Airborne Microplastics:
A Silent Climate Threat Asia's CEOs Cannot Ignore

28 Sep 2023 / ESG Matters
Across our vibrant continent, the rise of airborne microplastics poses an emerging environmental challenge. A recent Japanese study highlights the underestimated peril they present.
Key Findings:

  • The study reaffirms the presence of microplastics in high altitude clouds, analyzing them in cloud water sampled from Japanese mountain summits at altitudes ranging from 1300–3776 m.
  • Microplastics bearing hydrophilic groups were found abundantly in the cloud water, suggesting they might act as condensation nuclei for cloud ice and water, influencing cloud formation.
  • Several types of microplastics were identified in the cloud water, including polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate.
  • Plastics like polypropylene, when degraded, develop hydrophilic groups, potentially enhancing their role in cloud formation.
  • Smaller, fragmented microplastics are more likely to reach higher altitudes.
  • Microplastics in cloud water atop Mt. Fuji likely originated primarily from the ocean.

  • Climate and Weather: The presence of microplastics and nanoplastics (MnPs) in the atmosphere can influence cloud albedo, precipitation patterns, cloud lifespan, and local weather dynamics.
  • Research Gap: While we know much about microplastics in marine and terrestrial environments, airborne microplastics remain understudied.
  • Public Awareness: Emphasizing the climate impacts of microplastics can drive a shift in public perception and behavior.
  • Technological Innovations: Understanding MnPs can pave the way for innovations to manage or mitigate their effects.
Why This Matters for Asia's CEOs:

The increasing evidence of airborne microplastics' impact on our environment is alarming. These are the compelling reasons why plastic air pollution should be a top agenda:

  • Climate Change: Microplastics can alter precipitation patterns and potentially intensify extreme weather events.
  • Regulation: Governments may enforce stricter plastic production and waste management rules.
  • Reputation: Companies not addressing this issue risk consumer backlash.
  • Supply Chain: Environmental effects of microplastics can disrupt resources and materials.
  • Financial Impact: Addressing environmental damage is costly. Proactive measures can prevent future liabilities.
  • Moral Responsibility: There's an imperative to protect the planet for future generations and ensure long-term business sustainability.
Organizations in Action:

  • AIIB: Committed to helping members address climate change, AIIB's Climate Action Plan outlines principles and targets, including aligning all new investments with the Paris Agreement principles.
  • ADB: Introducing innovative financial tools like the IF-CAP to bolster climate finance.
In Closing: The menace of airborne microplastics is quietly reshaping our climate and impacting our daily lives. As we uncover more about their pervasive presence and far-reaching effects, it's clear that tackling this issue is not just about environmental stewardship; it's about safeguarding our economies, communities, and the future we leave for the next generation.
Further Reading: For those interested in diving deeper into the topic and understanding the intersection of microplastics with other industries, the following resources are highly recommended:


ESG Matters

Founded by one of the sustainability pioneers Dr Glenn Frommer, ESG Matters specialises in ESG data analytics, intelligent sensing technologies and sustainability advisory. Since 2014, ESG Matters has been a creator of digital platform solutions to meet the needs of sustainable impact investing and green financing. Working closely with listed companies, SMEs, and various growing organisations, ESG Matters aims to address the global market through providing business process outsourcing (BPO) services and solutions to achieve the relevant sustainable development goals (SDGs) and building resilience to climate change.

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