ACC is committed to helping people better understand what we know, based on science, about microplastics and their potential effects on people’s health and the environment. Plastic waste in our oceans, waterways and the environment is a significant problem. And we believe a better future can be realized if we all work together to solve it.
Unfortunately, recent media coverage of a report about microplastics in dust and rain could generate unnecessary fear and concern.
Sensational and ominous headlines such as “Plastic rain is the new acid rain” are in no way based on science. Microplastics are not acidic, and they don’t act like acid rain. In fact, the World Health Organization and others have noted that, while microplastics are present in the environment, existing evidence indicates they don’t pose a risk to human health.
Interestingly, the report referenced found the amount of microplastics in the environment represents only four percent of particles collected on average – and in some cases much less. The other 96 percent is comprised of natural materials like minerals, dirt and sand, insect parts, pollen, and more.
Further, the report makes projections about the potential amount of microplastics entering the environment by 2025 that are misplaced. The total amount of plastic produced annually is not the amount of microplastics in the environment. Most plastics are in use in consumer and other products, and most products are properly disposed of and recycled at the end of life.
While current scientific research doesn’t support a conclusion that there is a human health concern from microplastics, ACC and its members are helping to lead the way to learn more about the sources and any potential risks that microplastics may pose to people and the environment.
It is critical that valid scientific test methods and protocols to detect and classify microplastics be developed, because it is impossible to find, monitor, and quantify something that cannot properly be detected. That’s why our industry is involved in scientific initiatives, research efforts, and discussions around the world that are helping us better understand the potential impacts of microplastics in the environment.
The chemical industry and business community are actively developing forward looking, ambitious and achievable, goals as well as innovations and solutions through technology, public policy, and investments that strengthen our infrastructure. That includes the creation of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, a nonprofit that is committing $1.5 billion over five years to help end plastic waste, especially in areas where it is needed most.
Additionally, all Plastic Division members have committed to sign on to Operation Clean Sweep blue, a stewardship program to prevent the loss of plastic pellets to the environment and established ambitious, aspirational goals to reuse, recycle, or recover all plastic packaging in the U.S. by 2040 and make all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030.
While we still need to learn more about the primary sources of microplastics in the environment, we recognize that plastic waste is a serious, yet solvable, problem. An important step to keeping more plastics out of the environment is by using waste management systems that capture all materials at the end of their lives, recycling and repurposing plastics where possible.
Our industry supports continued research on microplastics so we can better understand their sources and potential risks posed to humans and the environment. It’s important to continue the conversation on this topic, and that we continue to foster a discussion based on facts and science.