By now you may have heard of the “plastic soup” in the Gulf of Mexico. Volunteer citizen-scientists who have gathered water samples find permanent fragments of micro-plastics in nearly every sample taken.
These microplastics are created when the sun and wave action combine to break up larger pieces of plastic debris into tiny, microscopic bits.
The problem, experts say, is more than just plastic drink bottles, though those can be culprits as well. It’s also that so many items are made from plastics. Even synthetic fibers found in clothing can break down into microplastics.
Tiny microbeads are also found in toothpaste and exfoliating healthcare products that go down the drain and end up in our waterways. Because they are so tiny, they bypass most wastewater treatment facilities.
The Houston Chronicle recently reported on a study by Caitlin Wessel, Gulf of Mexico Regional Coordinator for NOAA’s Marine Debris Program based in Mobile. Of the oysters that Wessel found in Mobile Bay, for example, 25 percent contained 3 to 5 bits of microplastic.
You can help keep plastics out of the gulf when you:
- Read labels on personal care products to avoid use of polyethylene.
- Use paper or re-usable shopping bags instead of plastic.
- Avoid use of plastic drinking straws.
- Bring your own water bottle or cup instead of using plastic beverage bottles.
- Use a washable container instead of Styrofoam.
- Recycle as many plastic items as possible.
- Choose natural fabrics instead of nylon, acrylic or polyester.