I’ve been thinking a lot about microplastics lately.
A couple of days ago, I spent the morning at my mechanic. Swallowing the last drops of coffee from my travel mug, I passed by Justin, the garage manager extraordinaire, on my way to the restroom to rinse the mug and refill it with tap water.
“I wouldn’t recommend that,” he said flatly.
“Why’s that?” I inquired. I’ve been going to this mechanic for years, and this is something I did occasionally.
“Our water is polluted.” Located on the outskirts of town, the garage has a well and septic system, typical in Maine. This state is more rural than urban, so many homes and private businesses have a well and septic system.
“Don’t you test the water?”
He nodded. “It always comes back fine. Doesn’t matter, though. Whenever I drink it, I get the craps,” he says, pulling a water bottle from a nearby fridge.
He hands me the bottle. “And that’s saying something because I have a cast-iron stomach.”
I would agree. I’ve seen Justin eating cold, week-old pizza for breakfast or barbequed pork rinds. Or stale chips seasoned with spices and powdered cheese.
But I also know the water tests in Maine don’t lie. If they say your water is safe to drink, it’s safe.
“Maybe your stomach is getting a little rusty,” I smirk, twisting the bottle open.
Flash forward to earlier this week. I was making kedgeree, a dish inspired by Downton Abbey. Colonial India originally introduced this recipe, which was later brought back to England and gained popularity as comfort food. The traditional version calls for smoked haddock, but I couldn’t find any, so I substituted it with cod, another whitefish. Inside the two-pound bag, I discovered that the cod was divided into eight portions, with each portion shrink-wrapped in thick clear plastic. Convenient? Yes. Necessary? No. Wasteful? Absolutely.
In both instances, micro-sized plastics were front and center in my thoughts. The bottled water tasted fine. But in my head, I saw bits of floating plastic. How many did I swallow with each swig? And what about the fish? How many fibers had flaked off the plastic before I opened each portion? How many were already in the fish because of what they ate?
These are questions that never came up before writing The Menace of Microplastics. Influenced by my research, they frequently ramble through my thoughts uninvited. But are they enough to keep me awake at night? No.
This is my takeaway from what I’ve learned about microparticles. They genuinely are a menace that will never really go away. They are abundant to the tune of trillions of pieces lurking in every direction. And while science is still trying to find answers, there is a possibility that micro fragments may pose long-term health consequences.
Be that as it may, plastics are here to stay—they are too integral to our daily lives.
I tell my kids the only actions I can control are mine. Whenever possible, I make mindful purchases, like choosing cardboard over blister packaging, I carry a metal water bottle with me, I’ve stopped heating leftovers in plastic containers, I take reusable bags with me when I shop, and I’m trying to reduce the volume of single-use plastics I throw away.
It’s good that I know about microplastics and their potential harms because that will motivate me to keep making small but incremental changes. Maybe this knowledge will help inspire you!