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Some Thoughts about Microplastics

Updated: May 28, 2022

Plastics are here to stay. But that doesn't mean we can't be more innovative in using them.

Plastic water bottle floating under water
Nariman Mosharrafa on Unsplash

A couple of days ago, I spent the morning at my mechanic. Swallowing the last drops of coffee from my travel mug, I passed by Justin, the garage manager extraordinaire, on my way to the restroom to rinse the mug and refill it with tap water.

“I wouldn’t recommend that,” he said flatly.

“Why’s that?” I enquired. I’ve been going to this mechanic for years, and this is something I occasionally did.

The bottled water tasted fine. But in my head, I saw bits of floating plastic. How many did I swallow with each swig?

“Our water is polluted.” Located on the outskirts of town, the garage has a well and septic system, typical in Maine. This state is more rural than urban, so many homes and private businesses have a well and septic system.

“Don’t you test the water?”

He nodded. “It always comes back fine. Doesn’t matter, though. Whenever I drink it, I get the craps," he says, pulling a water bottle out of a nearby fridge.

He hands me the bottle. "And that’s saying something because I have a cast-iron stomach.”

I would agree. I’ve seen him eating cold, week-old pizza for breakfast or barbequed pork rinds. Or stale chips seasoned with spices and powdered cheese.

But I also know the water tests in Maine don't lie. If they say your water is safe to drink, it's safe to drink.

"Maybe your stomach is getting a little rusty," I smirk, twisting the bottle open.

Flash forward to earlier this week. I was making kedgeree, a dish inspired by Downton Abbey. Originally from colonial India, this recipe was brought back to England and became a popular comfort food. The traditional version calls for smoked haddock, but I couldn't find any, so I substituted it with cod, another whitefish. Inside the two-pound bag, I discovered the cod was divided into eight portions, each shrink-wrapped in thick clear plastic. Convenient? Yes. Necessary? No. Wasteful? Absolutely.

In both instances, microplastics were front and center in my thoughts. The bottled water tasted fine. But in my head, I saw bits of floating plastic. How many did I swallow with each swig? And what about the fish? How many fibers had flaked off the plastic before I opened each portion? How many were already in the fish because of what they ate?

These are questions that never came up before writing The Menace of Microplastics. Now, influenced by my research, they frequently traipse through my thoughts uninvited. But are they enough to keep me awake at night? No.

I tell my kids I can’t control the world, but I can control my actions.

This is my takeaway from what I’ve learned about microplastics. They genuinely are a menace that will never really go away. To the tune of trillions of pieces lurking in every direction, they are abundant. And while science is still trying to find answers, there is a possibility that microplastics can pose long-term health consequences.

Be that as it may, plastics are here to stay—they are too integral to our daily lives.

I tell my kids I can’t control the world, but I can control my actions. Whenever possible, I make mindful purchases, like choosing cardboard over blister packaging, I carry a metal water bottle with me, I’ve stopped heating leftovers in plastic containers, I take reusable bags with me when I shop, and I’m trying to reduce the volume of single-use plastics I throwaway.

It’s good that I’m aware of microplastics and their potential harms because that will motivate me to keep making small but incremental changes. Maybe this knowledge will help inspire you!

Thanks for stopping by

What actions have you taken to reduce your role in microplastics? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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