What are microplastics and why are they bad?


You have probably heard a lot about microplastics recently or maybe you have heard one of the many campaigns seeking to stop the use of plastics in general. It's true, microplastics have become a major environmental concern, but exactly what are microplastics? and where do microplastics come from?  In this article we will cover in detail these important questions. It is important to understand what we are dealing with and how we can join the efforts to stop microplastics from polluting our oceans and environment.

The Running Republic

Why are microplastics bad?

Plastic is everywhere! It is found in many of the products we use daily: plastic bags, product packaging, bottles, and clothing just to name a few. It's hard to imagine our life without any plastics. However, plastic is not biodegradable which means it will not decompose; instead it will continue to break down into smaller and smaller particles without changing its composition. The term microplastics refer to small bits of plastic that range between 0.33mm and 0.5mm in size.

Where do microplastics come from?

Everything starts at the petrochemical plants that create the plastics in the first place. After many processing steps, the plants convert crude oil into plastic pellets which are later transformed into the products we use everyday. These plastics eventually find their way to the oceans in the form of debris and other particles that eventually turn into what we call microplastics. 

Are synthetic textiles a source of microplastics?

Yes!. Synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon account for about 35% of all the microplastics in our oceans according to a study made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). When we wash our clothes small particles get detached by mechanical abrasion. These particles get sent by our plumbing to waste treatment plants unable to process the particles.

Synthetic fibers are versatile and cheap to make. They offer many advantages to activewear; they are breathable, soft, and durable. 

It is worth noting that other fibers such as cotton shed particles too but unlike synthetics these particles will degrade into natural components. It has been estimated that a plastic bottle, for example,  will take about 450 years to fully decompose. The process of biodegradation depends highly on the ability of microorganisms to consume organic waste. In the case of plastics, microorganisms cannot consume the chemical ingredients.

The Running Republic

I love my synthetic activewear. Is there anything I can do?

By using activewear that is made of recycled materials you will have the same high performing qualities as the virgin materials; each recycled garment that you use means less oil processed for new clothing and less carbon emissions. At Running Republic, we also plant a tree in Ethiopia for each product we sell.  Also, when watching your synthetic clothing whether recycled or not, you may choose to use specially designed washing bags that will collect the microplastics.

Now that you know why microplastics are bad and where they come from, it is time to take action and help protect the environment. Join us in our efforts to make our life better and more sustainable and visit us at Running Republic to learn more. Follow our social networks on Facebook and Instagram.
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