The threat of microplastics in the global environment has not been long recognized, but research is starting to show that these tiny pieces of plastic (< 5mm) represent a huge proportion of plastic in the ocean. There is still a lot of research to be done.
An estimated 1.5 million tons of primary microplastics are released into the ocean annually. Depending on their chemical make up, these plastics will float unseen through the ocean, or settle into the deep sea.
This report breaks down the sources of primary microplastics into seven categories: tires, synthetic materials, marine coatings, road markings, personal care products, plastic pellets and city dust. Laundering synthetic materials is responsible for 35% of the microplastic release. Erosion from tires represents 29%. Personal care products represent only 2% of global primary microplastic release into the ocean.
Most of this release happens on the household level (77%) indicating that changes must occur on personal level. Not surprisingly these number differ widely across regions.
Ultimately, the report shows that primary microplastics represent a significant portion of marine plastics, and need to be addressed.
Read the full report here