Red Alert: Concerned About Microplastic Omnipresence?

The debate is on the TV, around the camping bonfire and even at granny’s monthly neighborhood luncheon. Plastics overwhelm our modern lives. In 2015, 322 million tonnes of plastic materials including thermoplastics, polyurethanes, thermosets, adhesives, coatings and sealants were produced worldwide.1 In Europe, 40% of the plastic demand goes to the packaging sector.1 When not properly disposed or recycled, and as a result of its degradation, microplastics of less than 5 mm in size2 arise into our lives – just like devilish tiny creatures we cannot easily get rid of.
The matter seems to become gloomier. In November 2020, Svelato and colleagues from the San Giovanni Calibita Fatebenefratelli Hospital in Rome published the first evidence of microplastic presence in the human placenta. Fragments ranging from 5 to 10 µm in size and with spheric or irregular shapes were detected. Pause for a deep inhale. Researchers could nail down the provenance of few of the fragments – polypropylene (PP)3 – a common fellow used in a variety of applications including bottles and disposable cups. Pause for a deep exhale.

Can we do something about it? Yes, we can! Support ideas like the one of the German start-up Arekapak.4 Their mission involves developing packaging for the food industry that is produced out of sustainable and biodegradable palm leaves. Make sure the debate reaches the higher spheres. For instance, the EU proposed a restriction of intentionally added microplastics. The debates are on-going and if adopted, news will reach the 2021-2022 horizon.5

Lastly, another drop in the ocean – or better out of it – do your own part. Consume less plastics, recycle or reuse whenever possible and spread the word!


by Fernanda Haffner.

Fernanda is Senior Technology Scout at TechScout

2 Hartmann N. B. et al. Environ. Sci. Technol. (2019)
3 Svelato A. et al. Environ. Int. (2020)

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