Rains pour 1,000 tons of plastic into the United States each year

Every year, the equivalent of 300 million micro-bottles of rainfall falls to national parks and wilderness areas in the western United States.

The Utah State University team analyzed 14-month microplastics collected in 11 national parks and protected natural areas of Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado, California, Utah and Nevada. They investigated the source of the plastic released into the atmosphere, tracking how they move and settle. The research results are published in June 12 in Science.

Picture 1 of Rains pour 1,000 tons of plastic into the United States each year
Tiny pieces of plastic appear popular in the natural environment. (Photo: Utah State University).

It is estimated that 11 billion tons of plastic will accumulate in the environment within the next 5 years. Most of this plastic will become pollutants. "Micro-particles can be transported around the world the same way wind and rain carry dust away," the team said.

Wet plastic particles are kind of pouring down with rain, have a big size but less quantity. Regional hurricanes contribute to the dispersion of these microscopic particles as they sweep through urban centers and eroded lands. Dry micro-resin is a type that is transported by dry atmospheric phenomena, eg wind. They have a wide ability to disperse in the world like dust.

Microplastics were found in 98% of samples taken from protected lands in the United States. Most of them resemble plastic used for clothing. In addition, scientists also found household plastics, car rugs and industrial uses. For parks with a large number of visitors, the team thinks that the amount of plastic they leave also contributes to the total amount of micro plastic accumulation.

New research indicates that the world produced 348 million tons of plastic in 2017 and that number is increasing by 5% per year. Plastics can break into small pieces and then invade rivers, lakes, the atmosphere, and the sea. Experts also believe that this could lead to a reduction in biodiversity.

Plastics are very durable and accumulate in the atmosphere over a long period of time. Microplastics are found all over the world, even in locations very far away from the place of origin. Understanding the origin of microplastics in the atmosphere plays an important role in finding solutions to reduce plastic pollution.  

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