With the holidays coming up, you are probably using more plastics than usual with holiday parties, wrapping gifts, and decorating.
But, did you know that plastic never truly “breaks down”? Other human-made materials, like paper, metal, or glass, will eventually return to their original elements, even if it takes a very long time. Plastic, on the other hand, works a bit differently.
When plastic “breaks down” it will only ever fragment, meaning it may break apart into smaller and smaller pieces but continue to remain as plastic. These pieces can fragment all the way down to microscopic pieces called microplastics. There are no known microbes that digest plastic and return it to the parts of its composition.
One problem with microplastics is that they are plentiful in the ocean and their small size allows them to be eaten up along with plankton by unassuming fish. These fish get consumed by larger marine wildlife, including the plastics those fish have eaten. And so the plastics move up the food chain in a process called bioaccumulation, eventually making their way to humans.
Let’s keep our holidays clean and reduce our plastic waste this month!