Amsterdam, 9 October 2019 – Unilever, with more than 400 brands, promises to reduce the amount of plastic drastically by 2025. In addition, the group promises to halve the use of new (virgin) plastic and to increase the use of recyclates. Unilever sells products to more than 2.5 billion people in more than 190 countries and is one of the companies that contribute most to the plastics soup. The new CEO Alan Jope says “We need absolute urgency in turning off the plastic tap.” Will his measures really help in the fight against the plastic soup?

Less virgin and more recyclates

Unilever has announced two new targets for 2025:

  • Cutting the amount of virgin plastic in packaging to half its original size.
  • Collect and process more plastic than the company sells.

Unilever uses approximately 700,000 tonnes of virgin plastic per year. This quantity should be reduced to half by 2025, i.e. no more than 350,000 tonnes of virgin plastic will be used. The company wants to achieve this by using less plastic in the packaging (this will result in an expected reduction of 100,000 tonnes) on the one hand and by using more recycled plastic (250,000 tonnes) on the other. In total, this is 600,000 tonnes. On average, this means an absolute reduction of 100,000 tonnes. Unilever claims to be the first multinational to promise an absolute reduction in the use of plastic.

Refillable and packaging-free products

Less packaging plastic, other packaging materials, unwrapped ice cream, unpackaged soap, higher concentration of detergents, more reusable products, refillable products; the list of opportunities that Unilever can and wants to utilize is long. But there is still plastic left. It must be reusable, recyclable or compostable. Non-recyclable plastic will, therefore, be replaced by recyclable plastic.

Who controls?

In order to obtain recyclable plastic, plastic waste must be collected. Unilever will work with partners to collect plastic in areas where waste collection is lacking or poor. How much money is involved, how effective it is and how many of these initiatives there are and where remains unclear for the time being. In addition, Unilever will also pay directly for recycled plastic. However, this is worse in quality than virgin plastic and also much more expensive. This implies that the proposed approach is susceptible to fraud. Who will control Unilever?

Big challenge

The biggest challenge is undoubtedly the sachets or mini-packaging. The packaging consists of several layers. So far there has been one pilot plant, in Indonesia, which recycles these packaging with chemical recycling. This is a theoretical solution. After all, the mini-packaging is mainly sold in areas with little purchasing power. Unilever must, therefore, demonstrate that all these packagings are neatly collected and transported to factories yet to be built, while it is precisely in the sales areas that the garbage collection is in default.

Is absolute reduction a relative concept?

The absolute reduction of single-use plastic (SUP) is one of the pillars of the Plastic Soup Foundation. It is therefore fantastic that Unilever is the first multinational to announce an absolute reduction. Or is it? Multinationals like Unilever wants to grow. They are striving to sell more and more products. How exactly does that relate to the promise of absolute reduction of plastic?

Photo: Sachets, including from Unilever. Roshan P. Rai of Zero Waste Himalaya.


Read moreUnilever’s biggest polluter in the Philippines

Read alsoUnilever’s promised cuts to plastic are welcome… but it’s still not enough 

Read alsoUnilever vows to reduce the use of plastic packaging


New study shows: plastic soup interferes with oxygen production

Amsterdam, 24 May 2019 – Oxygen producing bacteria that live in the sea suffer from chemicals, which are added to plastics during the production process. Australian researchers discovered that these chemicals leach from the plastic and interfere with the Prochlorococcus bacteria, which produces about 10% of the oxygen we breathe. Their cutting-edge study is published in Communications Biology and a summary is available here.

Sunlight converted into oxygen by bacteria

The Prochlorococcus bacteria were discovered only thirty years ago. With the help of sunlight these tiny microbes convert carbon dioxide into glucose and oxygen is a by-product of this process. These abundant bacteria are critical to the marine food web and carbon cycle. Despite the fact that the organism is essential for these systems, the effects of plastic pollution on this species have not been studied before.

Laboratory research

These bacteria are mainly present in the gyres, the circulating currents in the oceans, where plastic debris is abundant too. The effects of these chemical additives leaching from the plastic have been studied in a laboratory setting. And the research showed that the chemicals interfered with growth, photosynthesis and oxygen production. However, the researchers point out that concentrations used in the laboratory tests differ from the concentration of these chemicals in the oceans. Therefore, the importance of this study lies mainly in the discovered effect.

Maria Westerbos, director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “We are shocked by these discoveries. The plastic soup appears to have an influence on the oxygen production on earth. More research into this effect should be a high priority.”

