Every year, vast amounts of microplastics enter our oceans and waterways - a significant proportion through tire abrasion and through construction sites, or in industrial production or abrasion from shoe soles. Although massive reduction is undoubtedly needed through regulation and self-imposed industry targets, the European Chemicals Agency for example agrees that reduction at all sources must be reduced where only possible.
From this, there are some things we can do ourselves and on a small scale to reduce the amount of microplastics that end up in our oceans & waters.
What are microplastics anyway? According to the European Parlament, a distinction is made between primary microplastics, with a diameter of five millimeters, and secondary microplastics, which are formed through the abrasion of macroplastics. Since primary microplastics play a rather minor role in our everyday lives, the focus here will be on secondary microplastics, which are formed primarily through abrasion and washing processes.
COSMETICS & HYGIENE PRODUCTS
In many cosmetic products, there are film formers, opacifiers, fillers and abrasives. For this purpose, there are usually more degradable substitutes. It is precisely these that natural cosmetics manufacturers such as Taiga Natural, Flow Cosmetics, Ayu Organics resort to in order to reduce the environmental impact of their products. It doesn't stop there, by the way, but continues through the use of degradable packaging or the use of renewable energy for manufacturing.
Brands like Luonkos go even further here, by making their soaps, cleansers, shampoos & deodorants available in solid form, they not only completely eliminate parafins or binders that result in microplastic debris, but it allows them to implement completely degradable packaging for their products. This means that microplastics do not end up in wastewater at any point in the product.
Another way to reduce plastic in general is to avoid unnecessary plastic products like disposable razors, among other things. Geisha offer a wonderful metal alternative here, making disposable razors a thing of the past. This way, less plastic ends up in the waste cycle, less of it in landfills, and ultimately less in our waters.
WASHING & CLEANING
Due to the fact that the conventional industry uses all kinds of binding agents, microplastic debris also accumulates when using everyday products for cleaning and washing. Especially when used in the washing machine, the detachment of synthetic fibers from clothing is accelerated and through the drain they eventually end up in the wastewater. As a wonderful alternative to conventional fabric softeners, SEES excel with their laundry vinegar, which is based solely on natural compounds and the use of essential oils. So not only does your laundry stay fresh, but no more microplastics enter the water cycle. SEES have the same approach for all their products and they generally rely on the base of natural compounds and essential oils. So they have a whole line of cleaners for everyday use, not just laundry vinegar, but multi-surface cleaners, dishwashing detergent, shampoo, conditioner and more.
CLOTHING MADE FROM NATURAL FIBERS
If you read the previous section carefully, you probably already realize that another way to reduce microplastics is to eliminate or limit synthetic fibers in our clothing or consumer textiles. That's right, the increased use of polyesters and other related fabrics does ensure that clothing can be produced quickly and in large quantities, however, these fibers are not very durable and are prone to great abrasion during the washing process. One way to reduce this is to rely on recycled material. This way, microplastics are still emitted, but not producing new fibers ultimately saves resources. Globe Hope is a great example of this, relying almost exclusively on the use of surplus material to bring their fashion and accessories to life.
However, an even better choice is to rely on natural fibers, they are more durable, long lasting and give off little to no fibers during the washing process that can't ultimately be broken down. In addition to cotton, of course, linen and wool are natural textiles that often boast special properties and are even better suited for their respective applications than their man-made alternatives. Ruukin Kehräämö, for example, use sustainably sourced alpaca wool for their warm accessories and garments. Finkonia & Jokipiin Pellava are dedicated to working with linen, which not only shine for their respective applications as towels, bathrobes or sauna accessories, but are also the sustainable choice.
As you can see, we can all help reduce the burden of microplastics. If everyone takes one small step, it quickly becomes a long haul.