In one of the opening scenes of the 1967 film The Graduate, Benjamin Braddock has just graduated from college, when one of his parents’ friends pulls him aside at a party to give him some advice about his future. He has just one word for young Ben: “Plastics.” More than 50 years later, we have more plastic than we can handle. In addition to a worldwide plastic trash problem, scientists now say that we’re eating, swallowing, and breathing tiny particles of “microplastics” every day. A 2019 study found that the average person is ingesting around 2,000 tiny pieces each week, or about 5 grams -- which is comparable to the weight of a credit card.
Paying for our plastic habit:
- The long-term effects of microplastics on the human body are not fully known, researchers at the University of Newcastle in Australia said. Microplastics are found in drinking water, as well as in food and beverages such as shellfish, salt, and beer.
- If you drink bottled water rather than water from the tap, you could be taking in an additional 90,000 microplastic particles every year.
- More than 330 metric tons of plastic are produced each year. That number is expected to triple by 2050. Consumers should recycle as much as possible, and avoid buying products that use excessive plastic packaging.