Microplastics on sandy beaches

Microplastics on sandy beaches

Plastics have an essential role in everyday life, but despite that, they pose a potential health risk for both humans and the environment. Plastics in dimensions of less than 5 mm are named microplastics (MPs), which can be deliberately added to product (e.g., cosmetics) or can be formed when plastics of a larger size break down (e.g., from plastic litter in the seas). Microplastics originate from various polymer-based materials. Currently, the Mediterranean Sea is affected by significant plastic pollution. Although the Mediterranean Sea is one of the most heavily investigated maritime regions worldwide, information on marine litter is relatively limited and poorly documented. MPs were found to be more than 80% of the total plastic pollution in the Mediterranean.

MPs enter the aquatic environment either as a readily manufactured ingredient through the treated wastewater effluent, or as product of plastic photodegradation or wear breakdowns. Examples of already manufactured MPs are some raw materials in cosmetic products, or fibers from synthetic clothes. […] In addition, generation and accumulation of MP pollution tends to occur in areas such as closed bays, gulfs and seas that are surrounded by densely populated coastlines [1].

Many consumers are unaware that MPs are in their products, and of their possible route to the wastewater treatment plant effluent and from there to the seas. Various local, regional, and transnational initiatives have been developed toward the mitigation of plastic pollution. Microplastic hazards are numerous and still undetermined. In some cases replacement of MPs can be easily applied, but in other cases substitutions may come with more uncertainty, performance questions and costs. According to Mitrano and Wohlleben, an unbiased assessment of the hazard, fate, and societal benefits of primary microplastics throughout the regulation process is needed and regulation should be enforceable and focused, and linked to hazards before alternative and more environmentally conscious materials replace microplastics.[2]

In the Mediterranean basin, MPs were found in all coastal countries. From the literature, MP levels are diverse, and further studies are needed to comprehend the distribution dynamics of MPs in coastal areas. Strict regulations are needed to avoid plastics getting into the environment, by cutting the use of MPs from the source. Even if the use of MPs were prohibited from now on, the plastics are already present and their degradation will generate MPs. Any restriction that will be proposed will influence the industry, because it will necessitate the use of alternative materials such as biodegradable materials.[3]

[1] “Microplastics in Mediterranean Coastal Countries: A Recent Overview” by Georgios Fytianos ,Efthimia Ioannidou ,Anna Thysiadou ,Athanasios C. Mitropoulos andGeorge Z. Kyzas ; Page 1 / J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 20219(1), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9010098

[2] “Microplastics in Mediterranean Coastal Countries: A Recent Overview” by Georgios Fytianos,Efthimia Ioannidou,Anna Thysiadou,Athanasios C. Mitropoulos andGeorge Z. Kyzas; Page 9 / J. Mar. Sci. Eng.20219(1), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9010098

[3] “Microplastics in Mediterranean Coastal Countries: A Recent Overview” by Georgios Fytianos,Efthimia Ioannidou,Anna Thysiadou,Athanasios C. Mitropoulos andGeorge Z. Kyzas; Page 10 / J. Mar. Sci. Eng.20219(1), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/jmse9010098