Tiny Plastic is Turning into a Big Problem for Landfills

Plastic on the Beach

Why You Should Be Using Less Plastic

It’s no secret that plastic pollution is a major issue, and according to recent news from NPR, it’s only getting worse. As it turns out, the plastic trash we see is only a small percentage of what actually exists. 

Since plastic is non-biodegradable, it doesn’t decompose after it’s thrown away. It breaks down into small pieces, known as “microplastics.” These microplastics are everywhere – soil, oceans, rivers, lakes and wait for it…our drinking water, beer, and in fish! But how is this possible?

To learn how plastic is getting into the food chain, Chelsea Rochman, an ecologist at the University of Toronto, decided to dig a little deeper.

Rochman explains, "We eat fish that eat plastic. Are there things that transfer to the tissue? Does the plastic itself transfer to the tissue? Do the chemicals associated with the plastic transfer to the tissue?"

To learn more about this process, Rochman’s student, Kennedy Bucci, makes her own microplastics and feeds them to the fish. She puts the plastic particles into beakers of water filled with fish larvae (approved test-subjects in marine toxicology).

Since the larva’s gut is clear, you can see the microplastic particles have been ingested.  In their experiments, the larvae and fish become sick or die, proving the danger of these particles, Rochman says.

Throughout her research, Rochman has discovered microplastics in the outflow from sewage treatment plants and inside insects, worms, clams, fish and birds.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Plastic is so mass produced, coming in countless forms with chemical additives. What happens to plastic over the years is still being studied.


Want to learn more about how you can help keep plastic out of the ocean? Learn about our partnership with the Rozalia Project, a non-profit that removes plastic waste from the oceans.

Not sure how plastic affects you? Find out why plastic pollution is a big problem.