The Ugly Truth About Microplastics

The Ugly Truth About Microplastics | UPSC


Maldives beaches have the most microplastics: Study

      WHY IN NEWS:

Microplastic concentration was found to be high in waters around Naifaru, the most populous island of Maldives

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Science and Technology


For PRELIMS go through Honolulu strategy and Microplastics definitions . Skim through the sources of Microplastics .

For MAINS how can we stop microplastics polluting our beaches ? We have mentioned the action plan . Let us dive in !


“The concentration of microplastics found in Naifaru(Maldives) was 55-1127.5 microplastics / kilogram compared to Tamil Nadu, India (3-611 microplastics / kg).


  • Microplastics are small plastic pieces typically smaller than 5 millimeters in diameter.

Plastic is the most ubiquitous type of marine debris found in oceans and other water bodies.

  • The debris can be of any size and shape.
  •  Usually those which are less than 5 mm in length (or about the size of a sesame seed) are called microplastics.


  • Maldivian land reclamation policies, inadequate sewerage and wastewater systems.
  • Islands used as landfill sites were also contributing to the high concentration of microplastic.
  • Current waste management practices in the Maldives cannot keep up with population growth and the pace of development.


  • It is estimated that eight million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year, impacting food chain and water supply.-International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • Besides, microplastics can also help introduce other contaminants to foods.

The Ugly Truth About Microplastics

Microbeads are tiny pieces of polyethylene plastic added to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and toothpastes.
  • Persistent organic pollutants and other toxins in water can also be attracted to these particles.

Once consumed by plankton, these contaminants are passed through the food chain to small fish and eventually to humans.

  • Microplastics come from a variety of sources, including from larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces.
  • In addition, microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products.
  • These tiny particles easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in the ocean or other water bodies.

Thus they cause serious environmental and food safety concerns.

  • Microplastic contamination of marine and freshwater organisms occurs worldwide.
  • Plastic is the most prevalent type of marine debris found in our ocean and Great Lakes.


  • Merchant shipping – rope, galley waste
  • Fishing – nets, boxes, rope, wrapping bands, galley waste
  • Aquaculture – nets, floats, rope
  • Offshore oil and gas platforms – galley waste, sewage-related
  • Cruise ships – galley waste, sewage-related (may be equivalent to a medium-sized town)
  • Recreational boating – galley waste, sewage-related Land-based sources include:
  • Coastal tourism – packaging, cigarette filters
  • Population centres – sewagerelated, storm drains, street litter
  • Horticulture/agriculture – plastic sheeting, tubing
  • Poorly controlled waste sites and illegal dumping – all waste types
  • Industrial sites – plastic production and conversion, packaging
  • Ship-breaking


  • An increasing number of initiatives support policy-making are coming up .
  • They range from providing participatory research and education to groups of young people, to collecting innovative ideas from individuals and businesses.

Beach clean-ups involving communities, Policy advocacy directed at governments.

  • Recognizing this emerging issue, more than 60 governments have stressed the relevance of a global framework for prevention and management of marine litter.


  • The Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) is a voluntary, open ended partnership for governments, international agencies, businesses, academia, local authorities, NGOs and individuals.


It was launched during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012.


Its main objective is protecting human health and the global environment though reduction and management of marine litter.

  • This global partnership works as a coordinating forum to increase awareness of the impacts of marine litter at various levels (e.g. by policy-makers, industry, and the general public).


  • Enhance knowledge of best practices to address marine litter around the world;
  • Identify and address knowledge gaps related to marine litter management;
  • Coordinate global and regional networks; and improve synergy among actors.
  • Demonstration projects with a focus on reducing the inflow of solid waste into the marine environment.

A specific objective of the GPML is to enhance international cooperation and coordination through promotion and implementation of the Honolulu Strategy.

Microplastics  | UPSC

The Ugly Truth About Microplastics 


  • The Honolulu Strategy is a framework for a comprehensive and global effort to reduce the ecological, human health and economic impacts of marine debris.
  • Its successful implementation will require participation and support on multiple levels (global, regional, national and local).
  • This initiative involves the full spectrum of civil society, government and intergovernmental organizations as well as the private sector.


  • GOAL A: Reduced amount and impact of land-based sources of marine debris introduced into the sea.
  • GOAL B: Reduced amount and impact of sea-based sources of marine debris introduced into the sea, including solid waste; lost cargo; abandoned and abandoned vessels
  • GOAL C: Reduced amount and impact of accumulated marine debris on shorelines, in benthic habitats, and in pelagic waters .

The “4R’s”related to waste management (reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover).

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • In view of the nature of microplastics and their increasing use in personal care products.
  • There may be a need to add a fifth “R”: redesign.

Redesigning products could, for example, avoid the use of primary microplastics and stimulate innovation in more sustainable directions.

     SOURCES:DownToEarth | The Ugly Truth About Microplastics 


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