The Plague of Microplastics
By: Lee Trebotich
Why do we treat the environment differently than the human body? When it comes to our own bodies, we innately understand that it’s the most microscopic things that can take down the whole system—even one as well-built as the human body. Though we don't think about it, the same is true for our surrounding ecosystem…Mother Earth. As we worry about internal diseases and struggles, we must zoom out and look at the external diseases and struggles that surround us on a daily basis. We are now living in a world where microplastics are as common an ingredient to day-to-day life as running water.
As we continue to expand our knowledge and capabilities to create new consumer products, plastics and other harmful by-products are continuing to evolve and infiltrate our waterways, drinking water, food products, and even our human DNA makeup. The war against plastics is here, but the focus has largely been on macroplastics (or visible plastics). However, the environment is actually dying slowly inside from a cancerous disease that we created but cannot see: the lesser known microplastics.
Microplastics are super small plastic particles. Technically speaking, these particles generally measure one micron or less—approximately the size of the bacteria and viruses your backpacking water filter must sift. A significant portion of microplastics come from the laundering and wearing of synthetic clothing and gear. In fact, hundreds of thousands of these particles can wash out of a single load of laundry. The microplastics then wind up in streams where they are ingested by small aquatic life—and so on up the food chain, with potentially serious health effects.
As an active botanist and conservationist, I have personally seen a physical change in our Earth’s oceans, rivers, and lands from the overuse of both macro and microplastics. Unlike biodegradable products (which in turn still take a while to decompose), plastics and other consumer by-products will never break down. Our waterways, our beautiful ecosystems, our personal drinking water, even our consumable crops are all in jeopardy due to a macro and microscopic outbreak called “Plastic.”
Change starts with recognition. We are now aware of the disease that we have created. Now, what can we do to stop the spread? Introducing new products that are fully biodegradable is a step in the right direction. Here at Appalachian Gear Company we value environmentally-friendly processes and fabrics. Our 100% natural All-Paca garments are also 100% biodegradable, with no harsh chemicals or harmful micro-particles released into the environment.
We also recognize that we must clean up the mess that we have already made before we can move forward. That’s why we headed down to Mississippi earlier this month for a #TeamAppGearCo trash cleanup. There, we stopped by the Mary Walker Bayou off the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the Davis Bayou within Gulf Islands National Seashore for some major environmental cleanup and microplastic awareness. After all, education is the first step.
Interested in learning more? I encourage all who read this blog to check out an inspirational author who changed my outlook on what plastics really do to our environment. Her name is Pam Longobardi and her book is “Drifters.” It is an inspirational read that dives deep into the root of the issue. To learn more about microplastics within the garment industry specifically, check out this insightful article from The Guardian. Just prepare to be alarmed...and to change your habits.