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AUSMAP – mapping the microplastic problem in Australia

This week is Microplastics Week, created by AUSMAP to raise awareness about microplastic pollution and how YOU can be involved in tackling this problem!

Best Pegs has been a proud supporter of AUSMAP for over a year and makes monthly donations to support their work. Plastic clothes pegs often wash up on beaches and are regularly found during AUSMAP samplings. These plastic pegs eventually break down and contribute to microplastic pollution.

What is AUSMAP?

AUSMAP stands for the Australian Microplastic Assessment Project and is the bridge between a massive problem and the solutions. With the help of an army of volunteers, they are mapping pollution hotspots around Australia to help to save our river systems and coastlines. This is a nationwide citizen science project so you too can join their dedicated team of scientists, activists and researchers.

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are fragments of any type of plastic less than 5mm in length. Two classifications of microplastics are currently recognized. Primary microplastics include any plastic fragments or particles that are already 5.0 mm in size or less before entering the environment. These include microfibres from clothing, microbeads, and plastic pellets (also known as nurdles). Secondary microplastics arise from the degradation (breakdown) of larger plastic products through natural weathering processes after entering the environment. Such sources of secondary microplastics include water and soda bottles, fishing nets, plastic bags, microwave containers and tea bags. Both types are recognized to persist in the environment at high levels, particularly in aquatic and marine ecosystems. However, microplastics also accumulate in the air and terrestrial ecosystems.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microplastics

Just some of the microplastics collected during AUSMAP samplings
Volunteers sorting the microplastics

Why are microplastics an environmental concern?

Microplastics have significant environmental impacts, most studied in marine environments. Once released or broken away from their original plastic product, microplastics can travel through waterways and end up in the ecosystems that serve as homes to a range of marine life, including algae, zooplankton, fish, crabs, sea turtles, and birds. Microplastics are also a concern particularly in the ocean because they are so easily ingested by living things.

Further, other pollutants from the water tend to collect on the surface of these microplastics; when animals ingest the plastic, they are also ingesting those toxic chemicals. These substances begin to accumulate in their body and slowly make their way up the food chain.

Source: https://sustainability.yale.edu/explainers/yale-experts-explain-microplastics

AUSMAP holds sampling events in many locations around Australia

What is AUSMAP doing to address this problem?

By translating data into vivid maps of plastic pollution hotspots all over Australia, AUSMAP makes it easy for everyone to see the scale and nature of this growing problem. They need large numbers of Australians to engage with behaviour change so we can stop any more plastic disintegrating into our waterways. That’s why AUSMAP is a collaborative citizen science project. Working with the AUSMAP field equipment and methods allows the opportunity for citizens to be engaged in scientific research around your local environment which provides reliable and valuable data.
By mapping hotspots around Australia over time, areas of concern can be identified, that can assist with management.

How can I become involved?

Head to https://www.ausmap.org/get-involved and follow AUSMAP on Instagram and Facebook to hear about news and events near you.

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