Scientist Matthew Shribman's dire warning of nanoplastic danger

A visiting UK scientist has a stark warning for humanity - we are now breathing in plastic.

Matthew Shribman is coming to New Zealand to spread his message about the rising threat of microplastics in the ocean and the air.

He says minuscule fragments of plastic, called nanoplastics, are so fine they're in the air we breathe. Once inhaled, these pieces of plastic can enter the human bloodstream.

Shribman's visit comes off the back of his new documentary, Plastic in the Air, which rejects the idea that plastic can simply be removed from the environment.

"The 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' is not a floating island of waste that can easily be cleaned up - that's a myth," Shribman says in a statement.

"It's a colossal area full of tiny fragments of plastic, which are incredibly difficult to remove without harming ocean life such as plankton and algae. To make matters worse, most plastic sinks and is totally inaccessible."

Shribman says the rise of eco-plastics or 'biodegradable' plastics is also fraught with problems.

"Some are actually tiny pieces of normal plastic held together by plant material, while others only degrade over hundreds of years," he says.

"Most 'compostable' plastics will only degrade in industrial facilities."

Recycling too isn't the panacea most people think it is, he says, as a "huge portion" of waste put in recycling bins actually ends up in landfill.

"We've been sold a story that recycling is enough, and it's a lie. Recycling plastic is like trying to heal a fatal wound by drinking the blood with a straw," Shribman says

"We need to stop the plastic at the source before it destroys the natural world we depend upon for our survival."

As a result, Shribman says we need to halt almost all single-use plastic now.

"There are a few places where plastic provides benefits we can't get with other materials, like in emergency medicine, but most plastic that's designed to be used just once is a blight, poisoning our planet and its inhabitants," he argues.

"Also, the more plastic destroys the natural world, the more it accelerates the climate crisis too."