The Cycle of Plastic - From You, to the Ocean, and Back

A small study was done recently where eight participants in various countries recorded everything they ate, then had their stool sample tested. Every stool sample tested from the participants contained traces of microplastics. Of the 10 different types of plastic being tested for, 9 of the were identified in the stool. Six of the participants ate seafood, meaning the participants didn’t have to have seafood to have ingested plastic.

You may not think much when you wash your face with a microbead cleanser, or throw out a used cotton bud. But what happens when these things make its way into the ocean? We’ve all seen photos by now, of fish weaving around plastic bags, and the turtle that got a straw stuck in its snout. Despite seeing these tragic photos though, have they really swayed us enough to make change?

The UN has reported as much as “51 trillion microplastic particles in the seas” (European Parliament, 2018). Microplastics are plastics that are less than 5mm in size, and are either released directly into the environment, or are a degradation from other larger plastics. These microplastics can easily be mistaken for food, and are ingested by marine life. Microplastics have been found in shellfish and in the guts of fish that humans eat (Smith et al, 2018). Don’t eat seafood? Well don’t relax yet, because it seems that everyone is at risk of ingesting microplastics, not just seafood eaters.

A small study was done recently where eight participants in various countries recorded everything they ate, then had their stool sample tested. Every stool sample tested from the participants contained traces of microplastics. Of the 10 different types of plastic being tested for, 9 of the were identified in the stool. Six of the participants ate seafood, meaning the participants didn’t have to have seafood to have ingested plastic. All of the participants ate food that had plastic wrapping or packaging though. More studies need to be done to figure out the sources of plastic being ingested (Harvey and Watts, 2018). Microplastics have been found in other things like drinking water, beer, and honey (European Parliament, 2018) So they are in things that are commonly ingested by most of the population. The possibility has been thrown out there that it could be microfibers coming from clothes or curtains (Parker, 2018).

These discoveries have led to concerns of where the microplastics go when they enter the human body, and the effects it can have on the digestive system and other things related to health (Smith et al, 2018). With these concerns in mind, countries are attempting to ban microplastics. Things like microbeads in cosmetics, cotton buds, and plastic straws have been seen as a threat to the ecosystem and to human health, so are in the works of being banned (Harvey and Watts, 2018). Other things should be done to at least slow the repercussions of our pollution such as finding other alternatives to plastic and doing more to protect the oceans. All this time we have been throwing out plastic products knowing it would be adding to pollution, and not caring because of the mindset that it won’t really affect us. But there is finally evidence that our actions come full circle. Is this enough to change how you feel about plastic?

Break this cycle of plastic and use eco-friendly food packaging.  Element packaging is home compostable, compostable and biodegradable. Our aim is to create not only a guilt-free food experience but  one that is also fearless, knowing that the waste from our packaging is not going to land on your plate.

Citations

European Parliament. “Microplastics: Sources, Effects and Solutions.” European Parliament, 22 Nov. 2018, www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20181116STO19217/microplastics-sources-effects-and-solutions.

Harvey, Fiona, and Watts, Jonathan. “Microplastics Found in Human Stools for the First Time.” The Guardian, 22 Oct. 2018, www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/22/microplastics-found-in-human-stools-for-the-first-time.

Parker, Laura. “In a First, Microplastics Found in Human Poop.” National Geographic, 23 Oct. 2018, www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/10/news-plastics-microplastics-human-feces/.

Smith, Madeleine et al. “Microplastics in Seafood and the Implications for Human Health.” Current environmental health reports vol. 5,3 (2018): 375-386. doi:10.1007/s40572-018-0206-z