The ice-cold glass of beer is placed on the bar in front of you. A point on the shimmering layer of condensation coalesces, and a single enticing drop of water travels down the side of the glass and forms a small puddle. You grasp the glass and gulp down the golden brew within it. Immense satisfaction. Except for the alien matter that has no business lurking about in beer.
If you hadn’t been so thirsty and the beer had been warm, you might have paused to take a closer look. Gerd and Elisabeth Liebezeit did. Presumably, because of the inconvenience of bringing vacuum tubes and ceramic filters into the local pub, the Liebezeits tested supermarket bought brews. Boy did they find a dystopian beer future filled with extra ingredients. “FutureBrew! We use only the purest water, hops, malted barley, microplastics, glass fragments, and alcoholic insects to make our Premium Beer!”
And in this future, FutureBrew is the only brew.
The source of the micro-sized debris in the beer is variable, with some of the contamination probably coming from poor occupational hygiene and handling practices, but the study makes this comment in conclusion:
The small numbers of microplastic items in beer in themselves may not be alarming, but their occurrence in a beverage as common as beer indicates that the human environment is contaminated by micro-sized synthetic polymers to a far-reaching extent.
Plastic microbeads are used in some toothpaste and facewash lotions. When they get washed down the drain they eventually make their way through the sewers to the oceans, where they can bring about all manner of environmental chaos. There is even an International Campaign Against Microbeads in Cosmetics. The thing is, many of the engineers designing, producing, and putting those microbeads into cosmetics aren’t too concerned about the plight of the Sarcastic Fringehead Fish bio-accumulating toxic plastics in its gills. It’s a fish in a distant ocean, far removed from day-today life.
If you want to get their attention on microplastics, tell them what’s happening to the beer they drink at the end of the day.
Image credit: A Cold Beer by Gordon Wrigley, on Flickr