If you’re worried about microplastics in the ocean, you should stop driving your car

I suspected that banning plastic microbeads in cosmetics was trivial, but I didn’t realise how trivial until I came across this graph.

microplastic contributions
Estimates of primary microplastic contributions to the marine environment (Norway). From here. PCP (personal care products) were estimated to be responsible for 0.1% of total microplastics. See references below for how these figures have been used to create estimates for the EU. 

If anybody would like to read 1000 pages of commissioned reports on the subject, the links are below. Just think what a difference we could make if these minds were put to a more pressing environmental issue.

European Commission (DG Environment). Intentionally added microplastics in products. Final report. October 2017.

European Commission (DG Environment). Study to support the development of measures to combat a range of marine litter sources. Final report. January 2016.

Investigating options for reducing releases in the aquatic environment of microplastics emitted by (but not intentionally added in) products. Final report. February 2018.

Postscript: No, I haven’t read them all, because I’d rather read about something more important. But from what I skimmed through, the issue is obviously a bit more complicated than this graph suggests; it’s not easy to estimate numbers and so the data should really be presented with error bars. But an interesting snippet I read was that the EU is considering whether to reclassify tyre dust so that it is no longer considered to be a microplastic. What a genius way of making a problem disappear!

4 thoughts on “If you’re worried about microplastics in the ocean, you should stop driving your car”

    1. On the news, we see increasingly incidents of dead sea animals, that have starved to death because of ingesting ridiculous amounts of plastics and micro plastics in the ocean. Apart from affecting endangered animals and disrupting the animal kingdom’s balance, micro plastics also enter the food chain and consequently we eat them too. Ingested plastic is far from being healthy and just because there’s not enough research on the consequences, it doesn’t mean we should ignore this.
      It makes sense why car tyres are the number 1 on the list by far: all that rain that washes off the streets and the sewers end up in the oceans without treating that waste water, it’s pretty much inevitable. I would account it as “city debris” too, which seems surprisingly low on the graph.

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