Art Supply Recycling Drive & Microplastics

Zip Code East Bay is proud to announce the start of our art supply recycling drive. It’s estimated that over 400 million dry erase markers and 1.6 billion disposable pens are thrown away each year! Art supplies contribute to our landfills and break down into microplastics, polluting our waters and harming ocean life. We will be at the Kensington Farmers Market each Sunday 10am-12pm in July and August with a box for you to drop off your used markers, brushes, and empty paint tubes to be recycled. 

At first some might brush off the thought of rummaging through cabinets just for pens and markers as not worth the effort. Taking a closer look at the long-term impact of the plastics in pens and markers can change this perspective with three key factors, namely, bioaccumulation, biomagnification, and methylmercury. 

When plastics like markers or pens get discarded, they can end up in the ocean. Because plastics are highly chemically refined and petroleum based, they take hundreds of years to decompose, and even the smaller pieces they leave behind cause issues for all living things, especially humans. Bioaccumulation is the build up of these microplastics in the bodies of organisms living in environments contaminated with plastics and toxins that are not biodegradable. This happens within a certain species, like gulls who consume discarded human plastics. This becomes extremely problematic when plastics get broken down into tiny microscopic pieces which concentrate in the smallest organisms and can lead to species extinction, a lack of biodiversity, heightened risk of famine for other species, and less resilience to natural disasters.

Understanding the impact of something as deceptively trivial as tossing out an old pen is incomplete without understanding biomagnification. This occurs when organisms who have consumed microplastics and plastics are consumed by other organisms, and in doing so the level of plastics increases exponentially. Every time a bigger predator consumes a smaller one, the plastics increase in a nonlinear fashion to the point where those with the biggest risk of exposure to microplastics from broken down pens, markers, and trash are those at the top of the food chain. 

Methylmercury is a contributing factor in both bioaccumulation and biomagnification. Methylmercury is a neurotoxin. It adheres to microplastics in the ocean and is present with a certain species and also travels up the food chain to highly concentrated levels that harm both humans and marine life. Plastics now make up 80% of marine debris from the surface all the way to the deepest parts of the sea, floating, attracting mercury, concentrating, and moving up the food chain. 

The first step is always the hardest, but if you would like to make a difference, consider stopping the breakdown of microplastics before they enter the environment, concentrate, and magnify by joining the team at ZCEB by recycling your used art supplies. We’re making it as easy as possible for our community by collecting these supplies at the Kensington Farmers’ Market through the end of August. Stop by our office at 380 Colusa Ave, Kensington.


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