Plastic in food – How microplastic ends up on our plates – Knowledge


Via car tyres, clothing or litter: small pieces of plastic end up in our soil and water – and thus also in our meals.

Our mountain lakes: deep blue, crystal clear and full of plastic particles? Finding out is part of Tessa Stuker’s everyday life. The ETH student is researching microplastics at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). With her help, Jara Helmi from SRF CO2ntrol examines a drinking water sample – and finds unwanted bycatch.

On average, each person produces one kilogram of microplastics per year. Worldwide, this is the equivalent of 7.6 million tons per year. The problem: the tiny pieces of plastic end up in our bodies.

In Switzerland alone, 600 tons end up in the soil and 15 tons in the water. In nature, the plastic is ingested by fish, worms or other animals. The toxins and pathogens that are deposited on the microplastics can lead to poisoning, infertility, genetic mutations or even death in living beings.

Where do the particles come from?

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Tiny plastic particles, the so-called secondary microplastics, are created by the decomposition of larger plastic: for example, through the abrasion of car tires on the streets, when washing synthetic clothing or through littering.

Primary microplastics are used in industry as a basic material for the production of plastic. However, these small plastic pellets can also be found in synthetic fibers in clothing or in cosmetic items such as body scrubs.

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Even if the effects on human health have not yet been extensively researched, one thing is clear: if the plastic particles are ingested by animals, sooner or later they will also end up on our plates. Whether it’s fruit, vegetables, fish or meat: we eat an average of five grams of plastic per week. That’s as much as a credit card.

What tips do you use to produce less microplastics? Let us know in the comments.

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