Our oceans and lakes are beautiful and precious resources, it is important that we do everything we can to preserve them. There are many different ways that contaminants and pollution can get into our waters, and most of them are preventable. One such pollutant is microplastics. Microplastics are a difficult contaminant to remove from water sources because of their small size. However, there are some solutions to this small, yet big problem.
What are microplastics?
Plastic is the most predominant type of debris found in our planet’s oceans and our country’s Great Lakes. So, what are microplastics? Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that are less than five millimeters in length. Where do microplastics come from? They are typically the result of a two different types of contamination mechanisms. Firstly, plastic that remains in a source of water for extended periods of time will eventually begin to break down. This results in smaller and smaller pieces of plastic breaking off and spreading around a water source, making removal much more difficult than it is for larger pieces of plastic. Secondly, prior to 2015, plastic microbeads were sometimes added to hygiene products such as toothpaste and exfoliating body & facial washes. These products are typically rinsed and washed down the drain after use, which is how these microbeads find their way into water sources everywhere. Learning where microplastics come from can help us to reduce their prevalence in our waters (and hopefully eliminate them altogether) one day.
How can we stop microplastics?
Luckily, microbeads are no longer allowed for commercial use in hygiene products and anything else that is typically washed down a drain. However, this alone does not solve the problem they have already created in our marine ecosystems. Microplastics in the ocean are an ever-increasing hazard to marine wildlife, with most dead sea turtles and birds containing at least some plastic upon post-mortem inspections. So where do microplastics come from? Some of the trash found in the ocean is cargo that has fallen off of ships and boats etc. Most of it is simply stray plastic trash, however. It often comes from highly industrialized geographic locations that are close to rivers connected to the ocean. So, how can we stop microplastics in the ocean? Recycling, reducing and reusing is key. Many new cleaning methods and efforts are being developed and introduced every year to help clean up the plastic found in the ocean as well.
How is Nature’s Academy helping the environment?
When it comes to microplastics in the ocean and lakes across America, our Citizen Science program is focusing on reducing the problems associated with microplastics today through education. We work together with students to teach them about a wide range of our planets marine ecosystems while providing them an opportunity to process water & sediment samples, record biodiversity data, and document marine debris in two different Florida locations. This experiential learning through STEM education is highly effective when it comes to teaching students about marine conservation and microplastics. The data they collect is shared with other conservation entities all over the world, which gives the students a chance to make a difference while they learn, providing them with an immediate sense of pride and accomplishment. Call 941.462.2162 or click here today to learn more!