Beyond bans: Rethinking microplastic solutions

Plastic is part of people’s lives and their environment.

Jessica Melvin,a manger at the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, wearing white lab coat and laboratory goggles talking about microplastic study.
Jessica Melvin, a manger at the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research. She says the research is providing statistics for decision makers to have a bigger picture of the microplastic impact. Clifton Tam/Kicker

Clifton Tam

According to a Henry Ford Health study, approximately two thirds of humans have microplastics floating in their blood.

With the federal government’s ban on single use plastic in place since 2021, microplastic pollution remains an issue to marine health.

Plastic bags make up only two per cent of the total shoreline plastics on average, according to a report by the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, whereas fishing gear accounts for 37 per cent of all shoreline plastics.

Jessica Melvin, a manger at the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, says the effectiveness of federal regulations are more beneficial in dense urban areas.

More engagement with local communities and industries is important, Melvin says.

“One of the biggest culprits of microplastic pollution on so many shorelines and in lots of animals is threads and things from ropes and nets,” she said.

“It’s an interesting issue because harvesters, especially in small communities have always fished in a certain way, and it’s never been an issue.”

The fishing industry has changed over time without responding to the danger of microplastic pollution, says Melvin.

Microplastics in fish, says Melvin, is less of an issue because the plastics are so small they can easily pass through the fish and into the environment.

“Microplastics, as in small plastics, are typically not a big risk until they are ingested,” Melvin said.

However, she says small plastic in the ocean can be like a magnet attracting other chemicals and leading to further microplastic ingestion.

Erica Cirino, the communications manager of Plastic Pollution Coalition, says plastic is everywhere.

Erica Cirino, the communications manager of Plastic Pollution Coalition, says stopping the problem from the sources is important. (Submitted Photo)

“Microplastic is all around us, from the highest mountaintops to the deepest part of the ocean, it’s in our air, it’s in water, in our soils, and of course, in our bodies,” Cirino said.

“There’s a lot of different poor health outcomes that are associated with a lot of the chemicals in plastic and with plastic itself.”

Some of the health issues related to plastic, says Cirino, are different forms of heart related diseases.

A list of recent studies on the effects of microplastics on the human body can be found at the Plastic Pollution Coalition website.

Sabina Halappanavar is a researcher at Health Canada.

“The only way we can control this is making less pollution,” Halappanavar said.

She says reduction of plastic use in the future can be achieved by producing reusable and durable plastic in a safe manner while educating the next generation to be responsible plastic users.

Taking action and being practical is the first step to raise the public awareness, says Halappanavar.

“I have to start with my two children, I tell my children to carry our grocery bag from home,” she said. “We have to start talking to our children, to our neighbours, to our surroundings, and also maybe bring it into schools’ curriculums.”

Solutions for the problem, she says, remain elusive.

“You may have heard there are people who challenge themselves to live without plastic in their life, they didn’t last more than two days or even a day …” Halappanavar said.

“Because anything you touch in your house or in the surroundings wherever you go, you have an item that is made of plastic.”

About the Author

About Clifton Tam 18 Articles
Clifton Tam is a student journalist studying at the College of the North Atlantic. He loves sharing stories related to people’ lives.

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