What is microplastic?

In short: Microplastic is categorized as small pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long. It is degradation and abrasion that causes macroplastic (above 5 millimeters) to turn into microplastic.

Where does microplastic come from?

Microplastic can come from 2 different sources:

Broken plastic products that degrade in our environment, due to exposure of UV light from the sun, wind or forces of waves. An example of a larger product that turns into microplastic over time could be a plastic bag that is degraded to smaller and smaller pieces in the course of months or years. If it is on the surface of the sea and thus exposed to UV light from the sun, this process is much faster. If the bag sinks to the bottom of the ocean where the water is dark and stagnant, the degradation process stops and the bag can be there for hundreds of years.(*)

Wear of products such as textile and tires are also examples of microplastic sources. Every time we wash our clothes in the washing machine, millions of fibres are worn of and end up in the sea environment. In Denmark, wastewater treatment plants cannot filter these small particles, and if they are retained in the sludge, they end up in the crops, where more than 50% of the Danish wastewatersludge is used as a fertilizer supplement – and in this way ends in our environment.

Therefore, we recommend you buy clothing made from natural materials, rather than synthetic textile, such as polyester, acrylic and polyamid, which contains plastic fibers.


Microplastic in lotions, toothpaste and paint

Microplastic can also be directly produced. This form of microplastic is called primary microplastic. A good example is microplastic that is blended into toothpaste, scrub lotions and paint. Microscopic beads of microplastic is blended into these products to have a scrubbing and grinding effect, containing up to 350.000 pieces in one single lotion. Most often the microplastic is polyethylen (PE) or polypropylen (PP).

What you can do to avoid microplastic?

Plastic Change works to completely phase out primary microplastic that is blended into cosmetics and other care products. Therefore we created the app: ‘Beat the Microbead’ that tells whether a product contains microplastic. Download the app right here and read more about how to scan your way around products: ‘Beat The Microbead’.