Microplastics: Seeking the 'plastic score' of the food on our plates
Microplastics are everywhere, but how worried should we be? Scientists are on a mission to find out more.
Daniella Hodgson is digging a hole in the sand on a windswept beach as seabirds wheel overhead."Found one," she cries, flinging down her spade.
"We want to see how much plastic the island is potentially getting on its shores - so what is in the sediments there - and what the animals are eating," says Ms Hodgson, a postgraduate researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Lugworm living in the sand in Great Cumbrae, Scotland
Microplastics are generally referred to as plastic smaller than 5mm, or about the size of a sesame seed. There are many unanswered questions about the impact of these tiny bits of plastic, which come from larger plastic debris, cosmetics and clothes. What's not in dispute is just how far microplastics have travelled around the planet in a matter of decades.
The island of Great Cumbrae off Scotland's Ayrshire coast is a favourite haunt of day trippers from nearby cities like Glasgow. A ferry ride away from the town of Largs, it's a retreat for cyclists and walkers, as well as scientists working at the marine station on the island. On a boat trip off the bay to see how plastic samples are collected from the waves, a dolphin joins us for a while and swims alongside.
Even in this remote spot, plastic pollution is visible on the beach. Prof David Morritt who leads the Royal Holloway University research team points out blue twine and bits of plastic bottles that wash up with the seaweed at Kames Bay. Where it's coming from is the"multi-million-dollar question", he says, holding up a piece of blue string.Read more: BBC News (UK)
Can see them? Not micro.
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