**This blog entry orginally appeared on the website oceanspaces.org.**/p>
Microplastics are tiny plastic beads that can be found in many beauty and health products including toothpaste, hand soap, body wash, and facial scrubs. These plastics are commonly referred to as micro beads and are often used as abrasives and exfoliants. All products with the ingredients polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terphthalate, polymethylmethacrylaat, and nylon contain micro beads.
What is the big deal?
Microplastics range in size from microscopic to five millimeters in diameter, which is too small to be filtered out of wastewater by treatment plants. As a result, microplastics enter our waterways where they attract toxic chemicals such as flame retardants. Fish and other marine organisms eat these plastics, transferring chemical additives and pollutants to wildlife and severely jeopardizing the health of marine ecosystems. Further, when marine animals eat plastics, they replace their natural food source of plankton. With their stomachs full of plastic, these animals then starve to death. Microplastics that are not consumed may also get caught in the gill filaments of many fish, especially filter feeders. Furthermore, since plastics are not biodegradable, they travel up the food chain and contaminate larger fish through biological magnification. When we catch and eat fish, we are introducing these chemical pollutants in our bodies as well.
We wanted to spread awareness of the harmful effects of trash on marine life, so we took the initiative to reduce the amount of litter in our area. Our goal was to crowdsource our project to maximize the impact and create a culture of marine stewardship through Litterati and social media such as Twitter and Instagram. In the Land/Water Challenge, we succeeded in properly disposing of thousands of pieces of litter and getting hundreds involved in the Litterati movement. We are now expanding our project globally and are hoping to make a lasting impact in the community. We are examining the role of micro-plastics because of its detrimental effects on marine life around the world.
We believe we can make the greatest impact by expanding a campaign to boycott and ban products containing micro beads. Even using a small amount of a product can release hundreds of microbeads down the drain directly into our rivers and oceans. If we stopped using products containing microplastic, there would be much less debris in our oceans. We want to spread awareness about the harmful effects microplastics have and encourage everyone to stop using products that contain microbeads.