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It’s Now Raining Plastic In America

by : Emma Rosemurgey on : 29 Aug 2020 19:04
It's Now Raining Plastic In AmericaIt's Now Raining Plastic In AmericaSteven Pisano/Flickr/Pexels

While Sir David Attenborough once described the world’s plastic pollution problem as an ‘unfolding catastrophe,’ it seems like the already bleak outlook has gotten even worse.

In many parts of the world, plastic pollution is something that is highly visible, piles of plastic bottles and wrapping building up at the side of sea shores and among river beds, for example.

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However, startling new research has found plastic particles are literally falling from the sky and polluting the land, after being collected in rain water.

Malaysia To Send Plastic Waste Back To UK Following Crackdown On Illegal Recycling PlantsMalaysia To Send Plastic Waste Back To UK Following Crackdown On Illegal Recycling PlantsPA Images

Researchers assessed rain water and air samples from protected areas in the United States, such as Joshua Tree in California, the Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon in Utah, for 14 months.

They calculated that more than 1,000 metric tons of microplastic particles fall into 11 protected areas in the western US every single year. To put that into real terms, that amount of plastic is the equivalent of more than 120 million plastic water bottles.

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Lead author of the study, Janice Brahney, an environmental scientist at Utah State University, said, as per Wired:

We just did that for the area of protected areas in the West, which is only 6% of the total US area. The number was just so large, it’s shocking.

Their research would appear to confirm a horrifying reality – that microplastics are indeed blowing all over the world and landing in places which had previously been believed to be ‘pure’. They’re in habitats such as the Arctic and the French Pyrenees, as well as flowing through the oceans via wastewater and disrupting the ecosystems of the deep-sea. And, not only that, they’re also blowing onto the land when they get caught up in the wind.

coke bottle in ocean plastic pollutioncoke bottle in ocean plastic pollutionPixabay
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It’s now thought the ‘plastic rain’ could even be worse than the acid rain which was caused by sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. That’s because it’s impossible to remove the microplastic particles from water, the air or even from land, because they’re everywhere and spreading fast.

For the most part, plastic never actually goes away, it just simple breaks down into tiny pieces that get smaller and smaller.

Now, if we’re to continue the way things are already going, the plastic waste problem could soar from 260 million tons a year to 460 tons a year by 2030, consultancy company McKinsey claims.

Despite us being more aware of the issues around plastic, as consumerism continues to grow around the world, so does the demand for plastic.

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Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.

Topics: Science, America, Now, Plastic, Plastic Pollution

Credits

Wired
  1. Wired

    Plastic Rain Is the New Acid Rain