Do You Know About Microplastics In The World
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
We know that microplastics are a worldwide phenomenon, albeit a rather nasty one. However, I did not know anything specific about what the microplastic situation looks like in other continents. So, this week, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at just what is happening all around the world in regards to our devilish plastic particles.
Let’s start off on a good note: a microbead ban has slowly but surely been implemented worldwide since 2015. If you haven’t read our 7 Facts About Microplastics in the Ocean article, microbeads are small plastic particles that help with the application of cosmetic and personal care products. After the product is used and/or washed off, microbeads are washed down the drain and get on their way to polluting our waters. According to an article on the Destined To blog, the microbead ban began in the United States when former president Barack Obama signed the Microbead-Free Waters Act, and several other countries followed suit (Canada, France, India, and New Zealand...to name a few). Some of these countries adopted the same act as the US, but others (like the UK) implemented their own prohibition on microbeads. From there, many household-name brands began to phase out microbeads in their production, and more European countries, like Sweden, Austria, and Belgium, have committed to implementing microbead ban policies.
In Africa, it’s the rivers that contain the most microplastics. This is unsurprising, as Africa is covered with rivers. South Africa seems to have a huge issue with microplastics specifically. Like most other bodies of water across the world, South Africa’s largest river, the Orange River, was found to be highly polluted with plastic particles (mainly microbeads) that came from factory runoff in the country’s economic powerhouse, Gauteng. The South Africa Water Research Committee, who did the study in the Orange River, was led to do the study after discovering an increase in plastic particles in organisms across the country. At the moment, there is not a lot of research on the long term effects of microplastics in the bodies of living creatures (at least terrestrial ones anyway), but the SAWRC has decided that the best course of action is to follow suit with the countries in the above paragraph, and ban microbeads and microbead production right away.
Asia accounts for 80% of plastic pollution worldwide, with Thailand ranking as the sixth largest contributor of marine plastic pollution (as of February of this year). Even worse, pollution from Thailand is one of the leading contributors to the great Pacific garbage patch. This means that many of the fish around Thailand are consuming plastic. Being an island nation, fish is a huge part of Thai cuisine, with the per capita consumption being 27.2kg. So, the fish that are consuming plastic are now being consumed by Thai people, and the effects of this aren’t known. Believe it or not, salt is another food that is starting to be found containing microplastics, and it is another food that is of cultural importance to Thailand (used in a variety of methods). Thailand really is a country that is just hammered with plastic. Fortunately, there is always hope. In 2019, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health announced its own microbead ban that was enacted in January of 2020, and the Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment’s Pollution Control Department wants to have 4 types of single-use plastic banned by 2022.
So, now we all know a little about what is happening in a few other countries regarding microplastics and plastic pollution. I personally find it interesting how all the articles I researched (referenced at the bottom) concluded with the nation passing a policy to ban microbead production and usage. I used to think that microplastic was as deep as it got when it came to plastic pollution, but now I know it goes even deeper with microbeads. If microbeads make up the majority of microplastics, then they have to be the first to go. I am happy to see that nations across the world are taking this fact into account, and outright banning the usage of microbeads.
And I wonder if there’s anything we can do at the consumer level. How can we help get rid of microbeads, or what else can we use in place of them? I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to share in the comments below or start a conversation on our social media. Also, if you know anything about microplastics in any other countries, I would love to hear about that too. Thank you for reading, and have a nice weekend!
Fun fact just because: Because I am teaching myself Japanese and we’re talking about microplastics all over the world, here is how you say microplastics in Japanese: maikuropurasutikkusu. And also, microbeads: maikurobiidosu.
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Major Countries that Banned Micro Plastics In Cosmetics (destinedto.com)
Does South Africa Have a Microplastics Problem? This Research Says Yes (globalcitizen.org)
Microplastics: from ocean to table | SEI
Plastic Pollution By Country 2021 (worldpopulationreview.com)