Questions for ‘Help for a world drowning in microplastics’

microplastics on finger

These bits are just some of the many tiny fibers, beads and shards of plastic that find their way into the environment — and its inhabitants, including us. Scientists think there must be a way to keep such pollutants from posing widespread risks.

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To accompany feature “Help for a world drowning in microplastics


Before Reading:

1.  What are microplastics?

2.  Why should we be concerned about them in our environment?

During Reading:

1.  How much of our plastic waste is being recycled today?

2.  Where does the rest of our plastic waste end up?

3.  What amount of microplastics do Americans consume (eat and drink) each year?

4.  Name two or more ways plastic enters the environment other than through discarded waste.

5. In what ways might we end up consuming plastics?

6. How does the body get rid of ingested plastics? Why might ingesting plastic be dangerous?

7. List three ways we can avoid buying plastic items.

8. Biodegradable goods are replacing some conventional plastic items, but they are not perfect. What are two problems with such materials?

9. How is the water from our laundry adding to the problem? What invention are scientists testing to address this issue?

10. What device are scientists testing to break down microplastics already polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans? How does it work?

After Reading:

1.  What are five things can you do as an individual to help reduce plastic waste? Rank them in terms of their likely cost to you or your family. Rank them in terms of how easy they would be to accomplish. Rank them in how big a difference they might make to the environment. Which of the five ranked best in ease, importance and low cost? What does this tell you about their trade-offs?

2.  Brainstorm three types of group efforts or projects that might be effective to remove plastics from the environment.