Microplastics can influence the climate by accelerating the melting of ice
Microplastics are billions of tiny plastic particles that break off from larger plastic items used on a daily basis, such as water bottles, car tyres, and synthetic T-shirts. They are one of the most serious environmental issues of the twenty-first century because they are finding their way into drinking water, produce, and food, causing harm to the environment as well as animal and human health.
Researchers collected snow samples from 19 locations in Antarctica’s Ross Island region and discovered that all of them contained microplastics (plastic pieces smaller than a grain of rice).
While microplastics have been discovered all over the world, from the deepest ocean floors to the summit of Mount Everest, researchers say this is the first time they have been found in freshly fallen snow in Antarctica.
How did they make it to Antarctica? Because of their lightweight and low density, these particles could have traveled more than 6,000 kilometers through the air. However, it is possible that human presence in Antarctica left a microplastic ‘footprint.’
What is so troubling about this discovery?
It demonstrates that microplastics have spread so far that they now infest even the world’s most remote and inhospitable locations.
Microplastics are toxic to plants and animals and are not biodegradable.
Microplastics deposited in ice and snow can hasten melting. Dark-colored microplastics absorb more sunlight and retain more heat.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic debris that are less than 5 mm in length and smaller than a grain of rice. Microplastics are classified into two types.
Primary microplastics are tiny particles that are purposefully designed for commercial use, such as in cosmetics, and synthetic textile fibers such as nylon.
Secondary microplastics are formed when larger plastic items such as bottles, fishing nets, and plastic bags degrade. This happens as a result of exposure to the environment, such as sun, wind, and ocean waves.
Recently, Scientists unveiled bionic robo-fish to remove microplastics from seas. This tiny self-propelled robo-fish can swim around, latch on to free-floating microplastics and fix itself if it gets damaged.
Nanotechnology will be a critical player in the fight against microplastics. It holds great promise for trace adsorption, collection, and detection of pollutants, improving intervention efficiency while reducing operating costs. The bionic robo-fish is merely a proof of concept, and much more research is required, particularly into how this could be used in the real world.
Source: The guardian