International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in latest report warns that the tiny plastic particles washed off products like synthetic clothing and car tyres account for up to a third of the plastic polluting oceans.
In its report “Primary Microplastics in the Oceans”, the IUCN found that in many developed countries in North America and Europe, which have effective waste management, tiny plastic particles are in fact a bigger source of marine plastic pollution than plastic waste.
Unlike the shocking images of country-sized garbage patches floating in the oceans, the microplastic particles that wash off textiles and roadways leave the waterways looking pristine.
But they constitute a significant part of the “plastic soup” clogging our waters — accounting for between 15% and 31% of the estimated 9.5 million tonne of plastic released into the oceans each year.
In addition to car tyres and synthetic textiles, such particles stem from everything from marine coatings and road markings, to city dust and the microbeads in cosmetics. Plastic waste is not all there is to ocean plastics.
While microplastics are hard to spot, they can seriously harm marine wildlife and as they enter the global food and water supplies they are believed to pose a significant risk to human health.
Karl Gustaf Lundin, who heads IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, acknowledged that a few studies have been done so far on the impact of tiny plastic particles on human health.
The IUCN is calling on the makers of tyres and clothing especially to shift their production methods and make products that pollute less.