Opening plastic packaging may be contributing to microplastic pollutionSiobhan Treacy | March 19, 2020
Researchers from the University of Newcastle have conducted a study on how many microplastics are being generated from daily activities, like opening a bag or plastic bottle. Microplastics are generally believed to originate from industrial production, but the contribution through daily tasks is not yet fully understood.
The team monitored the generation of microplastics during tearing open chocolate packaging, cutting and sealing tapes and opening plastic bottles. They used chemical tests and microscopy to confirm the presence of microplastics.
Researchers found that different shapes and sizes of microplastics are generated during cutting or tearing. The sizes range from nanometers to millimeters. Fabrics and fibers were generated the most. An estimated 10 to 30 nanograms of microplastics were generated per 300 centimeters during cutting or twisting. The size depends on the opening approach used and the conditions of the plastic, including stiffness, thickness and density.
Research suggests that everyday activities could be additional sources of microplastics. The team wants to expand this study to include human exposure research.
This study was published in Scientific Reports.