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Keeping microplastics out of the Bay

January 23, 2020

Chesapeake Bay Program — by Morgan Corey — January 23, 2020

"Microplastics, considered less than five millimeters in size (smaller than a grain of rice), come in many different shapes and forms, from various sources. Most often, they come from pieces of larger plastic litter—food wrappers, water bottles, take-out containers and more—ending up in the Bay by washing away from land and are broken down by the sun’s energy into smaller and smaller pieces over time.

Microplastics even come from our clothes. Fibers, the shreds of fabric coming off clothes made from fabrics like polyester, nylon, acrylic and other synthetic fabrics, are an extremely common form of microplastics. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey sampled sites in the Chesapeake watershed and found that microfibers were the most abundant type of microplastic.

Understanding where microplastics are coming from can help inform solutions to slow down the stream of plastics from land entering the Bay.

For example, surveys of the Anacostia River by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments showed that plastic bags are frequently collected in trash traps. In response, Washington, D.C., implemented a five-cent plastic bag tax. Since the Bag Law went into effect in 2009, rates of plastic bags picked up by volunteers have declined and enough revenue has been generated to create the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund. The Alice Ferguson Foundation reports a 72% reduction in the number of plastic bags picked up during their clean-up events. . ."

Read the full article at the Chesapeake Bay Program


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