Enabling individuals to understand, act on and reduce their microplastic footprint

, Winton Debbie, Loiselle Steven, Marazzi Luca.

The concept of a plastic footprint is one that has been relatively well developed in recent years, with plastic calculators now available to allow the public to understand their personal plastic consumption. Such calculators inform respondents about their annual plastic usage, their largest areas of consumption, how this compares to a national average, and the types of actions they can take to reduce their footprint. The Earthwatch Plastic Footprint Calculator also questions people about barriers to action, asking which of a pre-determined list of barriers have prevented them from reducing their use of that particular plastic item any further. The resulting data present interesting insights into how consumers can be supported to further reduce their plastic consumption, and who should help such efforts; businesses, government and at a community level. Our Microplastic Footprint Calculator is a new concept incorporating consumer microplastic consumption, whether intentional or unintentional. This will inform individuals of their plastic usage at the microplastic level, raise awareness of potential actions, and help us to understand barriers. There are many areas of daily life where consumers contribute to microplastic release into the environment, both within and outside of the home. Enough data already exist on microplastic outputs from activities such as driving, clothes washing and artificial pitch use to create such a calculator. Likewise, there are a multitude of actions available to reduce personal emissions from these sources, with new innovations being created every year. However, these actions do not tend to be common knowledge, highlighting both a need for awareness raising and for increased understanding of potential barriers to their use. This presentation will describe lessons learned from the macro Plastic Footprint Calculator and explore the requirements for an equivalent Microplastic Footprint Calculator.

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