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The creation of plastics has fast advanced and has become an integral part of society. Their various uses has been beneficial over the years, however, while the uses of plastics has its advantages there are also disadvantages that comes along with it. Plastic degradation is one of the many disadvantages and is of growing concern as both marine and terrestrial organisms are being affected. Most plastics are not biodegradable and therefore rely on environmental factors to degrade the plastics which take years to break down. The degradated plastic particles may be the most threatening to organisms. These small pieces of plastics are known as micro-plastics.

Micro-plastics are small plastic particles that are less than five millimetres in diameter. They are present in a variety of products, such as cosmetics, and readily enter the environment in wastes. The problem with micro-plastics is that they do not readily break down into harmless molecules therefore contributing to the increase of plastic pollution. Micro-plastics are divided into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary micro-plastics are tiny particles designed for commercial use, such as cosmetics, as well as microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles, such as fishing nets. Secondary micro-plastics are particles that result from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as water bottles. This breakdown is caused by exposure to environmental factors, mainly the sun’s radiation and ocean waves. (Rogers, 2022).

Microplastics also affect humans. It is however, difficult to assess the risks micro-plastics pose for humans as each plastic is composed of a unique combination of chemicals. Plastics also come in different shapes, sizes and textures, all of which influence their toxicity. The same substance can have different effects depending on the concentration and how a person has been exposed to it. The rate at which the chemical is released is dependent on the interactions between the chemical and the plastic as well as its location in the body. (Begum, 2020).

A way in which to mitigate micro-plastic pollution is through remediation. Environmental remediation is the removal of pollution or contaminants from water and soil. These waste products are removed for the protection of human health, as well as to restore the environment (Hamilton, n.d). Strategies under investigation included the use of microorganisms capable of breaking down synthetic micro-plastic polymers. A number of bacterial and fungal species possess biodegradation capabilities, breaking down chemicals such as polystyrene, polyester, and polyethylene. Such microorganisms potentially can be applied to sewage wastewater and other contaminated environments. (Rogers, 2022).

To conclude, micro-plastics are small plastic particles that are not biodegradable therefore, once in the environment, primary and secondary micro-plastics accumulate and persist. They have been found in both marine and terrestrial environments and are also a source of air pollution, occurring in dust and airborne fibrous particles. The effects it has on humans are yet unknown however, the rate at which the chemical is released depends on its interaction with the host. Environmental remediation is a factor which can be used to mitigate micro-plastics however; ways in which to degrade these small plastics are still being investigated.

By Alexis McLeish


Begum, T. (2020). Microplastics: what they are and how you can reduce them. National History Museum .

Hamilton, J. (n.d). Careers in Environmental Remediation. Retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics:,What%20is%20environmental%20remediation%3F,as%20to%20restore%20the%20environment.

Rogers, K. (2022). Microplastics. Britannica .

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