As you most likely already know, the world we live in is quite polluted with plastic. You can find plastic in the ocean, on the ground, and well apparently in the rain as well.
A paper published recently by a scientist from the US Geological Survey by the name of Gregory Wetherbee has gone over something quite horrifying. While conducting an analysis of rainwater in the Rocky Mountains, he found something shocking, microscopic fibers of plastic. Yes, you read that correctly, he found plastic in the rainwater.
This should be a stark reminder of just how truly serious the plastic pollution issue we are currently facing is. Accumulation on this scale is something we cannot necessarily account for and there is no way of knowing the full environmental effects it’s going to have or the health issues it could cause for us. We are seeing things in current times that the people of the past would have never imagined. Serious changes now would not see results for many, many years to come and the extent of pollution we’re experiencing right now is not something we can combat easily.
When conducting this survey, plastic was not something Wetherbee expected to find. He told The Guardian that he ‘expected to see mostly soil and mineral particles.’ These results are quite important for each and every one of us as they highlight a growing issue that is for some reason not getting taken as seriously as it needs to be. This is not the first time we’ve found plastic in rain and it will not be the last. Plastic particles can travel far and wide, they are able to weasel their way into almost any place and because of this, we cannot avoid their presence considering our current state.
A major contributor is trash, said Sherri Mason, a microplastics researcher and sustainability coordinator at Penn State Behrend. More than 90% of plastic waste is not recycled, and as it slowly degrades it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. “Plastic fibers also break off your clothes every time you wash them,” Mason said, and plastic particles are byproducts of a variety of industrial processes.
It’s impossible to trace the tiny pieces back to their sources, Mason said, but almost anything that’s made of plastic could be shedding particles into the atmosphere. “And then those particles get incorporated into water droplets when it rains,” she added, then wash into rivers, lakes, bays and oceans and filter into groundwater sources.
Though scientists have been studying plastic pollution in the ocean for more than a decade, they can only account for 1% of it. Researchers know even less about the amount of plastic in freshwater and in the air, said Stefan Krause at the University of Birmingham. “We haven’t really started quantifying it,” he said.
Another unknown is whether it would be theoretically possible to flush all plastic out of the natural world, and how long that might take. “Even if we waved a magic wand and stopped using plastic, it’s unclear how long plastic would continue to circulate through our rivers waters systems,” he said. “Based on what we do know about plastic found in deep sources of groundwater, and accumulated in rivers, I would guess centuries.”
What do you think about this scary find? I for one am blown away. How would you go about working to combat this kind of thing? Is there a means to correcting the problem or are we already too far gone?