Let’s Talk About Microplastics

New South Wales has cracked a new microplastics record, and NOT in a good way.


Citizen science initiative the Australian Microplastic Assessment Project (AUSMAP) has been working hard to develop a database of plastic pollution hotspots throughout Australia. During a survey in Manly Cove, NSW, the AUSMAP citizen science team found a record-breaking 4 312 microplastics per square metre of sand!? This scary sample was taken after a large storm event in May.

Where do microplastics come from?

We’ve found that a lot of people are curious to know just how long it takes for plastics to break down, but that question doesn’t really have an exact answer. The reason for this is that plastics never really break down at all, they break UP. Microplastics are plastic particles smaller than 5mm in length, and are usually formed through the degradation of larger plastic items. These larger plastic items usually degrade through a combination of wave action and sun exposure, causing them to break up into smaller and smaller pieces until they become microplastics.

Are soft plastics better than hard plastics?

Unfortunately, ditching one for the other won’t lead you to a more sustainable lifestyle. Soft and hard plastics may differ in the time that it takes to break up, but really both are as bad as each other.

All plastics, when they enter the ocean, eventually break up into microplastics. These little bits of plastic are ingested by marine organisms and, particularly in smaller creatures and invertebrates, can disrupt reproduction and growth. Microplastics can even make their way through the food web to larger animals and even to humans?!

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