(1) Discuss the pollution issues that arise from microplastics.
(2) Discuss the pollution issues that arise from microfibers
(3) What solution to the problem of microfiber pollution do you suggest?
Discuss the pollution issues that arise from micro-plastics:
The micro-plastics pollute the environment beyond repair. As for example, items such as debris from bottles, clothes and plastic bags are disposed of into the oceans and seas daily and they cannot be recycled. These micro-plastic materials cause serious threat to the marine ecosystem and also to the human beings. Many of the marine animals feed on those thinking them to be food items and end up choking themselves to death. According to United Nations, the micro-plastic pollution is one of the most ominous causes of environmental pollution and if proper actions are not taken in order to prevent their irresponsible disposal here and there, then the environment will be harmed more in future. To add to these, the ineffective waste disposal practices around the world have also caused serious pollution of the water bodies. Major sources of pollution are the plastic containers that we throw away after use, cigarette butts, party balloons, etc. These items are broken down into countless smaller particles by the waves and these items are non-dissolvable and hence marine creatures consume them as foods and these items harm their lives and even kill them on most of the occasions. It has been found that there has been an increasing presence of micro-plastic particles which are smaller than 5 mm in length in the seas and oceans on this planet. The situation is so devastating that according to a recent research it has been found that more than a quarter of fishes sold in Indonesian and Californian markets contain plastic (Forster, 2016).
Discuss the pollution issues that arise from microfibers:
As per recent studies, the microfibers in our clothes are polluting the aquatic bodies as well as harming the food chain. The microfibers are the tiny threads which tear off from our fabrics and near the shorelines they have been found in plenty where the release of waste water takes place. A research conducted by the University of California showed that on an average, the synthetic fleece jackets keep on releasing around 1.7 grams of microfibers they are washed every time. The old jackets are found to release twice as more microfibers as compared to the new ones. The microfibers are then transferred to the wastewater treatment plant in the locality and from there around 40% of them flow into the water bodies such as lakes, rivers, seas and oceans. The synthetic microfibers are even more harmful because they can poison the food chain. The sizes of the fibers are so small that they can easily be consumed by the aquatic animals (Patagonia, 2017). The plastic fibers tend to bio-accumulate and that leads to the concentration of the toxins in the bodies of the larger aquatic animals those are higher up in the food chain. In one of the research papers released by the University of New South Wales, it was revealed that microfibers constitute almost 85% of the man-made debris those are deposited across the global shorelines. The process of breaking down plastic bottles into numerous fibrous plastic bits is even more detrimental than keeping the bottles unbroken. These fibers are also being founded in the fresh water deposit s nowadays which is also a major cause of concern (Messinger, 2016).
The microfibers which are found in the oceans might originate from a wide range of textiles like nylon, rayon, polyester, spandex and acrylic. A wide range of garments we wear in our daily lives such as shorts and pants for gym or exercise, fleece jackets, etc. contains microfibers. However, the apparels are not the only products which cause microfiber pollution those enter into the oceans. There are other materials also those create microfiber pollutions such as plastic bags for packaging, caps of bottles and fishing nets those also break down into smaller particles in the ocean. It has also been found that the higher quality of garments shed much less fibers while washing and therefore, the apparel manufacturers and customers should insist on manufacturing and purchasing garments of high quality even at higher prices for the sake of the environment. The appliances such as washing machines contribute to the lessening of the chances of microfiber pollutions and so are the water treatment plants. The water treatment plants are known to filter around 65% to 92% of the microfibers but they still release significant amount of microfiber wastes into the water bodies. According to a report by the IUCN, the micro-plastic pollution is one of the major concerns of the world. Around 15%-31% of the plastic pollution in the oceans is from the micro-particles those are released from the household materials and industrial products than the bigger plastic items those degenerate on reaching the oceans and seas. Around 35% of the pollution from micro-plastic comes from the washing of textiles which are synthetic (Brodde, 2017).
