Addressing the Microplastics Problem

Legislation, Litigation, and You

Sarah J. Morath
Microplastics are formed when larger pieces of plastics break apart during physical and chemical weathering processes.

Microplastics are formed when larger pieces of plastics break apart during physical and chemical weathering processes.

DisobeyArt via iStock

Microbead face washes were great for your face, but not so good for the earth. Today, plastic pollution, like climate change, is part of everyday conversation. Plastic is ubiquitous, and the harm to marine animals, wildlife, and humans is well documented. A growing area of research focuses on microplastics, plastics with diameters smaller than 5 mm. Between 1970 and 1980, fewer than 100 published papers even mentioned microplastics. Compare that to the more than 5,000 articles published in 2020 alone. Microplastics are formed when larger pieces of plastics break apart during physical and chemical weathering processes. Plastic designed to be small, like nurdles (i.e., resin pellets that are melted to make plastic products) and microbeads (i.e, tiny rounded plastic beads that are used in cosmetics) are also microplastics.

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