What Happens When You Eat Plastic:
How Bad Microplastics Are For Surfers
Imagine surfing one day, and you see tons of plastic hitting your surfboard suddenly.
Published by Wave Tribe
The problem with plastic has become more and more pervasive, and as surfers, we must do our part, no matter how small, to help protect our oceans.
You might ask yourself: Where is all this plastic coming from?
The answer? From humans.
Currently, there are 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in the ocean. While this might not sound drastic, this is an actual problem! And, it’s an apparent problem for surfers who want to ride the waves but can’t do it confidently with so much plastic in the water.
Another question you might ask yourself: What happens when you eat plastic?
In this quick guide, we’ll explore the problem, dive deeper into the specifics, and try to find solutions to this ever-growing problem. Regardless if you’re a surfer or just a regular person, this is something that we all need to take a stand against.
“Debris, including plastic, is always finding itself into the world’s oceans in many ways than one,” says Lars Campbell, a travel blogger, and surfer at Draft Beyond and Writinity. “Plastic products like bottles, store bags, and other plastic items often start on land, eventually finding themselves in rivers and beaches. Eventually, these bodies of water lead out into the ocean. Regardless of the pollution comes from industrial processes, individual irresponsibility, or another environmental offender, plastic is often suspect in ocean pollution.”
Needless to say, whenever you decide to take your surf to the ocean, you’ll most likely come across a floating piece of plastic along the waves. However, more plastics, much smaller than the average plastic water bottle, might be lurking in the water without you knowing it!
These tiny particles from plastic are called microplastics.
"The reduction of plastic is one of Wave Tribe's core values. Our vision from the very beginning was to reduce the use of plastics in surf products—not an easy challenge."
— Derek Dodds, Wave Tribe Founder
How Plastic Enters the Body
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines microplastics as 5-millimeter-long (or smaller) pieces of plastic harming the ocean and aquatic life. Many of these microplastics can come from the following items:
- Supermarket (or other stores) plastic bags
- Bread packaging
- Fruit packaging nets
- Plastic packaging to tie 6-pack beverages, etc.
Since plastic isn’t 100% biodegradable, they eventually degrade to microplastics, which can enter the mouths of many sea creatures and organisms without warning. What’s worse is that microplastics are too tiny for filtering and screening during sewage treatment (or any water treatment, for that matter).
And on that note, when in the water, surfers can also be exposed to microplastics, whether the particles enter the mouth, nose, eyes, etc.
So what happens when you eat plastic or, specifically, these microplastics?
How Plastic is Dangerous CHEMICALLY
According to Dow, plastic additives can be harmful to humans when ingested. The most common plastic additives found in plastics include:
- Acrylic processing aids
- Hybrid additives (silicone and polyethylene)
- Impact modifiers
- Specialty additives
- Silicone thermoplastic additives
- Silicone and silane thermoset additives
Many of these additives cause long-term problems in the body. Even when you try to keep your mouth closed while surfing, these additives can still get into your body some other way. With that said, what you can’t see entering your body can be very disturbing.
Fortunately, there is good news for surfers.
Surfers can do their part in protecting the ocean from plastic by recycling plastics responsibly or using surf gear made from eco-friendly materials, like what we have here at Wave Tribe.
“Plastic pollution in the ocean should be addressed to everyone, for the problem to be solved,” says Emily Thomas, a lifestyle writer at Research papers UK.
For Thomas, “all surfers must know what’s out there in the ocean and be able to surf safely, as the world does its part in keeping plastic from polluting the waters. Surfers can get involved by advocating for cleaner oceans and supporting causes that replace toxic plastics with safer alternatives. Also, surfers should refrain from contributing to the plastic problem by recycling plastics responsibly. Making the necessary changes to their consumer habits can make a difference in how they treat the ocean, as they surf the waves.”
Ultimately, surfers will need to practice great precaution as they surf the wave. Since the body is a valuable resource for the individual, protecting it from plastic ingestion and exposure would make great sense.
Though, that doesn’t mean that surfers can’t do their part in ensuring safer oceans. Surfers can be excellent advocates for safer waters and learn the truth about plastics contaminating the water.
By recycling plastic responsibly and ensuring other surfers do the same, you’ll secure a more plastic-free ocean for the future. We hope that this guide will help surfers stay safe out there.
Guest Post by: Jenny Williams. Jenny is a writer and editor at Speech writing service and Lucky Assignments Edinburgh. She is also a contributing writer for Gum Essays. As a business analyst, she helps companies improve their marketing strategies and concepts with valuable presentations and advice.
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