Microbeads are very tiny plastic particles that can be found in, among others, shower scrubs and toothpastes (in one scrub are over 100,000 microparticles included). The pink dots on my images are microbeads I sifted from a face wash, using a towel.
Microfibers are very small pieces of synthetic fabric from our clothes, which let loose in the washing machine. These microplastics are too small for the water filters, so they rinse into the sea, where they form a big problem with (fragmented) larger plastic debris.
Species that filter water, such as oysters, mussels and coquilles are by definition unable to distinguish plastic from food. But some fish also mistake small pieces of floating plastic for something to eat, and take a bite.
The eating of plastic damages the intestinal tract of the animals, which makes them less efficient to handle real food. It costs a lot of energy to process the plastic, for which the animals do not get anything in return.
Animals that eat larger pieces of plastic can starve when that plastic closes their gastrointestinal tract. Think of a plastic bag or the remainder of a balloon. In such a case, the animal will die relatively quickly.
Plastics have the characteristic of attracting poison substances like a kind of sponge. The longer in the water, the more toxic it becomes. Animals that eat this poisonous plastic usually also secrete it. Japanese researchers have evidence that toxic chemicals from swallowed plastic can be incorporated into animal tissue. It is now important to do more research in order to find out whether the substances get higher in the food chain and what the consequences are.
There's poisonous plastic filled fish on OUR plate?!