IUCN study highlights major causes of plastic pollution
Small plastic particles washed out of synthetic clothing and tyres may
constitute as much as 30 percent of ocean pollution. They are therefore
considered to be a larger source of marine plastic pollution than
plastic waste in many developed countries, according to a new IUCN
(International Union for Conservation of Nature) report.
The report focuses on primary microplastics, which enter the ocean as
small particles. These substances are different from the plastic waste
that enter the ocean as larger sized plastics and then degrade into
smaller particles after some time in the water.
Sources of primary
microplastics include car tyres, synthetic textiles, marine coatings,
road markings, personal care products, plastic pellets and city dust.
They may comprise 15 to 31 percent of the estimated 9.5m tonnes of
plastics that enter our oceans every year. Nearly two-thirds originate
from the washing of synthetic textiles and the abrasion of tyres while
“This report is a real eye-opener, showing that plastic waste is not all there is to ocean plastics,” said IUCN Director Inger Andersen.
daily activities, such as washing clothes and driving, significantly
contribute to the pollution choking our oceans, with potentially
disastrous effects on the rich diversity of life within them, and on
human health. These findings indicate that we must look far beyond
waste management if we are to address ocean pollution in its entirety.”
In parts of the developed world with effective waste management
facilities, primary microplastics make up a larger source of marine
plastic pollution than plastic waste. In Asia, synthetic textiles are
the main source of primary source of microplastics, while in the
Americas, Europe and Central Asia, the main source are tyres.
“The findings of this report have
important implications for the global strategy to tackle ocean plastic
pollution, which currently focuses on reducing plastic waste,” said Joao de Sousa, Marine Project Manager of IUCN's Global Marine Programme.
show that solutions must include product and infrastructure design as
well as consumer behaviour. Synthetic clothes could be designed to shed
fewer fibres, for example, and consumers can act by choosing natural
fabrics over synthetic ones”
The recent calls for a ban on microbeads in cosmetics are a step in the
right direction. However, considering that they constitute only two
percent of primary microplastics, the effects of the ban, if imposed,
would be minimal.