By: Matt Rutherford On: June 2, 2014 In: Education, STEM Education Comments: 0

The sixth grade STEM science class has been researching plastic. They have found some shocking things that are happening despite the fact that plastic materials are used very often in our daily lives.

When you take showers in the morning, did you realize that your shower curtain is made of plastic? Or the soap bottles that contain the liquid soaps and shampoos are made of plastic? When you eat breakfast, your plates and utensils might be made of plastic! Think of all the plastics used in the food container and storage industry.


There are so many uses that we don’t even think about it! We often take plastics for granted. When you realize how much plastic is actually used, do you think about what it’s made of? The main component in plastic is oil, which is made of long molecules called organic polymers. Gallons and gallons of oil are used to make things from video game controllers to medical devices, furniture, to boats and toys. It has so many uses!

Plastics have many beneficial properties, like the fact that it’s not fragile, flexible, and melts at a very low temperature. (About 200 degrees Fahrenheit) It is very durable and can be molded into all sorts of things. Thick or thin, plastic materials are very much a part of American life. It’s cheap, lightweight Plastic is a very important factor in life, but that’s not the problem. The problem is the way we DISPOSE of the plastics. There are acres and acres of plastic polluting just the United States alone! Think about globally, all the plastic just sitting there because plastic decomposes quickly or easily! It can take anywhere from 20 to hundreds of years for plastics to break down into basic components that can be recycled in nature.

Think about this for a moment, you can take old, used plastic, throw it in a recycling bin, and it’s made into a completely different thing. By throwing the plastic into a bin very similar to a trash bin, you’ve just helped the planet. Many people have taken on the action of recycling plastics on land, but then how does this plastic trash end up in our oceans? Or is this a cumulative effect over time from many years of people around the world not caring? It’s not just the USA, either. After all, the oceans connect our countries and populations.

In the Pacific Gyre the amount of plastic debris is shocking. Collecting data to verify the problem is important and trying to find a way to dispose of this non-decomposable material is important because of the negative impacts on our ocean environments. We know the plastic is there, but how can we get rid of it? Is there a physical way? Is there a chemical way? Do we need to invent new technologies? How can we trap the plastic and get rid of it? How can technology assist?