Plastic

There are many reasons to be worried about the state of the world’s oceans. But some scientists say it’s important to point to successes, in order to motivate people to take further, evidence-based action.

Seven Reasons to Be Optimistic About the World's Oceans

The health of the ocean is under threat, but these good-news stories deserve attention too

Currently, single-use plastics lose 95 percent of their value after use, causing a $110 billion loss to global markets every year.

Innovation for Good

Plastic Waste Can Be Transformed Into Vanilla Flavoring

Researchers used microbes to convert plastic waste into the chemical additive

A new way of chemically recycling single-use plastics might offer an incentive to keep them out of landfills.

Innovation for Good

New Chemical Process Turns Single-Use Plastics Into Fuels

Researchers say their method can break down hard-to-recycle plastics using half the energy of existing techniques

The enzyme-enhanced plastic film had the same strength and flexibility as a standard plastic grocery bag.

Innovation for Good

This Biodegradable Plastic Will Actually Break Down in Your Compost

Water and heat activate plastic-munching enzymes that reduce the material to harmless chemical building blocks

Blue pieces of microplastic viewed under a microscope alongside dust, minerals and charcoal collected from a park in Idaho.

New Research

Airborne Microplastics 'Now Spiral Around the Globe'

Researchers find the tiny synthetic particles can stay aloft for nearly a week and travel large distances in the wind

Twenty-eight incidents where wildlife was harmed by PPE were recorded and the first documented case included an American Robin found wrapped up in a mask in Canada, in April 2020.

Discarded Covid-19 Masks and Plastic Gloves Are Killing Wildlife

Biologists are finding single-use items are entrapping and entangling animals all over the globe

Researchers estimate this seagrass found in the Mediterranean could trap about 867 million plastic pieces per year in coastal areas.

New Research

This Seagrass Traps Marine Plastic

Researchers find the Mediterranean species of seagrass collects plastics in fibrous balls that form from its fallen leaves

The Schmidt Ocean Institute’s submersible SuBastian, which was responsible for several discoveries in 2020, is retrieved from the water.

The Top Ten Ocean Stories of 2020

From the discovery of a giant coral reef pinnacle to a shocking estimate of plastics on the seafloor, these were the biggest marine moments of the year

The highest concentration of microplastics—119 particles per quart of water—were found around Everest Base Camp, where climbers spend time resting, regrouping and acclimatizing to the high elevation.

Even Mount Everest, the World's Tallest Peak, Can't Escape Microplastics

At 27,690 feet in elevation, the mountain is the highest point above sea level where microplastics have been detected

Litter, much of it plastic, dots a beach in Santa Monica, CA, the morning after a beach cleanup.

New Research

The U.S. Is the World's Number One Source of Plastic Waste

In 2016, the average American produced 286 pounds of plastic waste, the highest rate per capita of any country on Earth

Plastics can take hundreds of years to naturally degrade in the environment, something this new combination of enzymes can accomplish in a matter of days.

New Research

Engineered 'Super Enzyme' Breaks Down Plastic

The new enzyme could allow for infinite recycling of common PET plastic used in water bottles and clothing

Prototype biodegradable flip-flops made using algae.

New Research

Researchers Use Algae to Make Biodegradable Flip-Flops

The shoes break down in about 18 weeks under the right conditions

Researchers are concerned about what the presence of microplastics in protected landscapes will mean for local ecosystems.

New Research

The Forecast in National Parks Is Cloudy With a Chance of Plastic Rain

New research finds America’s western national parks and wilderness areas receive more than 1,000 tons of plastic rain every year

Researchers estimate that sea spray could release up to 136,000 tons of microplastic particles into the air per year.

The Salty Sea Breeze Contains Microplastics, New Study Suggests

Researchers recorded the tiny particles in ocean air off the coast of France

Researchers have discovered an unexpected way that larger bits of plastic are transformed into microplastics in the sea: lobsters. (The study involved Norway lobsters, pictured here.)

Norway Lobsters Crush Ocean Plastic Into Even Smaller Pieces—and That's Bad

The crustaceans' guts pulverize plastics into tiny bits that can be consumed by even smaller creatures at the base of the ocean food chain

Durable, flexible polyurethane is commonly found in sports shoes and other products, and is tough to get rid of.

Scientists Discover Plastic-Munching Microbe in Waste Site

The bacterial strain can break down some of the toxic components of polyurethane plastic

New Yorkers use an estimated 23 billion plastic bags every year.

New York Says Goodbye to Plastic Bags

A statewide ban prohibiting the distribution of single-use plastic bags went into effect on Sunday

Graphic illustrating the MAVEN spacecraft encountering plasma layers at Mars.

Ten Trends That Will Shape Science in the Decade Ahead

Medicine gets trippy, solar takes over, and humanity—finally, maybe—goes back to the moon

Employees are contributing to the initiative by supplying reusable cups, plates and utensils for meetings, as well as bringing used plastic packaging materials from home.

Art Meets Science

A Hawaii Museum Has Eliminated the Sale of All Single-Use Plastics

The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu hopes to set a positive example in the fight for a more sustainable future

Minoan single-use cup alongside a paper cup from Air India

Cool Finds

For Easy Clean-Up After Parties, Minoans Used Disposable Cups

A 3,500-year-old single-use vessel is part of a new display at the British Museum that explores our long-standing relationship with trash