Next time you take a stroll along your favourite isolated beach, far from any city, take a moment to look down at the high-tide mark. You’ll almost certainly see small plastic particles dotted along your route. These are microplastics. They’re less than 5mm in size and, for a long time, were found only in industrialised, highly populated areas. Sadly for the oceans, things are changing. In a recent study of SA’s coastline, we compared popular beaches in built-up areas with more remote beaches to see which were more contaminated with microplastics. Contamination levels were similar along the sparsely populated west coast, for example in places like Port Nolloth and Paternoster, and the more populated east coast at Salt Rock and Port Edward. The majority of this contamination is plastic fibres potentially released during a washing machine cycle. Microplastic pollution is a global phenomenon. Particles are found in deep-sea sediment, Arctic sea ice and islands far from civilisation. Ma...

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