Numerous studies have made the ubiquitous presence of plastic in the environment undeniable, and thus it no longer comes as a surprise when scientists measure the accumulation of macroplastic litter and microplastic fragments in both urban and remote sites. Nanoplastics have recently emerged in the discussions of scientists, regulators and the public, as the weathering of macroplastics may lead to a substantial burden of nanoplastics in various ecosystems. While nanoplastics particles themselves have not (yet) been extensively measured in the environment, there is increased concern that this size fraction of plastic may be more extensively distributed and hazardous that larger-sized particles. This assessment may emanate from an unease with the term ‘nano’, which may elicit a negative response over uncertainties of the pervasiveness of nanoplastics specifically, or from the lessons learned by many years of intensive environmental health and safety research of engineered nanomaterials. Ultimately, the different physical and chemical characteristics of the different size classes of plastic pollution (macroplastics, microplastics and nanoplastics) will result in divergent fate and hazards. As nanoscientists specializing in understanding the fate, transport and interactions of nanoparticles in human and environmental systems, in this Perspective, we try to place nanoplastics in the context of global plastic pollution by assessing its sources and risks, and by assessing commonalities nanoplastics may share with other nanosized objects in environmental systems, such as engineered nanomaterials and natural colloids.