The problem today isn’t drinking water from plastic bottles. It’s the plastic bottle in your glass of water.

The findings of the Orb Media study, supervised by the Minnesota School of Public Health, say that now plastic is everywhere. There is no longer any point even discussing the existence or otherwise of floating plastic islands in the Pacific. Today, microscopic plastic fibres can be found in our glass of water, in 80{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of glasses of tap water analysed in cities and towns in five continents. The good news (?) is that Europe is the most “drinkable” continent: only 74{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of the samples analysed for the study were contaminated.

Scientific research shows that these microscopic fibres are generated on a daily basis from the abrasion of our clothes, from the wear of the soles of our shoes on hot pavements. We inhale microplastics, we drink them, once they are washed away they end up in our cities’ aquifers. And since they are in the water of our aqueducts, they also end up in the food we buy, in our fruit and veg, in fast food.

Some sources of plastic fibres:

  1. Synthetic fibres in washing machines

Clothes made from synthetic fibres – acrylics and polyester – release thousands of microscopic fibres with each wash. Estimates indicate that 1 billion tonnes of these fibres are washed away into sewers every year and that more than half elude reclamation, spreading through the environment.

  1. Tyre powder

Styrene butadiene produced when vehicles brake is washed away into drains and from there into rivers. Cars and lorries generate more than 20 g of these powders for every 100 km they travel. And the situation gets worse in areas where tyres face a harsher climate: each Norwegian generates 1 kg of styrene butadiene powders every year.

  1. Paint

Powders from road paints and paint used on ships and boats account for more than 10{f94e4705dd4b92c5eea9efac2f517841c0e94ef186bd3a34efec40b3a1787622} of the microplastic polluting the oceans.

  1. Secondary microplastics

It is calculated that at least 8 million tonnes of plastic waste finish in our seas, rivers and lakes: fragments of plastic cutlery, bags, take-away containers are ground up by the stony and sandy beds of seas, rivers and lakes, releasing microscopic plastic particles, which re-enter the food chain: in the stomach of fish, in the water drunk by livestock, in the water used to irrigate fruit and vegetables. More plastic has been produced in the past 10 years than over the entire twentieth century.

  1. Synthetic fibres in the air

Scientists have only just begun studying the way microplastics generated by abrasion and by wear and tear enter the atmosphere and their role in polluting the soil and the seas.

  1. Microbeads

Banned from use in scrubs and other cosmetic products in the USA and Canada, microbeads consist largely of polythene, polypropylene and polyester. An estimated 8 trillion microbeads polluted US aquifers in 2015.

Some tips:

  1. Choose recyclable bags and containers

The estimated average life of a plastic shopping bag is 12 minutes, while its average life in the environment after it has been discarded is 500 years. At any rate, much longer than the life of the turtle that will accidentally eat from it.

  1. Would you like a straw? No, thank you

Every day, more than one billion straws are used for about 20 minutes, and then thrown away. Straws account for a large part of marine pollution. If you’re more than 3 years old, you can do without a straw.

  1. Delicate wash cycles

Each time a jacket made from synthetic fibres is washed, it releases around 1900 plastic microfibers. There are two solutions: wash less frequently on delicate wash cycles, fit the washing machine with a special filter to catch fibres with dimensions of less than 160 microns (such as Wexco filters).

  1. Brushes

Start using brushes made from recycled or natural materials (such as bamboo).

  1. Paints

Every time we rinse a paintbrush, we wash away millions of microparticles of paint (which in the case of acrylic paints are substantially liquid plastic with added pigments). Wash the brushes with water and soap in a bucket, then take the liquid to an eco-centre where you would take your old paints in any case. Or try using milk-based paints and truly natural products.

  1. Bottles

Every single plastic water bottle can fragment into pieces of plastic so small they would stretch for a mile. Use glass if you can, or re-use your water bottle.

  1. Public transport or car-sharing

Two billion tyres are produced every year. The plastic powder generated by tyre wear and tear ends up in water courses and the sea. Choose public transport (the air will thank you too) or organise car-sharing.