Microplastic pollution – a global and local problem

The Global Environmental Society is thrilled to host member Gabriele Kull from Expedition Plastik at the upcoming Green Drinks event on Monday 28 September, where she will show a short excerpt from her documentary and talk about a new movement to reduce plastic pollution in Switzerland.

Every day, we see plastic bags, bottles, and packages polluting our roadsides and parks. Even our ski slopes, rivers, and lakes are accumulating horrific amounts of plastic waste. It is estimated that 70% to 80% of waste found in oceans is made of plastic, whereof 80% has its origin from land, not from ships. It takes several centuries for plastic to break down, and even then, it never disappears completely. The oceans are now hosts to enormous garbage patches composed mainly of plastic.

The biggest danger arises from microplastics (particles smaller than 5mm) which are formed as larger plastics disintegrate, but are also found in cosmetics and exfoliants and enter the water system through household pipes. One reason they are so harmful is because they bind toxins, which are then ingested by small organisms and eventually enter the food web as they in turn are consumed by larger predators.

In order to counteract this negative trend, the EU has voted on clear goals to reduce the supply of disposable plastic bags. In Italy they have been banned since 2012, and France will introduce a similar ban in 2016. In Switzerland, parliament accepted a motion in 2012 to ban disposable plastic bags, but implementation has yet to begin.

The plastic industry and lobbyists claim that plastic pollution is not a pressing problem in Switzerland, yet reports from the Federal Office of Environment (BAFU) in 2013 reject that claim. Researchers from the ETH Lausanne found significantly large amounts of microplastic in all Swiss lakes that were tested. Among them were Lake Geneva and the Bodensee, which empty into the ocean via the Rhone and Rhein.

The green start-up BioApply and the organisation Expedition Plastik have therefore recently joined forces with representatives from academia, non-profit organisations, journalists, and engaged individuals to form an interest group named STOPPP – Stop Plastic Pollution Switzerland. Their goal is to motivate citizens, politics and industry to reduce plastic consumption and raise awareness about plastic pollution in Switzerland and its consequences. If you wish to support STOPPP, please visit them at www.stoppp.org, and visit our events page to stay informed.

 

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