching.