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Pt. 3: Microplastics: Threatened Waters, Threatened Food Chain

Keep Lee County Beautiful Tip of the Week

February 14, 2018
--By Norman Turiano for Keep Lee County Beautiful , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Third in a Series

In the first two articles, we explored what microplastics are, where they come from, and how we are threatened by their entry into the food chain. In this article, we will look at ways the danger has been addressed.

Policy and Legislation

As we have gained more knowledge of the detrimental effects of microplastics on the environment, many groups began advocating for the removal and ban of microplastics from various products, and Keep Lee County Beautiful, in its educational role, is doing its part to bring the topic to the forefront by discussing the issue, sharing what others are doing, and finally promoting what we in Lee County can do to address the issue.

One of the most prominent campaigns is the "Beat the Microbead" movement, which focuses on removing plastics from personal care products. The Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation are running a Microplastics Project that is working to pass a national ban on microbeads in household items and cosmetics. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has sponsored research and global assessment programs due to the trans-national nature of the issue. These environmental groups intend to pressure companies to remove plastics from their products in order to maintain healthy ecosystems. By all of us being advocates, and making better product choices, companies will themselves make better environmental choices.

In the United States, statewide action has been taken to mitigate the negative environmental effects of microplastics. Illinois was the first U.S. state to ban cosmetics containing microplastics, and New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone proposed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2014, which calls for a nationwide ban on the creation and sale of products that contain microbeads by 2018. The Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 was finally enacted after being signed by the President on December 28, 2015. It went into effect July 1, 2017 with respect to stop the manufacturing of the products described in the law, and on July 1, 2018 it will go into effect with respect to introduction or delivery of these products into interstate commerce.

Sometimes the most simple products are not seen as a threat, but some scientists are now claiming that glitter itself is a hazard to the environment...Because in fact, it is also a microbead. Some feel that these regulations are getting carried away, but the simple question to ask is this: How much glitter and plastic are you okay with eating each year? It puts the issue in perspective, doesn't it?

One would think that the microbead legislation would largely address the issue, but here are 2 sobering facts: the legislation is currently only affecting US markets and companies, and though one would think that with such a large market, that this would have a large impact, it is only a small fraction of the problem: Microbeads are only estimated to be 0.014.1% of the estimated total level of microplastics in the ocean. That leaves us to ponder the other +95%, and what we can do as environmental stewards to address this problem.

As always, the best rule to follow is first reduce, secondly reuse, and finally recycle.

This sustainability tip is courtesy of Keep Lee County Beautiful Inc. For more information, visit, email, or call (239) 334-3488.

--By Norman Turiano for Keep Lee County Beautiful



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