Articles on Plastics

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Many seabird species, including the blue petrel (Halobaena caerulea), consume plastic at sea because algae on the plastic produce an odor that resembles their food sources. J.J. Harrison

The oceans are full of plastic, but why do seabirds eat it?

Thousands of seabirds die every year from consuming plastic trash in the oceans. But why do they eat plastic? New research shows that it produces odors that help some species find prey.
Around 94% of litter on South African beaches is made of plastic, of which 77% is packaging. Peter Ryan

Five applications where plastic is not fantastic

Waste plastic affects marine life significantly but better education and recyclable plastics could go a long way in resolving this issue.
Microplastics sample collected in a plankton net trawl in the North Pacific subtropical gyre from the SSV Robert C Seamans. Giora Proskurowski/Sea Education Association

Far more microplastics floating in oceans than thought

New method tallies microplastics in southern oceans, yielding a total that's 37 times higher than previous estimates.
Gird your loins. Shutterstock

Are plastics making men infertile?

Recent research into the health effects of the plastic-making chemicals phthalates has reignited concerns about low sperm counts. But the evidence is far from conclusive.
Inside Boeing’s Dreamliner: tomorrow’s polymers today. Jordan Tan

Five synthetic materials with the power to change the world

The New York World’s Fair of 1939-40 was one of the greatest expos the world had ever seen. Visitors to Flushing Meadow Park in Queens were invited to see the “world of tomorrow” giving them a first glimpse…
Rubbish strewn on beaches eventually ends up in one of the world’s giant ocean garbage patches. Vberger/Wikimedia Commons

Redrawing the map could reveal ocean garbage patch culprits

Most of us have littered at one time or another, and in the process we probably contributed to the enormous of amounts of plastic that enter the ocean every year, eventually ending up in one of the five…
Electronic thermoset components, such as those found in mobile phones, are destined for landfill – but new research points to a way to make them recyclable. David Goehring/Flickr

Recycling the ‘unrecyclable’: a new class of thermoset plastics

Plastics comprise around 10% of solid waste in Australia. And while we can recycle certain types, there is a group of particularly stable plastics called thermosets, common in electronic devices, which…
No water elsewhere could hit food and consumer good supplies here. John Giles/PA

Believe it or not, Britain’s biggest problem is a water shortage

Following the wettest winter for 250 years, it would seem fair to assume that drought-induced food shortages are unlikely to be a problem for Britain. But in the near future we may find that water is a…

Plastics contaminate subalpine lakes

Potentially dangerous plastics and microplastic particles are contaminating subalpine lakes at a rate similar to levels found…
Tiny fragments of plastic, upon each of which balances a miniature world of microbial life. Marilou Maglione/SEA

Welcome to The Plastisphere: ocean-going microbes on vessels of plastic

The amount of plastic debris accumulating in the open ocean has doubled in 40 years. This has been is a topic of increasing public concern and scientific interest since it was first reported in the 1970s…
You’d need to consume around 100 cans of soup a day to reach dangerous BPA exposure levels. Neil Conway

Should the latest research about plastics exposure worry us?

Bisphenol A (BPA) - a chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and some epoxy resins – has been in the news quite a bit lately. Headline-grabbing news items have been breathlessly reporting…

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