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New research helps unravel how vast amounts of plastic particles travel (scientificamerican.com)
93 points by woofyman 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 10 comments

The numbers here are so staggering, I thought they had to be wrong. How many plastic bottles can humans possibly throw away in total?

How wrong my assumption seems to be. In 2017, we created over 1 million plastic bottles a minute [0], and in 2018 we produced more plastic by weight[1] than the human population of the world[2].

[0] https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/07/26/million-p...

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/282732/global-production...

[2] https://www.livescience.com/36470-human-population-weight.ht....

Went on a small get away with in-laws last week. They probably went through 200 bottles of water over 7 days. I would say at any given time there were 10 or so half full around the house. I was the only one who was filling up a metal bottle in the sink. Very disheartening to see.

We also need to consider the microplastics turning into nanoplastics. At that scale they can cross cell membranes. We still don't know what that means: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41565-019-0437-7

From here [1]

> Most of these plastic particles are synthetic microfibers used for making clothing

How do I buy clothes that don't have synthetic microfibers? What do I look for on the tag?

[1] https://science.sciencemag.org/content/368/6496/1257

Microfibers usually use plastic bottles and other containers sent for recycling. We need to simply eliminate that stream of waste. Banning single-use plastic is an absolutely necessary step - but the effort needs to be global, or at least rich countries need to force major polluters (Coca Cola etc) to act globally if they wish to retain access to local markets.

Look for the materials on the tags. Polyester, nylon, rayon, spandex, etc are all synthetic fibres. However, clothing that is labelled as being made of natural fibre ("100% cotton", for example), can still be stitched with synthetic thread. I am sure regulations on this vary from country to country, however.

100% cotton

> The scientists found microplastics in almost every sample they collected. In total, 4 percent of the identifiable dust particles were plastic. Brahney and her colleagues “immediately realized the gravity of what we were seeing,” she says. “That was a moment of being just completely astounded.”

As costal erosion becomes a bigger problem, I wonder if there will be a lot more geo-textiles used on the coast line to manage it. Textiles made of plastic that will eventually just wash into the oceans. Where I live on the Sea of Japan I am constantly finding all kinds of things washed up from China, Korea and Russia (along with all the fishing gear). There is very little I could do locally to clean up the beaches here.

As the great George has said, humanity is here just to create deposits of plastic on the planet.

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