China's 37th Antarctic expedition has been underway for over two months. Monitoring new pollutants such as microplastics is part of its mission.
Microplastics have been detected during many scientific expeditions in recent years. Compared with regular plastics, the pollutant with a diameter of less than 5 mm is difficult to detect and has potential hazards. It can come from the packaging of personal care products, cleaning agents and other things, flowing into the sea.
In 2015, the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environment Protection, a UN advisory body, evaluated microplastics' impact. Due to its small size, it can be ingested by marine animals and the toxic ingredients can be fatal.
China, a major manufacturer of plastic products, is trying to reduce marine waste at its source. Public awareness of the harmful impact of plastics has increased and today, in the coastal areas, more and more volunteers are participating in cleaning-up activities under the local authorities' guidance.
This is an edited excerpt of an article originally published in People's Daily on January 18
(Print Edition Title: Marine Microplastics)