Although most of us are aware that microplastics pollute the ocean, it is less known that they are also in the Earth’s atmosphere. The small pieces of plastic are less than five millimeters long, and they come from many sources, including cleaners, toothpaste, and health and beauty products. A group of researchers from Victoria University of Wellington and from the University of Canterbury New Zeeland has studied the impact of microplastic on climate change.
Microplastics are influencing our climate
According to the research, the different types of microplastics found on our Planet have the ability to cool or warm our climate, even if it is to a minor extent. The researchers focused on airborne microplastics because they can scatter the sunlight. By scattering sunlight, these small pieces of plastic can cool the climate. At the same time, because they can absorb radiation, they contribute to the greenhouse effect.
The current impact of microplastics on our climate is small
One of the researchers of the study, Dr. Laura Revell, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Canterbury explains:
Our research shows that the influence of microplastics on global climate is currently very small. However, it is expected to increase in future: an estimated five billion tonnes of plastic waste have accumulated in landfills or the environment to date, and this figure is projected to double over the next three decades. Unless as a species we take serious action to address microplastic pollution, plastic production and waste management practices, then the abundance of microplastics will continue to increase, and airborne microplastics could contribute to future changes in climate.
Although the impact on global climate is still small, microplastics have been detected everywhere, from big cities to small inhabited places. Another bad news is that several studies conclude that microplastics can trigger metabolic disturbances in humans and neurotoxicity of the brain.