Lego sushi, credit card burgers: How much plastic do you eat unknowingly in a month?
Published on December 17, 2020 at 08.08
Do you know that you are eating about 20 kg of microplastic over a lifetime?
What's for dinner? Lego sushi, credit card burgers, or a well-done piece of PVC pipe? These examples may sound extreme, but can easily represent over time the cumulative amount of microscopic pieces of plastic we consume every day. People could be ingesting the equivalent of a credit card of plastic a week, a 2019 study by WWF International concluded, mainly in plastic-infused drinking water but also via food like shellfish, which tends to be eaten whole so the plastic in their digestive systems is also consumed.
Reuters used the findings of the study to illustrate what this amount of plastic actually looks like over various periods of time. In a month, we ingest the weight of a 4x2 Lego brick in plastic, and in a year, the amount of plastic in a fireman's helmet.
This may not sound like much, but it can add up. At this rate of consumption, in a decade, we could be eating 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) in plastic, the equivalent of over two sizable pieces of plastic pipe. And over a lifetime, we consume about 20 kg (44 lb) of microplastic.
Plastic production has surged in the last 50 years with the widespread use of inexpensive disposable products. As plastic is not biodegradable, but only breaks down into smaller pieces, it ultimately ends up everywhere, cluttering beaches and choking marine wildlife, as well as in the food chain.
Standing on the shoreline of a wildlife-protected saltmarsh in southern England, Malcolm Hudson, a professor of environmental science at the University of Southampton, shows Reuters small, bead-like plastic pellets that permeate the marsh.
Hudson says that most research has been done on these microplastics, but there are increasing amounts of even smaller particles called nanoplastics in the environment that are far more difficult to detect, which we are likely ingesting as well.
"It could pass into our blood or lymphatic system and end up in our organs," said Hudson. "Those plastic particles are little time bombs waiting to break down small enough to be absorbed by wildlife or by people and then potentially have harmful consequences."
Plastic dice weighing 21 grams combined, which is equivalent to the amount of plastic that someone could eat in one month, are displayed on a plate.
Plastic cards weighing 7 grams, which is equivalent to the amount of plastic that someone could eat in ten days, are displayed inside a hamburger
Plastic buttons weighing 5 grams, which is equivalent to the amount of plastic that someone could eat in one week, are displayed with a cup of coffee
Plastic caps weighing 62 grams, which is equivalent to the amount of plastic that someone could eat in three months, are displayed inside a bamboo steamer basket.
Various plastic goods weighing 2.7 kilograms, which is equivalent to the amount of plastic that someone could eat in ten years, are displayed on a table.
Various plastic goods weighing 1.3 kilograms, which is equivalent to the amount of plastic that someone could eat in five years, are displayed on a table.
A face shield and a pair of plastic goggles used to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), weighing 151 grams, which is equivalent to the amount of plastic that someone could eat in eight months, are displayed on top of a chopping board in this illustration.