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The mystery of missing marine plastic

27 May 2020 James Dacey

In the May 2020 issue of Physics World, science journalist Marric Stevens wrote about the problem of the missing plastic in the world’s oceans. Although we are starting to see large amounts of plastic in the oceans, the quantity is far smaller than we expect to see – based on the quantities of plastic being released into the oceans every year. In the latest episode of the Physics World Stories podcast, Andrew Glester digs deeper into the mystery to find out where the plastic might be ending up.

To learn about the threat of plastic to marine wildlife, Glester meets Lucy Quinn, a seabird ecologist with the British Antarctic Survey. Quinn was the researcher who captured public awareness of the plastics issue when she appeared in the BBC’s Blue Planet 2 showing the horrific impacts of ingested plastic on an Albatross colony in Bird Island, South Georgia.

Also in the podcast, physical oceanographer Erik van Sebille outlines the extent of the missing plastics issue. He explains how his research on ocean flow at Utrecht University in the Netherlands can help to better understand where the plastics are ending up. While Alethea Mountford from Newcastle University, UK, describes how oceanographers combine physical measurements with modelling to get a handle on the issue.

To find out more, read ‘The search for the missing plastic‘, a feature originally published in the May 2020 issue of Physics World – a special edition on plastic waste.

This podcast is sponsored by Teledyne Hastings Instruments.

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