Question: What do I do with microplastics after being collected?

warren is asking a question about microplastics
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by warren | June 24, 2019 15:26 | #19838

Are there ways to throw them away that ensure they don’t end up in the same place?


Via @maxliboiron -- thanks Max!

Once plastics have been in the water for a while, they've both attracted new industrial chemicals (like the flame retardants, pesticides, heavy metals, mentioned in the video) and leeched out some of their original chemicals. This usually makes them a challenge to recycle if they're large enough. If they're microplastics then it's nearly impossible since their polymer types can only be identified by a spectrometer... rather pricey, even for labs. In our lab, we tend to keep what we collect to compare them between areas and over time, so we build up an archive. We also give some of those samples away to schools, environmental NGOs and others who use them for education. Short of that, throwing them in a landfill is the only other option. This is why we try to use monitoring to look up the pipe to industry and where the plastics are coming from, rather than focusing on the end of pipe-- there's no good end of pipe option!

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Where does incineration rate on the list?

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Microplastics could be used as epoxy filler to make industrial products that don't end up in ocean, such as picnic benches, decks, picture frames. There are social behaviors that could use some modification to prevent them from getting to ocean, and much more could be done to pressure plastic/petroleum companies to be responsible in their cradle to cradle manufacturing or production.

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I almost forgot to post here, one amazing thing you can do with microplastics is to make a Sea Globe -- read about @maxliboiron's beautiful (if troubling!) means of displaying microplastics in a remix of the "snow globe:"

This series of sea globes are genuine New York City souvenirs. The plastics came from the Hudson River in south Brooklyn, and the rocks are made of bituminous coal from in a landfill that closed in the 1930s at Deadhorse Bay, which now resides underwater at high tide, also in south Brooklyn. The snails are from a well-known taxidermy shop in SoHo. Overall, the sea globes are accurate representations of the waterfront environment in New York City today.

This work was created specifically for Gyre: The Plastic Ocean at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska, February 7- September 6, 2014.


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