Also read: Plastic is making coral reefs sick 

First copy of ‘Plastic Soup: An Atlas of Ocean Pollution’ presented to Jacqueline Cramer

Amsterdam, 8 April 2019“Everyone should read this book from start to finish.” said former Minister of the Environment Jacqueline Cramer, also Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Plastic Soup Foundation when she received the first copy of Plastic Soup: An Atlas of Ocean Pollution.

This book, published by Island Press (Washington DC), is now for sale worldwide. The Dutch Edition, an initiative of PSF in collaboration with publishing house LIAS, was published last year and has since been reprinted. The presentation took place in the Global Experience Centre of Smurfit Kappa at Schiphol Airport. The PSF Business Angels gathered at this occasion with the theme Changing the Future of Packaging.

In his speech author Michiel Roscam Abbing referred to the long history of his book. “It started in 2009 with the book Plastic Soup by Jesse Goosens, who had interviewed Jacqueline Cramer for her book. Cramer was one of the first to recognize the problem of plastic soup. As Minister of the Environment in the Netherlands she raised the plastic soup issue with UNEP, the leading global environmental authority of the United Nations, and with her fellow ministers in Europe. Maria Westerbos was the initiator of this book, but had not yet met Cramer in person. Not much later Maria Westerbos was to establish the Plastic Soup Foundation and invited Cramer to become Chairman of the Board. Already in those early days of the Plastic Soup Foundation the idea of writing a new book on the plastic soup circulated in our office. In April 2018, this book was finally launched: The Plastic Soup Atlas of the World.”

Maria Westerbos presented the first copy of the Atlas to EU Commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella on Malta at a conference of the plastic industry. Commissioner Vella was pleased with the Atlas because it, he said, gives a lot of attention to solutions and action perspective. Later Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, also received a copy.

According to Roscam Abbing, these were very important and visible moments that aroused interest among international publishers to also publish translated editions. Today there we have the World Edition English. Later this month an Italian edition will be published, and in the course of this year a Japanese will follow. A reprint of the Dutch edition appeared in January 2019. Five euros of every Dutch Atlas sold go to the Plastic Soup Foundation.

Order the Atlas at


For Immediate Release

11 March 2019

A group of Dutch divers, diving companies and the Plastic Soup Foundation are introducing a new hand signal for divers: the P for Plastic.

Every year, thousands of marine animals get caught in plastic or mistake plastic for food and die out of starvation. The plastic soup is also causing coral reefs to get sick because plastic works as a magnet attracting toxins. It’s a disaster for underwater life and a threat to what we love doing – diving!

The Plastic Hand Signal

Divers use underwater hand signals for squid, turtles and sharks, but not yet for the largest polluter in our ocean – plastic. If nothing changes, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. As a diver, you are constantly confronted with the ongoing decay and damaged state of the sea and the coral reefs. This is why a group of diving companies and divers, together with the Plastic Soup Foundation, are introducing a new hand signal: The P for Plastic. This signal can be used by divers under water to let their buddies know that they see plastic and they want to pick it up. The goal of this hand signal is to encourage as many divers around the world to spread awareness and take action against the plastic plague that our ocean is facing right now.

Help us spread the word!

  • Download the image with the hand signal & share it with your diving buddies on social media. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #PforPlastic.
  • Print the poster & hang it at your dive school. The more people see it the bigger the impact!
  • Start using the hand signal, teach it and show that you care about the oceans.

Find more information about what you as a diver, dive school or diving company can do to stop plastic pollution here:

The initiators

This hand signal is an initiative of a wide group of Dutch diving companies (including a dive travel agent, dive school, gear supplier and a media platform), amateur divers and the Plastic Soup Foundation. The Plastic Soup Foundation’s mission is to have ‘No plastic waste in our water!’.

Microplastics now found in underground drinking water reservoirs

Amsterdam, 05 February 2019 – Microplastics are found in surface water all over the world. Now for the first time they have also been found in underground layers of soil and rock that contain water. About one quarter of the drinking water provision in the world depends on underground water reservoirs. These reservoirs are filled with surface water that slowly seeps through the porous layers. As these reservoirs are connected to surface water sources, these latter sources can becomepolluted.

Researchers studied 17 samples from two separate underground reservoir systems in Illinois, USA. Their research was published this month in the journal Groundwater. All the samples bar one showed microplastics. The maximum concentration was 15 microplastics per litre. All microplastics were fibres. Given the combination of the microplastics and other substances that included phosphates, chloride and triclosan, the researchers believe that the source of the pollution is primarily household septic tanks.

