what are microplastics?
Exactly what the word sounds like: tiny pieces of plastic.
Many plastics do not break down chemically in the environment, at least not for a long time. They fall apart into smaller and smaller pieces, but those pieces remain the same plastic as the original object was, and can grow so small that they can float in the air and be breathed into your lungs, or end up being eaten and sticking in your stomach without you realizing. Some are even small enough to make it into the bloodstream.
The effects of these particles aren’t well-understood yet. But as many plastics do have chemical activity that can be harmful to living things (they’re similar in structure to biological molecules), and as small particles can be damaging in a purely non-chemical way (like asbestos fibers or dusty air pollution), there’s good reason for concern, especially since these particles are literally everywhere at this point.
Super tiny pieces of plastic. Unlike things like food scraps and much paper and wood (depending on chemical treatment) which will break down and return to the soil, plastic doesn’t. It breaks down smaller and smaller into micro sized bits and becomes so small it gets into the food supply of small organisms and then ends up in the bodies of larger organisms. It’s a huge problem and will continue to grow. Not the plastics, they are micro, but the micro plastic is a macro problem.
think sawdust from plastic things. except that as plastic gets brittle it just sprinkles this stuff off when you flex it or bend it or break it
Microplastics is small pieces of plastic. The definition varies but the name comes from its size being measured in micrometers, sometimes in the hundreds or even low thousands but still measured in micrometers. In general plastic do not break down in nature, however it does get worn down over time. You might have experienced this when wearing clothing and your navel fills up with lint. If your clothes contain plastic that is the microplastics from the fibers getting torn out of the clothes. In your clothes dryer lint trap there is a lot of microplastics collected. But for example the microplastics from your washing machine gets flushed down the drain and end up in the ocean.