Microplastics in Antarctica Snow

Why in News?

  • Recently, Scientists have found Microplastics– plastic pieces smaller than a grain of rice, in freshly fallen Antarctic snow for the first time, which can influence the climate by hastening melting of ice.
  • Previous studies have revealed that microplastics have negative impacts on the health of the environment, limiting growth, reproduction, and general biological functions in organisms, along with negative implications for humans.
  • Finding microplastics in fresh Antarctic snow point out the extent of plastic pollution into even the most remote regions of the world.

What are microplastics?

  • Microplastics are minuscule plastic particles that are less than 05 millimetres in length and can affect our oceans and aquatic life.

Sources of microplastics-

  • Microplastics can be found in a variety of places, involving bigger plastic waste that breaks down into smaller and smaller fragments.
  • Microbeads, a form of microplastic, are extremely small bits of manufactured polyethylene plastic used as exfoliants in health and beauty products like cleansers and toothpastes.
  • These microscopic particles swiftly bypass water filtering systems and end up in the ocean, posing a risk to aquatic life.

What are the Findings?

  • Researchers collected samples of snow from 19 different sites in the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica and found plastic particles in all of them.
  • There were 13 different varieties of plastic found, with the most common being PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), generally used to make soft drink bottles and clothing. The possible sources of microplastics were examined.
  • An average of 29 microplastic particles per litre of melted snow, which is higher than marine concentrations reported previously from the adjacent Ross Sea and in Antarctic sea ice.
  • Microplastics may have travelled thousands of kilometres through the air, though it is likely that the presence of humans in Antarctica has set up a microplastic ‘footprint’.

Initiatives by the government to control Plastic Pollution-

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, (MoEF&CC) Government of India, has notified the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, which forbids identified single-use plastic items with low utility and high littering potential by June 2022, keeping in mind the negative impacts of littered plastic on both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
  • India recommended a resolution on combating single-use plastic pollution at the 4th United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEP) in 2019, emphasising the urgent requirement for the global community to focus on this critical issue. This resolution’s approval at UNEA 4 was a vital step forward.
  • With effect from July 1, 2022, the manufacturing, import, stocking, sale, distribution, and use of the following single-use plastic commodities, comprising polystyrene and expanded polystyrene, will be outlawed.
  • The Guidelines for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which were recently published, have been granted legal force by the Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2021, to ensure that Extended Producer Responsibility is implemented effectively.
  • The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) is strengthening the waste management infrastructure in the states/ union territories.
  • State/UT governments, along with key central ministries/departments, have been asked to create a comprehensive action plan for the elimination of single-use plastics and the successful execution of the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, and a timeline for implementation.
  • The Ministry has also conducted awareness-raising programmes for school pupils across the country.

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