Households that are not connected to the sewage system use these tanks for waste water as a purification system. The sludge is regularly removed and the purified water is discharged in the surface water. The waste water of washing machines and dryers also enters these tanks first. Machine washing and drying synthetic clothing releases millions of plastic microfibres. Given that these fibres are virtually weightless, they do not sink to the bottom. In an interview, one of the authors stated, “Imagine how many thousands of polyester fibres find their way into the septic tanks in only one wash. And then imagine how easily the water from the septic tanks can enter the groundwater, and certainly in the places where the surface water and the groundwater are directly

In the Netherlands, households that are further than 40 metres from a sewer may discharge purified waste water from a septic tank into the surface water. Nothing is set down by law in the Besluit lozing afvalwater huishoudens (provision on discharging household waste water, in Dutch) to prevent plastic microfibres from entering the environment in this way.

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation: “It is extremely worrying that groundwater appears to contain microplastics. To what extent are septic tanks indeed the source? We expect questions to be asked in the House of Representatives so that the scale of this source of pollution and what can be done about it are made known.”

The plastic soup is also a planetary boundary

Amsterdam, 16 January 2019 – The oceans are under pressure due to the increase of the plastic soup. Plastic affects not just individual animals, but also penetrates food chains. An important question is whether the plastic soup has a critical limit. The Stockholm Resilience Centre has indicated nine planetary boundaries for the Earth, among which climate change, loss of biodiversity, ocean acidification, and chemical pollution. When these planetary boundaries are exceeded, ecological restoration is almost impossible. Plastic pollution is not yet in this list.

Scientists have recently argued that plastic soup should also be one of the planetary boundaries. At least two of the three criteria for the planetary boundary of chemical pollution are also valid for the plastic soup: plastic in the environment is irreversible (it is not or hardly possible to clean up, particularly the microplastics) and plastic is present everywhere (and the concentration increases). The third criterion is the disruptive effect on marine ecosystems, or even wider: the effect on System Earth. To date, the question how the plastic soup affects this system, remains unanswered. To that end, it first needs to be determined how exactly this effect can be established. But, according to the researchers, plastic pollution certainly has all kinds of ecological consequences and hence there is every reason to believe that plastic also has or will have a negative effect on System Earth.

The researchers have also a pragmatic reason to include the plastic soup in the widely accepted framework of the planetary boundaries. It will then presumably be easier to reach agreement on the international approach; curbing the plastic soup internationally has not been successful yet.

Winter Photo Contest 2018: Winners Announced

Amsterdam, 03 January 2019 – Towards the end of 2018, we conducted a photo contest and asked people to submit photographs that express their personal encounters with plastic pollution and what they made out of it. The response that we got was tremendous. Not only because so many people participated, but also because every participant had more than one picture to contribute. This shows the extent of plastic pollution that seeps into every nook and cranny of our surroundings.

Choosing the winners has been a very difficult decision because of the quality of the pictures as well as the enthusiasm of all the participants and their dedication to the cause was exceptional. Of all the pictures submitted, 3 powerful and creative images grabbed our attention. Below, we present you with the three winners of our photo contest and their story and motivation behind the pictures:

3. The Kid and the Fish, by Elza Zijlstra


“Since 4 years, I collect plastic from beaches worldwide and turn it into art. I mostly search for small pieces of plastic and was amazed to discover how every beach, even when it looks clean at first sight, is polluted. My art is mostly bright and does not force a message upon people. For this contest however, I wanted to show the relation between environment, food, fish and humans and show the magnitude of the problem. I think art is a powerful tool in the battle against plastic. During exhibitions I always notice that people are impressed that it is possible to fill a whole exhibition room with beach trash. And while watching the art of plastic soup, discussions about pollution start immediately.”


2. Black Water Dive, by Mae Dorricott

“This image was one I shot during a Black water dive in Indonesia. Black water diving is basically a night dive but over deep water, where you’re able to see the plankton and larvae of reef creatures come out of the darkness towards your torch lights like moths to a flame. The biodiversity of these waters are like no other, but just as abundant is the plastic. I thought it was a jellyfish at first as my torch glinted over it, yet alas, it was a fragment of plastic. With a young reef fish using it as shelter, darting this way and that.”


