Microplastics found in 100% of Pennsylvania waterways surveyed

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CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — A survey of 53 waterways in Pennsylvania, including four in Centre County, shows microplastic pollution in every single sample. This pollution affects daily life, for statistics show we consume about a credit card worth of plastic every week.

“It’s in our air, so we breathe it. It’s in our food, so we eat it. It’s in our water, so we drink it,” said Faran Savitz, conservation associate for PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center.

Microplastic is smaller than a grain of rice, and PennEnvironment says it’s now been found in the deepest depths of the ocean and the highest mountains in the world.

“The waste that we can’t see is as or even more toxic than the waste that we can see,” said Representative Perry Warren, 31st District.

In their survey:

  • 100% of sites sampled had microfibers
    • primarily from clothing and textiles
  • 86.8% of sites sampled had microfragments
    •  primarily from harder plastics or plastic feedstock
  • 94.3% of sites sampled had microfilm
    • primarily from bags and flexible plastic packaging
  • Only 1.9% of sites had microbeads
    • primarily from facial scrubs and other cosmetic products

To combat pollution, they’re advocating for federal, state, and local leaders to implement six policies:

  1. Congress and the Pennsylvania legislature should pass bills like the federal Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which includes strong bans on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene or similar legislation included in the Zero Waste PA state package.
  2. The Pennsylvania General Assembly should repeal the preemption on municipal plastic ordinances and allow local governments to implement policies known to reduce plastic pollution.
  3. The General Assembly and Congress should pass bottle deposit requirements and producer responsibility laws, as seen in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, to shift the burden of waste onto those who create the pollution.
  4. Communities and legislators should oppose measures that double down on the fossil fuel-to-plastic pipeline and that incentivize the creation of new plastic.
  5. State and local governments should pass laws preventing overstock clothing from being sent to landfills so that clothing manufacturers and retailers stop producing more clothing than we could ever need.
  6. Cities should develop green infrastructure and storm water programs to help stem the tide of plastics and microplastics being washed into our waterways and greater environment.

“Policies have to change, we need to not just deal with the litter, but we need to stop it at the source,” said Representative Tim Briggs, 149th district.

These policies have already gained some traction. This morning, Philadelphia announced they’re pushing for legal action that would give local municipalities the right to enforce plastic bag legislation.

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