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Classroom Resources: Garbage In Garbage Out

Article By Susan Casey

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Discussion Questions

1.     Why is plastic so abundant in the ocean?  Why would cleaning up all the plastic in the ocean not be a long-term solution to the problem?  What would be a long-term solution to the problem?

2.     How would a “cradle to cradle” standard, as proposed by William McDonough, affect the use of plastics in manufacturing?

3.     What are endocrine disruptors?  Why are endocrine disruptors considered to be environmental pollutants?  What problems do they cause for the conservation of animals?

4.     If the plastic in the ocean is so abundant and covers such large areas, why do so few people know about it?  Why do so many companies still use plastics in a way so as to continue to contribute to the problem?

5.     In what ways does the information presented in this article cause you to evaluate your consumer choices?

Websites for Further Information

  • Algalita Marine Research Foundation:
  • Junk Raft blog:
  • Scripps Institute of Oceanography:
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
  • UNEP Rapid Response Assessments: Our Precious Coasts:

Marine Pollution in the News

  • Suffering oceans of abuse: We can’t kill all sea life, but we’re steadily poisoning it (San Francisco Chronicle, February 4, 2007):

Peer-reviewed Literature (in addition to the citations listed in the article)

  • Abu-Hilal, A.H., and T.H. Al-Najjar. 2009. Plastic pellets on the beaches of the northern Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management 12: 461-470.
  • do Sul, J.A.I., et al. 2009. Here, there and everywhere. Small plastic fragments and pellets on beaches of Fernando de Noronha (Equatorial Western Atlantic). Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 1236-1238.
  • Ogata, Y., et al. 2009. International Pellet Watch: Global monitoring of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in coastal Waters. 1. Initial phase data on PCBs, DDTs, and HCHs. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58: 1437-1446.
  • Sutherland, W.J., et al. 2010. A horizon scan of global conservation issues for 2010. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25: 1-7.
  • Young, L.C. 2009. Bringing home the trash: Do colony-based differences in foraging distribution lead to increased plastic ingestion in Laysan Albatrosses? PLoS ONE 4(10): e7623.

Key Concepts

  • Plastic
  • Marine pollution
  • Gyre
  • Phthalates
  • Endocrine disruptors
  • Nurdles
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