1. Manta Bay, by Brooke Pyke

“For quite a while now I have been spending a lot of time diving east of Bali, Indonesia on a small Island called Nusa Penida. I currently dive very regularly, 2 times a day 6 days a week. Over time you do see big changes in the ocean. From natural seasonal changes as you would expect but other changes as well. Marine debris such as plastic pollution has become a more and more common sight for us here in Penida and I know only too well that this is not even the tip of the ‘trash-burg’ so to say. With approx. 8 million tons of trash ending up in our oceans every year, the amount I see daily is only a small part. The enormity of plastic in the water can at times be so overwhelming and incredibly depressing. It makes you feel helpless as you try to scoop up as much as you can on the dive and fill your BCD pockets with the trash knowing you’re barely making any difference. Practically grabbing plastic bags and packaging, straws and water cups out of the way of the Mantas so they don’t swallow it. But this is just the big pieces. In regards to Manta Rays who are filter feeders the microplastics are really the problem here which are often so small you can’t even see them. The plastic trash we see around the islands here is not an all year round issue but it certainly is becoming worse every year.

There was a dive this year I had at Manta bay (when i took these photos) and the amount of trash was immense. From anything like plastic take away cutlery, to tampons, nappies, laundry liquid packaging… you name it I saw it. I had some guests diving with me at the time and I was actually embarrassed. It’s like taking a good hard look in the mirror and seeing just what we are doing to this planet. Coming up from the dive my guests instantly were looking for someone to blame and asking why is no one doing anything about it. It’s so easy to blame the governments, manufacturers and companies selling these products who of course have some responsibility. I feel we should also start looking more at ourselves and what ways do we contribute to this problem.

Going back to the topic of ‘microplastics’ which is a huge issue here when you think of filter feeding marine megafauna such as Mantas. As you can imagine an animal that has to filter thousands of litres of water per day to obtain adequate nutrition. Micro plastics harbor high levels of toxins and chemical pollutants which are introduced to their body via digestion. These toxin accumulate over time and can cause disruption of biological processes and can even be passed from mother to offspring.”

Plastic pollution & health Photo Contest

Do you care about the environment and are concerned about plastic pollution? Are you a photographer or you enjoy taking pictures? We are launching a PHOTO CONTEST for pictures related to plastic pollution and the health of both the environment and our own.

There are three prizes for the best pictures!

Third prize: three cotton bread bags from Wishing Whale & natural coconut deodorant from Dutch DIY brand Leven Zonder Afval & biological bar soap from Dutch brand Werfzeep & kids bamboo toothbrush from Humble Brush & solid shampoo bar from Lamazuna & solid toothpaste from Lamazuna

Second prize: reusable stainless steel straws from Klean Kanteen & three cotton bread bags from Wishing Whale & natural coconut deodorant from Dutch DIY brand Leven Zonder Afval & biological bar soap from Dutch brand Werfzeep & kids bamboo toothbrush from Humble Brush & solid shampoo bar from Lamazuna & solid toothpaste from Lamazuna

First prize: silver necklace with plastic soup specially retrieved in Hawaii & bracelet from MBRC the Ocean & three cotton bread bags from Wishing Whale & natural coconut deodorant from Dutch DIY brand Leven Zonder Afval & biological bar soap from Dutch brand Werfzeep & kids bamboo toothbrush from Humble Brush & solid shampoo bar from Lamazuna & solid toothpaste from Lamazuna

If you want to participate you just need to send your pictures to and add your name, address and phone number in the email. We will not use your personal data for anything else that is not related to this photo contest. You have time until Monday 17th of December.

Check out the prizes!

First prize

Second prize

Third prize







Legal clause:

By entering Plastic Soup Foundation’s Photo Contest, you retain the rights to your works while granting Plastic Soup Foundation the non-exclusive, worldwide, unrestricted, royalty-free, perpetual right to use, publish, reproduce, communicate, modify and display the works (in whole or in part) for any purpose, in any form without any fee or other form of compensation, and without further notification or permission.

By participating in this contest, you release and agree to indemnify and hold harmless Plastic Soup Foundation and its employees, directors, officers, affiliates, agents, judges, publishers and advertising and promotional agencies from any and all damages, injuries, claims, causes of actions, or losses of any kind resulting from your participation in this contest, usage of your works and/or receipt or use of any prize.

By entering this contest, you agree to have read and conform to our privacy statement that ca be found here. The personal data of the contestants that will be collected for this contest, will only be used for the purpose of this contest and to inform on and contact the winners. Personal data will be removed within a reasonable period after the contest.

