It’s time to face the facts: teeny tiny microplastics are everywhere and despite their size, they’ve become a prodigious problem. Not only are they in our bodies, they plague the ocean and its biodiversity and are even floating through the air.
The state of California has had enough. Last month, it became the first state in the US to commit to a strategy that will address the microplastic problem. “We need to eliminate our addiction to single-use plastics,” stated Mark Gold, the executive director of the Ocean Protection Council, the governmental body that approved the plan.
In accordance with the plan, the council will dedicate $3 million this year to pinpoint reduction targets, set to be laid out between now and 2030. So far, California’s local strategy aims to accomplish two things: to prevent plastics from entering the environment, and to monitor the plastics that are already out there, especially regarding the levels of microplastics in California’s waters.
The first step, Gold revealed, is to reduce or completely eliminate some of the worse plastic offenders. This includes single-use plastics, synthetic fabrics, cigarette filters, and car tires.
California also hopes to determine where most of the microplastics are coming from and the risk each type of microplastic poses to human and environmental health, since there is very limited information out there about how plastics really affect us.
How much plastic is out there and what’s the harm?
According to estimates, we have produced around 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic—but only nine percent of this has ever been recycled. The ocean gets burdened with 11 million metric tons of plastic each year, a whopping number that is expected to triple by 2040 if we stand by and do not intervene.
These tiny plastics continue to break down and get eaten by marine life which causes them an array of health issues. This means that these health issues are potentially transferred to the humans that consume marine animals, which explains why we have found microplastics in human organs and even in placentas.
California’s plan is part of a greater worldwide effort to clean up microplastics. So far, 175 nations agreed to begin forming a legally binding treaty, committing them to develop recycling and clean-up measures, as well as limits on plastic production.