Science on the Hill: Solving the Plastic Waste Problem

“Science on the Hill” is an event series that connects experts in the scientific community directly with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

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May 16, 2019

Scientific American and Nature Research—as part of Springer Nature—host the series with sponsorship by Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09). This year’s event, “Science on the Hill: Solving the Plastic Waste Problem,” brings together three experts (Dr. Morton A. Barlaz, Rob Kaplan, and Dr. Kara Lavender Law) for a panel discussion moderated by Scientific American Editor in Chief Mariette DiChristina. They will address how plastic waste is a threat to the environment and how providing solutions can be a boost for businesses and lead to job growth.

We have curated the content below from across Springer Nature’s publications on this topic:

How Plastic Became a Plague: This In Depth Report, curated by Scientific American, is a collection of articles that discuss how plastic pollution permeates the environment and poses a threat to human and planetary health:

The rise in ocean plastics evidenced from a 60-year time series: This study presents a new time series, from 1957 to 2016 and covering over 6.5 million nautical miles, and is the first to confirm a significant increase in open ocean plastics in recent decades.

Arctic sea ice is an important temporal sink and means of transport for microplastic: Increasing exploitation of Arctic resources will likely lead to a higher microplastic load in the Arctic sea ice and will enhance the release of microplastic in the areas of strong seasonal sea ice melt and the outflow gateways.

Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic: Ocean plastic can persist in sea surface waters, eventually accumulating in remote areas of the world’s oceans.

Atmospheric transport and deposition of microplastics in a remote mountain catchment: This study suggests that microplastics can reach and affect remote, sparsely inhabited areas through atmospheric transport.

River plastic emissions to the world’s oceans: The findings of this study provide baseline data for ocean plastic mass balance exercises, and assist in prioritizing future plastic debris monitoring and mitigation strategies.

Plastic waste interferes with chemical communication in aquatic ecosystems: Plastic waste can have indirect effects on organisms, which may manifest at the community level.

Closing the plastics loop: Civil society, businesses, governments and academia should unite forces to transform the plastic economy.

Microplastic contamination of river beds significantly reduced by catchment-wide flooding: We conclude that microplastic contamination is efficiently flushed from river catchments during flooding.

Marine litter plastics and microplastics and their toxic chemicals components: the need for urgent preventive measures: Persistent plastics, with an estimated lifetime for degradation of hundreds of years in marine conditions, can break up into micro- and nanoplastics over shorter timescales, thus facilitating their uptake by marine biota throughout the food chain.

Effects of polystyrene nanoparticles on the microbiota and functional diversity of enzymes in soil: This study demonstrates the potential antimicrobial activity of polystyrene nanoparticles in soil, and this may serve as an important resource in environmental risk assessment of polystyrene nanoparticles in the soil environment.  

The Beachcomber’s Guide to Marine Debris: This book addresses a global topic in marine pollution and a key issue in marine tourism. We have provided free access to the first chapter:

The vertical distribution and biological transport of marine microplastics across the epipelagic and mesopelagic water column: One of the largest and currently underappreciated reservoirs of marine microplastics may exist within the pelagic zone, the deep-sea water column of the open ocean, according to a study in Monterey Bay, California, published in Scientific Reports:

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Erica Wong

Communications Manager, External and Internal, Springer Nature

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