July 2024 Meeting

July 9, 2024

Wequaquet Lake Yacht Club
150 Annabelle Point Road
Centerville, MA

Credit card between chopsticks

Microplastic Misinformation in the Meme Age
by Mark Jones

Most have heard we consume 5 grams of plastic per week. That is the weight of a credit card’s worth of plastic hiding in our food as microplastics. Many will recall the picture of a credit card between two chopsticks. I saw that image and immediately had my doubts. Creating the thought that each bite contained a credit card’s worth of plastic – 5 grams – clearly was intentionally misleading. A little digging showed how misleading it is. Actual consumption is about a million times lower, only micrograms per week. The story of how 5 grams per week became accepted, how it is driving litigation, UN treaties and public sentiment is an interesting one. It is a story that raises doubts about whether science is working, or at least whether it is working fast enough. I’ll examine the modeling errors, how the erroneous result spread, how few paused for a reality check, and how subsequent measurements in peer-reviewed papers failed to change the perception. I’ll also predict you’ll never pick up a water bottle again without looking for microplastic particles.