All that plastic in the ocean is a climate change problem, too

By Joseph Winters
All that plastic in the ocean is a climate change problem, too

When you think of plastic pollution, you might imagine ocean “garbage patches” swirling with tens of millions of plastic bottles and shopping bags. But unfolding alongside the “macroplastic” pollution crisis is another threat caused by much smaller particles: microplastics.

Microplastics — tiny plastic fragments that are less than 5 millimeters in diameter, a little less than one-third the size of a dime — have become ubiquitous in the environment. They form when larger plastic items like water bottles, grocery bags, and food wrappers are exposed to the elements, chipping into smaller and smaller pieces as they degrade. Smaller plastic fragments can get down into the nano territory, spanning just 0.000001 millimeter — a tiny fraction of the width of a human hair.

These plastic particles do many of the same bad things that larger plastic items do: mar the land and sea, leach toxic chemicals into the food chain. But scientists are increasingly worried…

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