In this episode of the Plastisphere, Anja goes on a lab tour with Alexandra ter Halle from Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse. The chemist and her team were the first to detect nanoplastic in the open ocean – plastic so small that it is comparable in size to a virus. What do we know about these very tiny pieces, and how do researchers try to detect and understand them?
Music: Dorian Roy and Blue Dot Sessions sessions.blue/
Cover art: Maren von Stockhausen
Thanks to: Ines Blaesius, Luisa Beck, Tim Howard, Melanie Bergmann, Deborah Blum and the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT
Welcome to the Plastisphere. The podcast on plastic, people and the planet. My name is Anja Krieger. In this podcast, I invite you to accompany me while I explore our complex entanglement with plastics, and how we can untangle it. I will bring you the insights of scientists, activists and innovators from the global community working to understand and solve issues of plastic pollution.
One worry for many people is microplastic. Scientists have found it in the stomachs of all kinds of animals, even the ones we eat, like mussels. Salt can also contain plastic, when it’s harvested near the sea. Some of these tiny pieces come from bigger chunks of trash that float in the oceans, which break up over time. Others enter the environment from our bathrooms, when people flush shower gels, peelings or make-up containing plastics down the drain. And washing machines can leak thousands of microfibers from synthetic pants and shirts into the water. Even cars leave microplastic behind, when they race down the streets, and their tires produce a fine dust.
Linda Amaral Zettler and her colleagues found something quite amazing: The plastic in the ocean is teeming with life – a microbial world she calls the „plastisphere”. Some of these microbes even seem to be munching plastic – or are they? Meet her in episode 1
Plastic in the ocean is a bit like an exoplanet, Erik Zettler of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research says. It’s a new environment, and we know very little about it. What kind of ecosystems will develop on these new tiny plastic planets, and how will that change things? From episode 1 of the podcast.
In this introduction to the Plastisphere podcast, Anja takes the listener on a journey back in time, from a remote plastic beach on the Big Island of Hawaii to the factory of a big chemical producer making bioplastics. She shares what she has learned about the issue of plastic pollution in the past years.
Terry Shibuya: Saving the environment is so important, because the ocean is like a refrigerator, because the ocean has the fishes, the ocean has the Opihe, the ocean has the crabs, the lobsters. So, in our time when we went fishing we would just take what we need. We wouldn’t be greedy and just, you know, would catch the first fish and throw it back. And that would be like a thank you. And then we’d take so much fishes, take it home clean it, eat it, you know, we would just take what we need.
Music by Dorian Roy
Anja Krieger: Welcome to the Plastisphere, the podcast, on plastic people and the planet. My name is Anja Krieger. I’m a freelance radio journalist and ten years ag o I sat in front of my computer in my hometown Berlin, and I read this article. It described a gigantic swirling area of floating trash all the way out in the Pacific. I couldn’t imagine. And I couldn’t let go of this idea that the remnants of our civilization end up all the way in the middle of nowhere. And so I set out on a quest to understand plastic pollution and what we can do about it. Continue reading “Ep.1 Transcript: Welcome to the Plastisphere”