Microplastics in hands David Pereiras

Take action on microplastics

Microplastics pose a big threat to marine ecosystems and human health. There are lots of ways to get involved and help tackle this global issue.

Although small, microplastics are causing big problems. They are the most common type of marine litter found in our seas and have been recorded in all corners of the globe.

Recent studies have shown that microplastics are one of the greatest threats to our seas, coasts and wildlife. But what are they, what problems do they cause and what can we do to help?

Kinniel beach litter during Great British Beach Clean 2019 Jack Holt

Credit: Jack Holt

What are miroplastics?

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that measure less than 5mm across. Some are so small that they are difficult, sometimes impossible to see with the naked eye. As they continue to break down, they form nanoplastics: particles smaller than dust that are inseparable from the environment.

There are two types of microplastics:

Primary microplastics are small plastics manufactured less than 5mm across. These include 'biobeads’ that are used in some waste water treatment processes and pre-production plastic pellets often referred to as ‘nurdles’.

Secondary microplastics are materials that started out as larger products and over time have fragmented into smaller and smaller pieces.

Nurdles in hand at Great British Beach Clean on Sand Bay Beach 2015 GBBC Natasha Ewins

Credit: Natasha Ewins

What’s the problem with microplastics?

Microplastics are everywhere – in our soil, our air and in our seas.  Due to their chemical composition and persistence, they are extremely detrimental to marine organisms.

The impacts on marine life are varied and range from infertility through to reduced feeding and starvation in severe cases.

Microplastics are often eaten by smaller creatures and then pass through the food chain to larger animals. This may well have serious implications for human health in years to come.

Our work on microplastics

We have been campaigning on pollution issues for years. Together we have contributed to big legislation changes including the banning of microbeads in UK cosmetics in 2018.

The litter survey on our beach cleans now includes commonly found microplastics and we’ll be tracking this data to highlight the issue. Our experience has shown that providing data is absolutely vital in bringing about change.

Our Stop Ocean Threads campaign calls for action on plastic microfibers entering the sea through the washing and waste water process.

Our collaborative work with the Big Microplastics Survey will see even more UK-wide data being collected to help call for change.

Clothes washing machine microfibres pollution Werayuth Tes

Credit: Werayuth Tes via Shutterstock

Take action today!

Stop Ocean Threads! Add your voice to our call for legislation that will see washing machine manufacturers fit microfibre filters in all new domestic and commercial machines, by law, by 2023 and retrofitted in commercial machines by 2024.

Join a beach clean and litter survey. You can create your own event or find at an event near you.

Take part in the Big Microplastics Survey. This is a global project gathering data about microplastics in our rivers, lakes and coasts. 

Find a beach clean near you

Search beach cleaning events