September is Microplastics Awareness Month
To raise citizens awareness of the environmental threat of microplastics, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension in Pinellas County has designated September as Microplastics Awareness Month. Pinellas County residents are encouraged to learn about microplastics and ways they can reduce contributions to problems microplastics may potentially cause.
There are several ways to participate in Microplastic Awareness Month:
- Get involved with the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project at www.plasticaware.org.
- Reduce consumption of one-use plastics like plastic bags, straws, water bottles, cups and utensils.
- Take the Florida Microplastics Awareness Pledge at bit.ly/plasticpledge.
- Follow the Florida Microplastics Awareness Project on Facebook and share posts from www.facebook.com/MicroplasticAwarenessProject.
- Spread the word about microplastics on other social media platforms using hashtags, #plasticawareness month and #plasticaware.
Microplastics are defined as pieces of plastics that are smaller than 5 millimeters or 1/8th of an inch in size, and can be so small that they can only be seen with a microscope. They come from primary or secondary sources. Microplastics can be manufactured as pellets or microbeads in personal care products such as facial scrubs and deodorants. Secondary microplastics begin as larger plastic products and break down into smaller pieces over time from exposure to elements like sunlight.
Another major source of microplastic comes from synthetic clothing fibers, like polyester and nylon.
When washed, these fibers can shed into waste water from washing machines and into treatment facilities, eventually ending up in local water bodies. Current data has found an average of 7.6 pieces of plastic in a one-liter sample of ocean water, and based on this data it’s estimated that 90-percent of coastal water samples contain at least one piece of plastic.
Plastics have a tendency to last for long periods of time, so microplastics could potentially cause problems for Florida’s marine life. Total research has not come in on microplastics, but early findings warn of their possible effect on the environment. This plastic material is being found in oceans and is eaten by marine life.