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What are microplastics and why do we care?

Posted by Mendel Raskin on

Here's something shocking: in the next decades there may be more plastic than fish in the oceans due in particular to one nasty culprit - microplastics. 

Microplastics are exactly what they sound like - teeny, tiny pieces of plastic. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) classifies them as pieces of plastic less than 5mm in diameter. Five millimeters may sound insignificant, but because they're so small they're incredibly hard to filter out of water systems.

These tiny terrors accumulate in waterways, in digestive or respiratory systems of animals, and in sediments and ecosystems near water. Because microplastics are so prevalent in the ocean, humans can end up eating them through both fish and table salt. Furthermore, because plastics are made from synthetic compounds, microplastics leach chemicals and POPs (persistent organic pollutants) into everything they come into contact with, which can cause endocrine disruption and a whole host of other problems.   

There are two main types of microplastics: primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are manufactured balls of plastic, used as scrubbers in a lot of commercial cosmetics and cleaning products. You might know them better as "microbeads," and they're found in products like hand soaps, exfoliating cleansers, and toothpastes. According to estimates made by the German Environment Agency (UBA), every year European manufacturers use 3,125 tons of primary microplastic in products.

Secondary microplastics are the byproduct of plastic breakdown. Because plastic is not biodegradable, when it is rolled around in the ocean, landfill or wherever else it ends up, it simply breaks down into smaller and smaller granules rather than decomposing. Any plastic that's not recycled properly has the potential to become microplastic particles. 

Sounds pretty bad, right? Regardless of where they come from, microplastics pose a lot of problems for the future of the planet. 

We work hard to reduce our impact on the planet wherever possible, and our approach to plastics is no exception. Here's how we reduce our plastic consumption: 

  1. We never use microbeads in our cleaning formulas. 
  2. Our products are packaged in 100% recycled PET. 

Frosch parent company Werner & Mertz partnered with a group of cross-industry organizations to develop the Recyclate Initiative, which aims to collect and recycle plastic more efficiently. Through the initiative, Frosch has developed PET bottles that are made from 100% recycled materials, 20% of which is collected from regular yellow bag recycling in Germany. In 2016, Frosch made news with the development of the world's first 100% recycled HDPE (high-density polyurethane).

The goal isn't to break the cycle with plastic - it's to change it entirely. A Frosch bottle should be reborn as another Frosch bottle! The process already works - technological advances in ultra-fine sorting of PET flakes resulted in a recyclate product that's not only excellent for use in household cleaning products, it's also meets US FDA requirements for packaging foodstuffs. And if that's not enough: the process reduces use of crude oils and fossil fuels, and uses two-thirds less energy to produce. 

Microplastics are a major problem, but Frosch has already shown that consumption can totally change. And there's nothing micro about that at all. 


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