This Article is From Nov 16, 2023

Microplastics Crisis Demands More Than Just Ocean Cleanups and Biodegradables, Says Expert

In 2004, Professor Richard Thompson, a marine biologist from the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom, coined the term "microplastics."

Microplastics Crisis Demands More Than Just Ocean Cleanups and Biodegradables, Says Expert

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that are less than 5 millimeters in length.

In the world of environmental science, the discovery of microplastics has significantly altered our understanding of pollution and its impact on ecosystems. Among the pioneers in this field is biologist Richard Thompson, who identified microplastics three decades ago.

As reported by The Guardian, it was in September 1993 that Richard Thompson observed an intriguing sight during a beach cleanup on the Isle of Man. Thousands of multicolored fragments, resembling sand, caught his attention. Subsequent research into these particles led Thompson, in a brief 2004 study co-authored with Professor Andrea Russell at Southampton University, to coin the term "microplastics" for the first time.

Addressing the issue of microplastics, some proponents advocate for solutions such as ocean cleanups and the use of biodegradables. However, it's crucial to critically examine the efficacy and limitations of these approaches in combating the widespread presence of microplastics in the environment.

Ocean cleanups, while well-intentioned, face challenges due to the vastness of the marine ecosystem and the dispersion of microplastics across various water bodies. The feasibility of large-scale removal and the potential environmental impact of such interventions are subjects of ongoing debate within the scientific community.

Amidst ongoing discussions at a UN summit in Nairobi regarding a treaty to address plastic pollution, Richard Thompson has cautioned against relying solely on ocean cleanups and biodegradable plastics as means to resolve this global crisis.

According to Thompson, the use of biosource plastics does not address the fundamental issues of litter, waste, or chemical concerns.

"If we keep the nearly 300-400m tonnes of plastic we're making every year, and all we're doing is chucking biosource plastics [which are biodegradable] to fill the gap, it doesn't fix the problem of litter, it doesn't fix the problem of waste, it doesn't fix the problem of chemicals," he says. "It's just substituting the carbon source."