Microplastics: A Huge Problem

Image credit: Simon Mannweiler / Wikimedia Commons

Plastic waste is a huge problem on this planet. Plastics are everywhere. They make up disposable packaging, pipes used in plumbing, packing peanuts, and are in many of our favorite stretchy fabrics, like those used to make leggings and athletic wear. Plastics are made from petrochemicals, byproducts of the petroleum industry, so they’re a cheap and plentiful material. In the past 13 years, “half of all plastics ever made by humankind [have been] produced.”

But another form of plastic waste that’s often forgotten about are the small synthetic fibers of microplastic that come off of our clothing when we do laundry. These ultra-tiny fibers, less than 5 millimeters in length, break off of polyester fabrics with regular washing, and go into our waterways or the ground. The result is a plastic pollution situation that’s much bigger than previously imagined. 

And this doesn’t account for the negative health effects we experience when we inhale or consume these microplastic fibers. Though we know they can cause inflammation in our bodies, there’s still a lot left unknown about how they affect us long-term.  

Synthetic fibers like these make up 14 percent of plastics produced globally, and as long as the fossil fuel industry is around, there’s going to be no end to plastics here on Earth. This only highlights the need to immediately eliminate the fossil fuel industry. Human beings have made excellent clothing and other essentials for most of our history without plastics. We must put a stop to the toxic emissions they create that further climate change, and to all the toxic byproducts that are created from fossil fuel waste, like polyester fabrics, plastic straws, petrochemicals used in fertilizers or the pharmaceutical industry, and many more. 

We can truly thrive in a world that uses a limited amount of plastics without polluting the environment. But we’re not going to get a chance to figure out how to make that a reality as long as profit-hungry capitalists are in charge. We have to get rid of their power over society. Then, and only then, will we be able to stop the pollution that is accumulating in our air, water, and land, creating the toxic environment we live in today.