Ambitions of Plastic Soup Foundation and SodaStream meet on Roatán Island

They are no standard holiday souvenirs that Maria Westerbos has brought from Honduras. A small plastic elephant without a trunk and a torn off leg of a Barbie doll – once baby pink and presumably subject of warm affection. Now a homeless and dirty piece of plastic, blackened, stained, scratched and smelly. How long these toys have been travelling, and via which route, before Maria picked them from the beach on Roatan? Only heaven knows. Now they are on her desk in Amsterdam, as silent witnesses of the plastic disaster which takes place in the seas and along coastlines worldwide.


The founder and Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation has returned from a visit to the Honduran island of Roatán, 8 kilometres wide and 60 kilometres long. She was there together with SodaStream-CEO Daniel Birnbaum and the 150 most senior managers of the company from 45 countries. Maria was keynote speaker and travelled along as the only representative of an NGO, together with filmmaker Chris Jordan (‘Albatross’) and an international group consisting of some twenty influencers and journalists.

The entire top layer of the Israeli company – which sells devices that convert tap water into sparkling water in an instant – flying to specifically this tropical island, was not without reason. “Daniel had a clear purpose, he wants his company to make a big change, away from disposable plastics,” says Maria. “That was also the reason I responded to this invitation. If such a big company is undergoing a radical change of direction, it is important that all your managers understand why. He wanted to confront them with all plastic junk that washes ashore on such a remote island every day. He wanted to clean up together with them, and that is what we did, joined by local school children. A few days in a row we got up between 5 and 6 o’clock in the morning, when the temperature was still reasonably comfortable. By 10 a.m. the temperature had already risen to 45 degrees.”

There was no stopping it, the plastic just kept coming. Large recognizable plastic objects such as a fan and the brush of a broom, but also flip flops, dolls, bottles, cans and especially numerous, multi-coloured plastic particles that can no longer be cleaned up by hand. The leaflets may still describe Roatán as Paradise Island, the island is now especially burdened by waste.

“There is no waste management on the island, nothing. I saw football pitches covered with waste and  children playing football around it. I saw piles of rubbish in back yards of houses, where it is dumped and occasionally set on fire. You can see the traces of burning. People throw it down this way, because no provisions have been made. Wherever you look, you see waste. Only at the homes of the superrich you can see that cleaning has been done. But also this waste ends up on large heaps along the coast line and is sooner or later carried away by the sea. That sight of all that waste hit me tremendously. I thought: If the same happens on all those islands in the world that have no waste management, all that waste that has nowhere to go, these small paradises will literally choke on waste and plastic soup. And add to this all the waste the wind blows onto the coasts and is washed ashore from god-knows-where. It made me very sad. And it also made me combative, that is the way it works with me. Worldwide, many more people at each level need to become infected, put their heels in the plastic soup and say: this far and no further.”


The island is completely surrounded by water and indeed receives the waste as a gift from all directions, from the entire Caribbean, from Guatemala, Belize and Mexico in the West and from Cuba and Haiti in the Northeast. “All drains flow directly into the water. At one point I sank away into the poop and plastic soup until halfway my calves. Oh Maria, I thought, when I struggled forward on my slippers: this can easily give you infections. If this is our future, if all bounty islands look like this or will look like this any time soon, then both humans and the ocean are at great risk. Earlier I have seen the plastic soup wash ashore on Hawaii and on the beaches in Vietnam, I have seen it float in the dead Bagmati River in Kathmandu high in the Himalayas, but to see such a small habitat in the middle of the ocean or here in the Caribbean Sea collapse under plastic trash, is certainly enough to make one weep.”

“It is therefore very interesting to see how SodaStream turns its managers into an army of plastic fighters. Yes, that was printed on the t-shirts they all wore. I found it a special experience to see how much serious dedication there is. The ambitions are high. On the closing night I heard Daniel Birnbaum say they want to clean up 95 percent of the plastic soup.”

On Roatán, SodaStream also unveiled and tested the so-called Holy Turtle, a floating system towed between two boats that should filter plastic from the sea. “Even if it works, you still face the problem what to do with the waste after you have taken it out of the water. If there is no waste management system nearby, you need to bring it to the mainland. Recycling is not an option: much plastic from the sea is so polluted that only a fraction of it is reusable. It is a complex problem, it’s not all that easy. But the intention is amazing. Daniel is infected with the same virus that infected me ten years – and many others I am happy to say.”


