As wave after wave endlessly crashes onto sandy shores and recedes back to the sea, it’s not just piles of kelp and pretty seashells washing up on the coastline. Nowadays, it’s just as easy to spot discarded water bottles, cigarette butts, shopping bags, and more in our oceans.
With every year that goes by, our lives continue to be saturated with the mass production of plastics and synthetic materials. In 2018 alone, the United States produced 36 million tons of plastic, but only recycled about 9 percent. Taking anywhere between 100 to 1,000 years to decompose, plastics aren’t breaking down, but breaking up – into smaller pieces, that is.
What Are Microplastics?
Synthetic particles that are smaller than 5 mm, or 0.2 inches, are considered microplastics. It is estimated that there are currently 24.4 trillion pieces, or 578,000 tons, of microplastics in the ocean. These particles come from synthetic textiles such as clothing and fishing nets, tires, marine coatings used to cover ships, personal care items, and other plastic products.
Because of the high saturation of microplastics, the organisms that call our oceans their home are also ingesting these particles. And as a result, what we eat and drink on a daily basis likely contains microplastics. Even opening the cap on a plastic water bottle can potentially deposit anywhere between 14 to 2,400 particles into the water.
But it doesn’t end there. Although wastewater treatment can catch some of these particles, it’s still not enough as the world continues to produce plastic waste and create different types of microplastics. Primary microplastics are small particles that are directly released into nature, while secondary microplastics start off as larger pieces of plastic, but slowly disintegrate into smaller pieces over time.
Plastic Microfibers in Clothing
Within the ever-growing fashion industry, clothing is being churned out faster than ever and some businesses have taken shortcuts to get their items into people’s closets as quickly as possible. To do so, a lot of today’s clothing is constructed with synthetic fabrics or low-quality materials. However, the yarns in our clothing pieces are made up of twisted filaments that can shed microfibers in the washer and dryer.
To solve this issue, a few companies have come up with solutions that can catch these microplastics in the wash. These ideas include laundry filters that people can attach to their washing machines, microfiber-filtering laundry bags, and laundry balls. These solutions claim to prevent plastic microfibers from ending up in our water systems, but it’s not a perfect answer.
So What Can We Do?
Realistically, this “small” yet large issue can’t be solved by individuals alone. We need changes to occur on a larger scale. We need laws and regulations that will reduce the amount of waste being dumped into our oceans across major industries. On our end, we should try to use more sustainable materials, actively recycle, and keep our existing items out of the landfill for as long as possible.
World Oceans Day was first proposed in 1992, and 30 years later, is continuing to grow on a larger scale. This year's theme is Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean. The goal is to protect 30 percent of our planet's lands and waters by 2030 in order to stabilize the climate and take care of our oceans' ecosystem.
What Sabai is Doing to Help
Although we understand this isn’t a perfect solution, our velvet seating options are made from 100% post-consumer recycled water bottles. We also proudly stand by The Sabai Standard, which consists of two initiatives: Sabai Revive and Repair Don’t Replace. Sabai Revive is our buyback furniture and resale program that allows our customers to trade in their Sabai seating or buy one secondhand. Repair Don’t Replace extends the life cycle of existing Sabai furniture by offering replacement components instead of buying a new item.
It can be discouraging to keep hearing about our growing environmental issues, and to feel like our actions aren't making much of a difference. But as long as we try our best to make eco-friendly choices and hold larger corporations accountable for their actions, a brighter, more sustainable future is possible.
Cover image by greenqueen.com