Microplastics Pollution: Integrated Approaches and Solutions


Bupe G Mwanza
Graduate School of Business, University of Zambia


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (AOAA) defines microplastics as tiny plastic particles of less than 5 millimetres long. There exists a range of processes that contribute to formation of microplastics. For example, due to the breakdown of microplastics during the weathering process, microplastics are formed. Raw materials used in the production of plastics (resin pellets) also continue to contribute to the amount of existing microplastics. In 2014, it was estimated that, 51 trillion pieces of microplastics exist in the ocean (4Ocean Team, 2020). This amount exceeds the amount of stars in the Milky Way by 500 times. In comparison to macroplastics, microplastics are also carriers of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and bacteria. Chemicals such dioxins and pesticides are found in micoplastics and these are hazardous to animal and human health. Other than the impact caused by microplastics in the aquatic communities, land ecosystems are also affected through the introduction plastic debris that affect organism behaviour, pollute food sources and contaminate ground water. To reduce the impact of microplastics on the environment, priority should be given through global multidisciplinary collaborative approaches. A literature review is conducted to establish the current best practices that can improve waste management of plastics for the purpose of enhancing environmental and health impacts caused by microplastics. Studies focusing microplastics pollution AND/OR strategies are reviewed. Through a critical analysis of the findings from these studies, the study recommends the following strategies and solutions for reducing mircoplastics pollution; utilization of biogradebale or bio-based plastics; enforcement of extended producer responsibility; advancement and improvement of waste collection systems; enforcement of recycling; plastic production and consumption regulation; improvement of recycled plastic supply-chains; design of reverse logistics systems, promotion of reusing plastics; and utilization of alternative transportation. The recommendations are applicable in all contexts but the implementation is what may differ. Therefore, this study is a drive towards achieving sustainable management of microplastics using collaborative approaches.

October 25, 2021