A Sunday Chat with Myself—Microplastics

It’s when plastic takes on a life of its own that the food chain will be disrupted.” —Anthony T. Hicks

Sundays are usually a quieter time when I can relax and reflect on the metaphysical things in my life—the moral and spiritual side of living that give value to my being here on earth.

Today, my thoughts turned to the dangerous role microplastics are starting to play in my life. It’s still not quite mainstream media yet, but it’s getting there. One reason, I suspect, why “big media” is still dragging its feet on exposing this problem is because big business—which big media is part of— will be a big looser if we ever start to cut back or replace plastics.

But, I wonder, is all this “ignoring the problem” by media a way of hiding the “wolf in sheep’s clothes?

First, what are microplastics, and why are they dangerous? According to Wikipedia, microplastics “are small pieces of plastic that pollute the environment … the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration classifies microplastics as less than 5 mm in diameter.” There are two classifications of microplastics: those that we are purposely creating—Primary Microplastics, like small pellets that are used in packaging and air blasting, or “scrubbers,” used in hand cleansers and facial scrubs.

I’ts when we go fishing for plastic that we wonder where all the fish have gone.” —Anthony T. Hicks

One danger that microplastics pose in their use in air blasting as “scrubbers” on machinery to remove rust and paint is that they are repeatedly reused until they are so small that their cutting power is lost. In that use, they become contaminated with heavy metals that are a health hazard to all living mammals.

Secondary Microplastics are the product of the natural breakdown of plastics in nature—on land and in the sea—as small as 1.6 micrometers (0.00006299 of an inch) in diameter. These microplastics, as they are ingested through our food, are so small that they can easily penetrate stomach or blood vessel linings and enter the body at will, entering our vital organs, where our body can’t control their presence, thus wreaking all manner of havoc.

So, what can I do, personally, to help alleviate this problem? I can start using cloth shopping bags when I go to the grocery store. When I buy a single item in a store, I don’t need the cashier to place it into a plastic bag for me to carry out when I can just as easily carry it holding it in my hand.

When available, I can buy bulk items like cereal, other food mixes and the like, instead of spending a lot of extra money paying for packaged boxes of the product.

Recycling plastics as much as possible is another major way in which we can reduce the amount of plastics in our landfills.

Pick up garbage (that’s mostly made of plastics) irresponsible people discard along pathways, sidewalks or roadways and deposit them in proper garbage disposable units.

Organizations have sprung up that are devoting their time and resources to plastics cleanup, both on land and in our oceans, and my deepest respect and admiration goes out to them for the responsible work of planet-earth stewardship that they have taken upon themselves.

However, just to satisfy our goal to clean up other people’s garbage is not going to save us from extinction! Humanity has to wake up, and each one of us has to take our share of responsibility to restore Gaia to her original, pristine “Garden of Eden” state that we found her in when we first came here.

With a little thought, it’s easy to find more ways to cut back on the use of plastics, but plastics are so engrained in our way of life, it would be almost impossible to completely remove them—at least not in our immediate future.

According to The Independent, global plastic production has increased dramatically. Between 2004 and 2014, the amount of plastic production rose by 38 percent!

The United Nations reports that “[this] is the most dangerous environmental problem facing the world today.”

“Millions of tons of tiny debris from plastic bags, bottles and clothes in the world’s oceans present a serious threat to human health and marine ecosystems,” warns the Independent.

Unless we do something, collectively—and soon— I must ask, who do you think will be the next dominant species on earth after we’ve annihilated ourselves? The Cockroach—again?