According to the English Oxford Dictionary, microplastic is defined as extremely small pieces of plastic debris in the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste. As most people are aware, plastics are widespread in oceans, but plastics that are broken down by the ultraviolet rays and tough waves and become smaller plastics, less than five millimeters in length receive a special appellation “microplastics”.
Microplastics also come from health products and cosmetics and this specific type of plastic is called microbeads. These microbeads are too small to be filtered by the water filtration system and go straight to the ocean.
|[Poster for the Microplastic Campaign, photo by Seyun Bang]
According to one research, 80% of the plastics that were collected throughout the North Pacific Ocean included toxic substances. Not only do plastics have a detrimental effect on the environment, but the main problem of microplastics in the sea is that it threatens the marine sea life. Many organisms that inhabit in the sea inadvertently mistake floating plastic debris that poses harmful threats to their health as a food source and consume it. When these animals are consumed by other organisms that are higher in the food chain, it is equivalent for the animals on the higher level of food chain to be consuming microplastics at the same time as well. What makes it worse is that we are the ones on top of the food chain and we would be consuming the aquatic life, thus the plastics that we throw away would come back to our tables. Consuming microplastics lead to autism, ADHD, respiratory disease, cardiac disorder, and many others that harm the human health.
A group of students, including myself, were inspired by how the harmful effects that microplastics pose on human health is primarily driven by ourselves. Thus, we gathered to form a campaign to encourage others to reduce the use of plastic. We made shapes that resemble food out of plastic, trying to convey the message that plastics that humans excessively use will eventually come back to our table for us to eat for humans consume marine animals that have microplastics in their bodies. On August 4, 2018, we put up big posters with simple messages for people to see in one of the most densely populated places, the Gangnam Station, for people to sign petitions for reducing plastic usage.
In 2 hours, 34 people signed the petition and promised to reduce the usage of plastic. Although 34 people seems like a small number, it was surprising to see how some people in the busy city dedicated their time to get to know more about microplastics and learn what they can do to prevent further damage in the environment. We explained the purpose of this campaign and offered them eco bags so that they would carry their belongings/groceries with eco bags rather than using plastic bags. We were also hoping that the 34 people would inform their friends and families about the campaign so that more than 34 people would be aware of the microplastic issue. After we got their names and email address, we sent them out an email, informing them with more detailed information about microplastics in oceans and to encourage them to sponsor the World Wide Fund for Nature and Greenpeace organization that work for the reduction of plastic.
|[Food model made out of plastic, photo by Seyun Bang]
During the preparation of this meaningful event, I was fortunate enough to learn more about the detrimental effects of microplastic floating in the ocean. I am thankful that I had to opportunity to devote my time and energy in such a worthwhile campaign and that I was successfully able to contribute in helping the marine sea life, along with the wellbeing of humans in a way, I would not have been able to otherwise.
|[Several people signing the petition, photo by Hyunsung Chung]
Rumsey Hall School
Seyun Bang firstname.lastname@example.org
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