500 times more microplastics in our ocean than stars in our galaxy


With 500 times more microplastics in our ocean than stars in our galaxy, Surfrider Foundation Europe and its partners from the Rethink Plastic Alliance are calling the EU to ban as soon as possible and with equal ambition all microplastics added to cosmetics, paint, detergents and nearly all other consumer and commercial products which are polluting our seas and waterways. 

Why is a ban urgently needed? 

Microplastics are a source of pollution that is out of control: they represent an unprecedented pollution resulting in a thousand billion particles in the ocean. Once released in the environment, microplastics are practically impossible to remove, and are expected to be present in the environment for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years, with severe and well documented adverse effects on the ocean and marine life. Once there, they contribute to the plastic pollution in the ocean and aquatic environments. They spread throughout the environment, are being ingested by the marine fauna and ultimately end up in our plates, causing serious concerns for human health.  

Microplastics are omnipresent in our daily lives: in the makeup we use, in the detergents we clean with, in the beer and water we drink and, in the fruits, and vegetables we eat. And have been found in nearly all possible natural environments: in the Arctic snow, in the Alps, but also in the deepest trench such as the Mariana Trench and even in the air we breathe. 

They are adding up to the plastic pollution of bigger items. According to estimates, there would be up to 125,000 billion microplastic particles, and maybe more. A recent study has shown that plastic pollution in the Atlantic Ocean might be at least 10 times worse than thought. Other studies have also found that an average person would ingest and breathe around 50,000 microplastic particles per year

There would be more than 42 000 tonnes being released to the environment annually in the European Union. It is imperative to act now, and fully – especially as additional sources of microplastics are also ending up in the Ocean. These are called ‘non intentionally added’ microplastic and result from the deterioration of road tyres, losses of pre-production plastic ‘pellets’, road marking and the washing of clothes made of plastic, and represent an immense source of microplastic pollution that likewise, needs to be addressed by the EU.   

THIS is Europe's ‘man on the moon' moment 

The European Commission is to decide soon on a potential restriction of microplastics after having received final recommendations from the European Chemicals Agency, called ECHA. This restriction would be a major first step in tackling microplastic pollution. Something that the European Commission has committed to in its European Green Deal. The launch of the Green Deal by the European Commission was called Europe’s man on the moon moment.  

To increase the pressure on the European Commission and Member States and ensure they’re taking microplastic pollution seriously and are considering adopting the right measures, Surfrider Europe has teamed up for the second time, with the talented agency Ici Barbes to produce an impactful video sending us from what we might think is space to the ocean in no time and make this invisible microplastic pollution visible to the public and possibly decision makers and inform everyone on what is going on in Brussels. 

With 500 times more microplastics in our ocean than stars in our galaxy, and the opportunity for the Commission and Member States to follow through with ambition after ECHA gives its opinion on the restriction, we consider THIS time is indeed Europe’s man on the moon moment. The EU must prove it is able to resist private interest-driven lobbying and to restrict microplastics which are being incorporated on an everyday basis in our products without us knowing about it. The attacks from the interest groups to the proposed restriction have been many: unjustified delays to the foreseen start of the restriction depending on the products concerned, exemptions to the restriction, revision of the very definition of microplastics so for some microplastics not to be anymore considered as microplastics, etc etc.  

Yet, it makes no doubt that there can't be healthy seas and ocean with microplastics in there. It's time to be serious, and act according to our ambition as a green continent. We, NGOs, are asking for the adoption of a full and timely restriction with no derogation, exemption and no more extra time granted to polluters. Our Ocean needs it, and we don’t want to be wearing astronaut’s outfits to protect ourselves and be able to enjoy our seas and Ocean in the future. 

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