UNEP | Microplastics in wastewater: Towards solutions
The world demands and produces more and more plastic every year, much of which eventually finds its way into rivers, lakes and the ocean. Analysis of water and sediment worldwide indicates that microplastics are ubiquitous in freshwater, marine ecosystems and soils.
Many plastic products are essential, but we need to consider the trade-offs which include microplastic pollution and global heating.
Over time, plastic products tend to shed smaller particles through natural weathering processes, creating microplastics, defined as less than 5mm in size.
Other microplastics are directly released into the environment in the form of small particulates. Toiletries and cosmetics may contain microplastics. The abrasion of large plastic objects such as the erosion of tyres when driving, or the abrasion of synthetic textiles during washing, are other sources of microplastics.
Microplastics enter water bodies through different pathways, including atmospheric deposition, run-off from contaminated land or through municipal wastewater.
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