On the 6th of April, as part of our Easter Explore Programme, we spoke to Lilly from MONPLAS who is helping reduce and monitor the amount of plastics in our environment.

You have probably seen images of plastic bottles and bags washed up on beaches or left behind in forests and these are undoubtedly harmful, but, less is known about microplastics and nanoplastics- the smaller but equally as dangerous plastics.

What are Microplastics and nanoplastics?

Microplastic is any plastic particle with a size smaller than 5mm in diameter, whereas, nanoplastics are solid particles of synthetic polymers with a size between 1 and 1000 nanometers. To put this into perspective, 70 micrometers is the width of one strand of your hair so nanometers are even smaller than this!

When the plastic in the environment is exposed to sunlight, salt water, and the mechanical forces of waves, wind, or tides, it fragments into a microplastic and then eventually erodes into nanoplastics.

Wait… do I use these plastics?

Plastics are in a lot of products, and some you may not have thought of. Some of the most common uses are:

  • Skin care (exfoliants are made of microbeads, a form of plastic)
  • plastic bottles
  • cling film
  • food packaging
  • piping in your house

What is the impact of these plastics?

Because plastic is used almost everywhere and for so many different reasons, recycling industry cannot keep up with the demand and this means that plastic is making its way into our marine ecosystems. This…

  • Traps and kills our wildlife
  • Impacts tourism
  • Reduces food quality as the plastics accumulate within the fish we might eat
  • Contributes to climate change

What can I do to help?

  • Reduce your use of plastics and opt for more sustainable alternatives where you can, such as paper straws and reusable bags
  • Spread the word about plastic
  • Find out more, and spread the word about MONPLAS, which are working to reduce the amount of plastic within our ecosystems.

Want to discuss this with other young women in STEM? Why not join the Stemette Society to continue the conversation.

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