We can all do our part to help reduce plastic waste by choosing products and takeout that use less or more sustainable packaging. But personal choice will only go so far.
Meaningful change has come from the top — from the companies wrapping our to-go sandwiches, packaging our frozen dinners and making the plastic that keeps it all fresh and ready to grab off the shelves. Continue reading »
Plastic doesn't just disappear; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Scientists are just starting to understand the impacts fragmented plastics have on our ocean. Photo credit: NOAA
A “gigantic floating island of trash.” The media has been full of stories about an ocean drowning in plastic for years. It’s great that public awareness about ocean trash has skyrocketed, but awareness built on fundamental misconceptions won’t lead to durable, long term solutions—particularly with respect to plastics. What we need now is rigorous scientific analysis of both the scope of the problem and the best ways to solve it.
I’ve been to—and sailed through—the North Pacific Gyre and the reality is that there is no huge, floating island of trash twice the size of Texas – instead, large areas of the Pacific are a sort of trash soup containing lots of small bits of plastic. And I mean LOTS. Of course to most, the size or viscosity of the trash in the ocean misses the point. Trash shouldn’t be in the ocean; it’s a problem we can and should collectively solve.
But as a scientist, I know that compared to other areas of ocean research, the science of marine debris is still in its infancy and evolving quickly. Continue reading »