'It's raining plastic': Shocking find in pristine mountain range

Olivia Lambert
Associate News Editor

A man’s shocking discovery in rainwater at a pristine mountain range has further highlighted the crisis of plastic in the environment.

Scientist Gregory Wetherbee, from the US Geological Survey, was part of a team studying nitrogen pollution in rainwater in the Rocky Mountains, in Colorado, when they unexpectedly found multi-coloured plastics.

“Plastics were identified in more than 90 per cent of the samples,” researchers said in the study titled, It is Raining Plastic.

“The plastic materials were mostly fibres that were only visible with magnification, approximately 20-40 times.

“Fibres were present in a variety of colours; the most frequently observed colour was blue followed by red, silver, purple, green, yellow and other colours.

A microplastic found in rainwater in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Source: USGS

“Plastic particles such as beads and shards were also observed with magnification.”

The study said the find meant plastics were just not a problem in urban areas, with the microplastics discovered in samples from the remote site C098 at Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park.

“[This] suggests that wet deposition of plastic is ubiquitous and not just an urban condition,” the study said.

Mr Wetherbee told The Guardian he expected to find soil and mineral particles, but instead discovered the plastics.

“I think the most important result that we can share with the American public is that there’s more plastic out there than meets the eye,” he said.

“It’s in the rain, it’s in the snow. It’s part of our environment now.”

Scientists say the find proves it is not just urban areas affected by plastic. Source: Getty Images, file

Earlier this month it was revealed only 12 per cent of plastic was recycled in Australia.

The national recycling industry has been under pressure since 2018 when China, the biggest importer of recyclable waste from Australia, placed stringent restrictions on waste imports, effectively closing the door to a large proportion of Australian recycling exports.

In August 2019, one of the largest Australian recycling companies SKM collapsed, leaving tens of thousands of tonnes of Victorian kerbside recycling stockpiled and destined largely for landfill.

According to the 2018 National Waste Report, prepared for the federal government and released in November 2018, Australia recycled 12 per cent of the 2.5 million tonnes of waste plastic generated in 2016/17 from packaging, construction and industrial sources.

The majority of waste plastic – 87 per cent – goes to landfill and just one per cent is used in waste-to-energy facilities.

With AAP

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