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Words Matter: A Big Solution to a "Tiny" Problem

By Katie Guise


Microplastics, or small plastic pieces unable to be broken down further, create one of the most difficult challenges in the global war against pollution. In 2010 alone, almost 100 million tons of disposed plastic consumer goods entered the waste cycle, with about 8% likely to reach the ocean. Microplastics in the marine environment present a unique issue for today’s waste warriors - terrestrial animals consume microplastics which harm them and the global food supply, in addition to the damage the plastic can do to the underwater environment. Thankfully, researchers from Curtin University are working to fix that. Their new method, which consists of utilizing nanomaterials to decompose microplastics found in the ocean, has created a new weapon in the fight against plastic waste. "Nanomaterials that produce plastic-degrading chemicals" (2019 Science News Magazine) offer a faster solution to break down microplastics that normal water treatment plants cannot. In preliminary testing, the new method was able to reduce nanomaterials in water samples by nearly half. The use of these nanomaterials offers promising applications for the future.


However, while the discovery aids in global waste reduction, the high rate of non-decomposing waste production remains a pressing issue. In order to reduce the plastic pollution , our existing industries need to fundamentally change, reducing single use plastic and excess packaging. Yet making small changes in daily activities, such as asking for paper bags instead of plastic or opting out of using a straw, can make a big impact. In order to fully fix our planet’s pollution problem, we all need to participate in change and solution making by urging industries and government to act.

Sources:


Temming, Maria. “Tiny Magnetic Coils Could Help Break down Microplastic Pollution.” Science News, 31 July 2019, www.sciencenews.org/article/tiny-magnetic-coils-could-help-break-down-microplastic-pollution.



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