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Ocean Plastics

December 16, 2014

Scientists are getting a better handle on how much plastic we put into the oceans, and what effects it’s having.



BK Breakfast Platter

Where does your fast food container end up when you’re done with it? (theimpulsivebuy/flickr)

Tallying tons of ocean plastic. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

From the single-use packages and utensils we throw away, to fishing nets lost at sea, humans put huge amounts of plastic into the oceans. How much? Well, marine scientist Marcus Eriksen and his colleagues report in the journal PLoS ONE that just the plastic floating on the ocean surface tops 270,000 metric tons, most of it in the form of tiny microplastic particles that filter feeding marine animals consume.

MARCUS ERIKSEN (Five Gyres Institute):

Plastic’s a great sponge for similar hydrocarbons, like industrial chemicals, PCBs, pesticides, DDT; it’s almost like microplastics are delivery systems for toxins to enter marine food webs.


Eriksen says that solving the problem will require managing plastics from manufacture to the end of their lives—to ensure they don’t add to the islands of plastic already in our waters. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.