Need to do more to reduce plastic pollution in water
New Zealanders are among the biggest generators of plastic waste in the world, and on top of that, the level of microplastics in our water is now of concern.
As July without plastic is starting, said Gillian Blythe, chief executive of Water New Zealand, while the recent move to ban many single-use plastics is an important step towards reducing the pollution of our waterways, there is an urgent need to do much more.
She says microplastics are a growing concern.
“Plastic fragments from many household products end up washing up our kitchen and bathroom sinks and laundry hoses, all the way to sewage treatment plants.
“Much of microplastic pollution comes from everyday objects such as synthetic clothing and furniture, glitter, sponges, plastic bottles, cosmetics, cleaning products, etc.
“Wastewater treatment plants capture a significant amount of plastic debris, but microplastic particles – less than five millimeters – often escape through the sieving process into the environment.”
“Although a global problem, a recent study for Aotearoa New Zealand found that microplastics from sewage treatment plants contribute significantly to coastal plastic pollution.”
The study, by Helena Ruffell, an environmental scientist at the University of Canterbury, was presented at a recent Water New Zealand conference.
It looked at both the influent and the effluent of microplastics at three sewage treatment plants in Canterbury.
Gillian Blythe says that in addition to ending up in the ocean environment, microplastics are also present in biosolids that end up on land.
“The best way to prevent microplastics from entering the environment is to stop plastic pollution at the source. That means using less plastic.
She says everyone can play a part by being aware of and, where possible, reducing the amount of plastic we use every day.
“We can all make many changes, for example, switching to loose leaf tea instead of tea bags, avoiding synthetic fibers where possible, and buying a front-loading washing machine when replacing the one you are currently using. . Front loaders have been found to release less microfibers and use less water.
It is estimated that New Zealanders throw away around 159 grams of plastic waste per person every day – making us one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters based on population.
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