May 13, 2020

How to Eliminate Microplastics Pollution?: Decision-Making Considerations on Feeding Plastic Waste into Circular Carbon Economy

Serpil Guran


Plastics play a significant role in our lives. They are in most of the items we use and dispose daily. Both increased generation of plastic waste and inefficient disposal approaches are causing plastic waste leakage into the environment. Unrecycled plastics end up in landfills and dumpsites, are incinerated, or leak into the waterways and oceans where they will remain hundreds or even thousands of years. It is reported that the amount of plastics in the marine litter is between 60 and 80 percent based on the locations. This highlights that plastics contamination is a major environmental problem.Presence of large plastic items may appear as an entanglement threat, in addition to smaller plastics especially microplastics, which can be ingested by marine organisms. Environmental and health impacts of microplastics have been drawing increased attention since the early seventies. The presence of small plastic fragments in the environment was originally reported in the early seventies and the term microplastic was first used in research in 2004. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines microplastics as plastic fragments smaller than 5 mm. Microplastic pollution is caused by numerous sources. While some microplastics are sourced by components of manufactured items such as cosmetics and other personal care products and the breakdown of synthetic fibers, larger amount of other microplastics enter the environment through fragmentation and degradation of larger plastic products from exposure to the UV light, freezing, wind wave action, and abrasion. Because plastic materials are generally manufactured to be durable goods, they remain in the environment for long time regardless of their origin, and their degradation may take decades especially in the marine environment.

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