In this context it can be said that it is reported that around 7, 00,000 microfibers are released from each garment from laundering garments at home. It has been found that it is not only the larger plastic that is the biggest concern to the environment, especially the aquatic biodiversity, but it is mainly the tiny bits of plastics those are flowing into the waters regularly and are being consumed by the aquatic animals. These animals are at the bottom of the food chain and after they have consumed such particles, they move up higher to the next animal in the food chain and this way, all the members in the food chain end up consuming the harmful microfiber particles and the effects are naturally detrimental. The biggest danger is from the synthetic fibers because the small plastic fibers tend to collect more toxins around them inside the water and this leads to the accumulation of harmful chemicals which are passed on to much smaller creatures or organisms those are eaten by small fishes. This is detrimental not only to the fishes and other aquatic life-forms but also to us, as we consume such items regularly (Wilson, 2016).
What solution to the problem of microfiber pollution do you suggest?
The problem of microfiber pollution can be address with the help of the following solutions:
Potable Reuse Facility-
The potable reuse facility can be considered as an effective solution to the microfiber problem. The potable reuse infrastructure will also help in solving the availability of water problems. They can be built next to the conventional wastewater treatment plants, but there needs to be additional filtration facilities in order to make the water drinkable. Some of the most effective processes include reverse osmosis, UV light disinfection and ultrafiltration those might help in accumulating the microfibers through filters those are around 0.1-0.02 microns in size. They can successfully block microfibers which are even of the smallest size at 3 microns.
Reform of Waste-water Treatment- The wastewater treatment facilities can successfully remove around 95%-99% of the microfibers even though a very small percentage of these wastes are released into the water bodies. There can be filtration upgrades which might be undertaken to collect the plastic microfibers right at the facility for wastewater treatment. Another effective method of cleaning the microfibers can be the use of sand filters through the process of tertiary filtration where the effluent can be treated before disinfection.
Making design improvements to Washing Machines-
The modern washing machine companies can design new and innovative methods through which they can improve the standards of filtration that is able to capture the plastic microfibers.
Changing the daily washing habits-
The amount of microfibers that is released from personal use can be reduced by decreasing the number of times the synthetic garments are washed in households. The use of front-loading washing machines instead of top-loading ones will cause lesser number of microfibers to be shed from the clothes. The use of washing machines with high water efficiency might help in less shedding of microfibers during the process of washing. While washing synthetic clothes, it is prudent to use a microfiber filter.
Purchasing of Biodegradable Materials-
It is advisable for the apparel manufacturers to use natural fibers instead of synthetic fibers as the natural fibers are biodegradable. However, the use of these materials in clothing is costly for the garments manufacturing organizations. The majority of the industries in the modern era prefer the use of synthetic materials because they are resistant to degradation. The situation is dependent on the demand and the supply. If the consumers of the modern era give up on using the synthetic materials and rely more on the biodegradable materials, then the apparel companies will have to take steps to manufacture the textiles with biodegradable materials and that will help in reducing the microfiber pollution significantly (Day, 2017).
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Brodde, K. (2017). What are microfibers and why are our clothes polluting the oceans? Retrieved from greenpeace: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/6956/what-are-microfibers-and-why-are-our-clothes-polluting-the-oceans/
Day, K. (2017). Plastic Microfibers: Recent Findings and Potential Solutions. Retrieved from surfrider: https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/plastic-microfibers-recent-findings-and-potential-solutions
Forster, K. (2016). Microplastics in the sea a growing threat to human health, United Nations warns. Retrieved from independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/microplastics-microbeads-ocean-sea-serious-health-risks-united-nations-warns-a7041036.html
Messinger, L. (2016). How your clothes are poisoning our oceans and food supply. Retrieved from theguardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/20/microfibers-plastic-pollution-oceans-patagonia-synthetic-clothes-microbeads
Patagonia. (2017). An Update on Microfiber Pollution. Retrieved from patagonia: https://www.patagonia.com/blog/2017/02/an-update-on-microfiber-pollution/
Wilson, S. (2016). Microfibers: The Biggest Little Problem You’ve Never Heard of. Retrieved from storyofstuff: https://storyofstuff.org/blog/microfibers/