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The term microplastics refers to small plastic particles, very small in size, which pollute seas and oceans. They are called this way because they are microfragments of plastic (sizes between 0.33 and 5 mm) dispersed in the environment which are capable of causing devastating consequences for entire ecosystems. Their danger does not only concern animals but also humans, because by entering the natural habitats of aquatic and marine animals we in turn are affected .

Furthermore, its small size does not allow it to be collected, except with some newly developed instrumentation under development.

The problem of plastic is mainly due to the very long degradation times and this small size which makes it easily ingestible by fish and other organisms throughout its life span (unlike other materials with a shorter disposal process, such as paper, for example).

According to the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS), 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year. What we see every now and then, especially during the winter, on our coasts, are just some of the waste that clogs up the sea, given that most of it is dragged offshore by the currents and remains offshore (on the surface or at the bottom) to contaminate the environment.

Microplastics in the sea: the data and the consequences

How come they are theremicroplastics in Sea? The massive presence of microplastics in seas and oceans depends above all on the production of non-recyclable plastic (which is therefore not reused) and the incorrect disposal of waste (which could instead be recycled).

In the sea, plastic is found in various forms, from common bottles to bags to lining and packaging materials, as well as microplastics.

Why aren't they filtered by purification plants? The problem is that they cannot retain very small plastics and therefore microplastics can easily reach the sea from rivers.

The consequences of this global problem are felt on the environment and health. Once they end up in the sea, in fact, microplastics are ingested by the organisms present in that environment, from tiny plankton to enormous whales, inevitably modifying food chains.

Some studies have even found that around 20% of marine animals caught and consumed by humans contain microplastics.

This is why the problem of microplastics is not exclusively environmental, as it is also strongly connected to human health. The chemical and toxic agents released by microplastics eaten by fish can contaminate the human body, causing various health problems, some of which are very serious.

Microplastics: solutions and global commitment

Both at European level and on our national territory, solutions are being sought aimed at reducing the problem of plastic and microplastic present in the sea . Sometimes I feel like saying that "It is said that they are looking for solutions", given that no progress has been made in managing the problem for decades.The Union Europeanwould have dictated the route to reduce plastic waste, setting among the objectives of its strategy that of encouraging the recycling of plastic by making all packaging recyclable by 2030. This could, according to the document “A European strategy for plastics in a circular economy ”, lead to the creation of 200 thousand jobs.

Italy followed this route with paragraph 546 of the 2018 Budget Law (n. 205 of 27 December 2017) which came into force on 1 January 2020, which prohibits the sale of cosmetic products obtained by rinsing with an exfoliating or cleansing action containing microplastics.

In the world, there are also cases of individual cities whose administrations are fighting to make their own contribution, however in my opinion the real solution always remains the reduction of packaging, going back at least 50 years (futuristic vision?)

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