Macro and micro: Plastics are everywhere

The Prototype has continuously reported on the growing concern for saltwater plastic pollution over the last year, from supermarket bans on single use plastic bags and country-wide bans on fast-food plastic items to garbage covered coral reefs.

This week, contamination has been quantified in fresh water bodies. “Microplastics”, plastics smaller than 1mm, are scattering across UK rivers, from country streams to city waterways. A study by environmental researchers from the University of Manchester examined sediments from rivers in north-west England. Researchers quarantined patches of river and calculated the plastic concentration within those patches. A suburban “hotspot” site at the River Tame in Denton contained more than half a million microplastics per square metre. “According to our literature search on microplastics in the ocean, in sediments on beaches, in lakes – and the small amount of data on rivers elsewhere – this is currently the highest concentration found anywhere,” said Prof Woodward. The experts now want to study the specific sources of the plastics they discovered.

In related news, bans on plastic straws in restaurants are expanding across the US. The latest control announced is in Malibu, California. Other limits were applied by Seattle; Davis; and San Luis Obispo, California; and Miami Beach and Fort Myers, Florida.

Read more: BBC / Nature / New York Times

Image: Ulleo / CC0-1.0 – Plastic straws in carbonated water

This story is taken from the 16 March 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.