An Ocean full of microplastics!

UN environment programme animation on how microplastics affect our health

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimated that between 15% and 31% of all plastic pollution comes from microplastics. So, we now have an ocean full of microplastics. Some research estimates that every week we eat the amount in weight of a credit card of microplastics. It is also raining down on us from the clouds even here in cities like London. How is this possible?

Microfibres and the food chain

An ocean full of microplastics. Photo by Elle Hughes from Pexels

Photo by Elle Hughes from Pexels

Synthetic microfibres, which clothing releases during every wash, account for roughly a third of plastic in the ocean. They are so tiny that they can seem like food for zooplankton. These are microscopic living organisms which drift or float in water. One of them is called krill and is a tiny shrimp-like crustacean which lives in cold seas. Some of the zooplankton eat algae but due to the ingestion of microfibres they are no longer able to digest it. These animals are at the base of the food chain in the ocean, bigger zooplankton, fish and marine mammals like whales eat them. So, we shouldn’t be surprised if they might end up on our dinner plate.

An ocean full of microplastics. Photo by Silvana Palacios from Pexels

Photo by Silvana Palacios from Pexels

What can we do in order not to have an ocean full of microplastics?

Buy less, buy better

Buying fewer clothes and fewer new clothes is still a good aim for the environment as the fashion industry is a big polluter. Stop wearing man-made fibres is also better so check the label before buying any new item.

Some brands like Fjallraven and Patagonia are trying to reduce the number of microfibres in their products. Some other companies or small start-ups are now producing clothes made from recycled plastic. Patagonia actually started using recycled plastic bottles to make their garments back in 1993. Since 1985 they have pledged 1% of their sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment!

Also, manufacturers make many other items out of synthetic fibres like cushions, carpets, bags, dog beds or even sheets and covers. So, be mindful about what you buy and see if you can find items by manufacturers which make them more sustainably.

Washing machine

An ocean full of microplastics. Guppyfriend bag for your laundry

Guppyfriend bag for you laundry

Ludo bought a Guppyfriend bag to put her synthetic clothes in or you can get a filter to catch the microfibres in the washing machine. Hopefully, in the future, these filters will be compulsory for new machines. There is one which Mermaids developed, through a project funded by the EU. You can wash clothes less frequently and on shorter washes. Also, at lower temperatures and make sure your washing machine is full. Clothes in full machines get agitated less and therefore shed fewer fibres.

Microbeads

An ocean full of microplastics. MPCA Photos

MPCA Photos microbeads-plastic-particles

Microbeads are manufactured solid plastic particles of less than one millimetre at their largest dimension. Tiny beads of plastics are contained in some toothpastes, sun cream, make-up, face and hand wash and body scrub. When you wash after using these products the small beads go down the drain and in the end, they reach rivers and waterways. The beads can absorb and concentrate pollutants like pesticides. Animals still eat them thinking they are food.

In some countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, France, New Zealand, Sweden, Taiwan they have banned their use and some brands have stopped using them in their products. The UK approved the ban in June 2018. So, if you still find a product which includes microbeads please report it to the owner of the shop so they can take them off the shelves.

[Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbead and “How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time” by Will McCallum]

Natural homemade fertiliser from leftovers

Definition of fertiliser

Definition of fertiliser

Making natural homemade fertiliser from leftovers is quite simple and great for your plants. Here are a few ideas:

  • You can chop up banana peels and mix them in with soil or you can put them in a big jar with water and wait a couple of weeks. This will give you some liquid fertiliser. Bananas are rich in potassium.
Natural homemade fertiliser - Banana peels

Banana peel fertiliser

  • You can put coffee ground leftovers on top of soil or you can mix it into the soil. Coffee ground is rich in nitrogen, magnesium and potassium. It is suitable for acid-loving plants such as tomatoes, blueberries, roses and azaleas.
  • Crush up some eggshells after washing them and put the pieces in some soil. Eggshells and the water they were boiled in are rich in calcium. They are also good for keeping slugs at bay so a good idea is to leave some pieces on the surface of the soil around your plants.
  • Save the dirty water from your fish tank, then use it to water your plants. It is rich in nitrogen and other nutrients.
  • Save the water from steamed or boiled vegetables.
Natural homemade fertiliser - Water from boiled vegetables

Water from boiled vegetables

Some more natural homemade fertiliser from leftovers

  • You can start a compost bin by filling it with food and garden scraps, newspaper and a bit of water from time to time. Turn it upside down to speed up the composting process. When everything has broken down spread it on the soil around your garden
  • Jon makes his own natural fertiliser from his wormery, which is a lot of fun when you get into it!
Natural homemade fertiliser from Jon's wormery

Natural fertiliser from Jon’s wormery

Remember the golden rule when using fertilisers: “less is more.” Don’t use too much fertiliser or make it too concentrated. The fertiliser from Jon’s wormery, for example, needs to be diluted with water: one part fertiliser to nine parts water.

The 7-day Lockdown Leftover Challenge

Today, the Lockdown Leftover Challenge starts on Instagram!

Join the challenge to stop food waste – one of the leading causes of climate change! Share recipes, tips and nominate your friends with the hashtag #lockdownleftovers.

The campaign is organised by the Climate Venture Collective, a new collaborative community that meets once a month in London to find a solution to problems related to the climate.

Natural homemade fertiliser from leftovers