09 • 19 • 2012

Plastic Pollution Hangout

KQED SCIENCE recently hosted a Google Hangout round table discussion about the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. Much of the 300 million tons of plastic is produced globally each year is carelessly discarded and goes from landfills or streets to streams, eventually floating out to sea. The floating garbage is then caught up in the currents, coalescing into swirling marine vortexes called “gyres”.  Here's a recording of the Hangout in case you missed it…

In 1997, Sea Captain Charles Moore discovered an area in the mid-Pacific Ocean the size of Texas that swirled with trash that was mostly plastic. The area was dubbed “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and since its discovery, several plastic garbage patches have been found in other oceans around the world.

Plastic debris takes a tragic toll on marine life. Birds and fish ingest it when they mistake bright-colored pieces for food. Sea turtles and migrating birds can become entangled in abandoned plastic fishing nets known as “ghost nets.” Plastics also can leach harmful chemicals into the water which can be carried along the food chain back to humans.

Moderator: KQED QUEST TV series producer Amy Miller

Captain Charles Moore, Algalita captain who “discovered” the plastic garbage patch and founder of the Algalita Marine Research Institute

David Lewis, Executive Director, Save the Bay

Bill Hickman, Surfrider Foundation's Rise Above Plastics Campaign Coordinator

Molly Morse, Civil and Environmental Engineer and CEO of Mango Materials, a start-up based in Albany, CA that produces biodegradable plastics from waste biogas (methane) that are economically competitive with conventional oil-based plastics

Sarah Newkirk, Director of Coastal Conservation, +The Nature Conservancy
Sarah Newkirk’s work focuses on sea level rise, preserving and restoring natural shorelines, wetlands management and restoration, and reforming local and state governance to further ecosystem-based management.

Beth Terry author of the popular blog and the new book Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too (Skyhorse). Since 2007, she has been actively working to live without acquiring any new plastic products or packaging and invites others to join her Plastic Challenge.

Official website: