Microplastics from paint that enter the ocean each year could be as high as 1.5-2.25 million tonnes. To put it in context, that’s the equivalent of 150-225 billion plastic bottles.

AERO was developed as a smart, environmentally friendly alternative technology to traditional paint. We are well aware of the adverse environmental impact that paint has on our planet, but it seems that the extent of the problem has, to date, been vastly underestimated and under researched.

The stark truth is that unless residuals from paint can be collected during both the surface preparation and maintenance processes, it will most likely end up in the ocean as microplastics. And an awful lot of it. More research, awareness and regulation enforcement is desperately needed to solve the issue before it’s too late.

60,000 tonnes of microplastics from paint enter the ocean each year, according to the most quoted source of data. This may seem like a large amount, but in truth, it doesn’t begin to cover the extent of the problem. This is due to the fact this statistic only includes marine coatings, which represent just 4% of all paint volume. The estimate also assumes that only 1% of applied paint falls off per year, when in fact industry experience demonstrates that around 5% of paint falls off each year.

These reasons mean that the true quantity of microplastics from paint that enter the ocean yearly is likely to be far greater. Other reports have also found that paint is the second largest source of microplastics in the ocean.

The World Economic Forum also looks at the problem from a different angel;

‘Let’s look at it another way and see what happens to all of the paint on steel assets. It is estimated that more than six million tonnes of paint are applied to industrial and marine steel structures every year.

Therefore, based on the actual level of paint applied to industrial and marine steel assets each year, it is estimated that the real level of paint microplastics emissions to the ocean every year could be as high as 1.5-2.25 million tonnes. This is based on the assumption that 50-75% of the paint residuals are not collected. Given we know that open blasting without collection holds a higher market share of surface maintenance than this, the actual level of emissions is probably at the higher upper end of the range.

Putting these new figures in context, they are a very meaningful percentage of the 8 million tonnes of plastic that enters the oceans each year. In addition, it can also help us better understand where some of the estimated 12-21 million tonnes of microplastics in the Atlantic Ocean, as highlighted in a recent study, have come from.’

The adverse risks of microplastics are great. Entire ecosystems are impacted through hazardous chemicals, from our soil and our food, to our water and our air. New and innovative methods of waste collection and recycling are desperately needed, along with greater regulation and enforcement.

Alternative technologies such as AERO are helping to pave the way to a more sustainably responsible future that’s free of paint and the microplastics that come with it.