What made the difference for the SodaStream top executive? “He told me that he had seen many videos and pictures of the plastic misery on beaches. Then he flew to the island a few months ago to take a look. Just calculate the cost of flying 200 people to such a remote island and rent an entire resort. But if you can transfer the virus to your managers and can explain to them why you think their company must take its responsibility, then it’s terribly effective. You have to see it with your own eyes! Some companies fish for plastic in the canals of Amsterdam, which is also good. But I think that many more companies should make the same type of journey as SodaStream did. You could compare it with Bernice Notenboom who’s going to the melting Arctic with captains of industry. I would like to do something similar myself, to show CEO’s what we all do together. We are the only animal in the world that soils its own nest, with deadly results.”

“Daniel and I share that insane ambition to clean up the plastic and fix the problem. To save the world! But if you have that ambition, then, gradually, also come the disappointments. If SodaStream is serious about structurally working with us, if you want to make a difference, then it always starts with yourself. You have to begin with the approach at the source. So that is why I say: SodaStream, go on a plastic diet. Reduce your Plastic Mass Index: your PMI. We can help you with that. You need to make a plan: take the plastic out of your packaging, remove the plastic from around your packaging, replace all your plastic bottles within a couple of years. Yes, now they still have glass and plastic bottles that consumers can refill. In term, SodaStream will therefore have to dispose of those plastic bottles. The caps are also made of plastic. If you want to be a Plastic Fighter, you have to put yourself on a plastic diet. And your customers too. Actually, we all need to go on a plastic diet! We have worked hard on this concept in 2018.”


SodaStream has generously donated $10,000 to the Plastic Soup Foundation. “That is very important to us. We will use it for the ‘plastic diet for consumers’ web application that sets out to make ‘losing plastic weight’ fun and attractive. We will then also integrate the diet in an app that keeps track of where you are, so that you never can fall back. I see a nice cooperation ahead: campaigning on the plastic diet together. SodaStream saying to its consumers worldwide: ‘we are going on plastic diet, so will you! And use this app.’ Such a message can reach very many people worldwide. That is a unique proposition, it will make you stand out.”

To what extent the recently announced billion-dollar take-over of SodaStream by PepsiCo affects the plastic-free ambitions of the Israeli group, is yet to be seen. Maria sees opportunities. “The CEO of PepsiCo also visited the island, when we were there. I have the impression that Pepsi wishes to do something. But if you look at the worldwide data of World Cleanup Day, they stand cheerfully side-by-side with Coca-Cola. PepsiCo is one of the biggest polluters. It is of course a super tanker and it is particularly hard for such a huge company to change course. In comparison, SodaStream is a speedboat. SodaStream is to remain independent, so is the agreement and the intention. Maybe SodaStream can set the correct example which PepsiCo can follow and examine what they can do to tighten the single-use plastics tap. That would be fantastic.”


From plastic soup to plastic poop

Amsterdam, 1 November 2018 – The knowledge that microplastics are present in every aspect of our lives has almost become common knowledge. Microplastics have been discovered everywhere, in water, air and soil and in fish and seafood, honey, salt and beer. With the widespread presence of microplastics, it is not surprising that they are also present in human faeces.

On the 23rd of October, Austrian researchers presented their findings during a congress in Vienna. They discovered, on average, twenty pieces of plastic per ten grams of faeces and they found nine different types of plastic in total, in the stool samples. The faeces of the eight participants, all from different countries, were sampled. All stool samples contained microplastics. The most frequently discovered plastics were polypropene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET); plastics commonly used in packaging.

Pieces of microplastics, with a size between 50 and 500 micrometre, were excreted in the human faeces, but it is still unclear if even smaller pieces remain in the human body. The smallest pieces microplastics can cross the wall of the gastrointestinal tract, enter the blood stream or tissues and cause an inflammatory reaction. How exactly the plastics entered the digestive tract of the subjects was not part of the research. However, all the subjects had eaten food that had been packed in plastic. Furthermore, drinks containing microplastics could also be a possible source.

An interview with Jeroen Dagevos of the Plastic Soup Foundation is available on the site of Talk Radio. Maria Westerbos, director van de Plastic Soup Foundation: “For sometime, it has been suspected that plastics could be present in human faeces. But main issue has to be, what the effect of microplastics is on the human body. It is therefore extremely urgent that, firstly, the research in the health effects continues and, secondly, as a precaution the use of plastics is reduced.”

Also read: How damaging is breathing in microplastics