Worldwide, marine health, but also human health. On the

Worldwide, “8 million metric tons of
plastic enter the oceans per year.” according to the University of Georgia. The
contamination of marine ecosystems due to plastic waste is a growing problem
that affects living organisms across the globe, but is an exceptionally large
issue on the coasts of China, Australia, and the United States. Plastics may
make life easier for humans, and even feed a few organisms, but they have
terrible effects on the environment and its organisms. Some negative impacts
include health risks from ingesting toxins, as well as the starvation of marine
life.  

Plastic pollution constantly harms the
environment, adding chemicals into oceans and causing health effects in
organisms. When individuals or factories dump plastic waste into the
environment, the products flow into the ocean through runoff. Over time,
abiotic factors such as salinity and light deteriorate these plastics into
“microplastics” that remain in the ocean. Microplastics are “small plastic
pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and
aquatic life”, according to the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration. These then collect toxins and remain in
the water column where filter feeders such as coral adventitiously ingest them. As organisms higher in the
food chain consume filter-feeders, chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA) are
transferred. Eventually, this plastic builds up in large organisms and makes
its way onto the plates of people worldwide, affecting not only marine health,
but also human health. On the other hand, recent studies have found that
certain organisms such as Ideonella sakaiensis and waxworms can consume
plastic and break it down into amino acids and carbon dioxide.

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Plastic has been around since the early
1900s and has been getting a lot of attention recently due to its harmful impacts
when degraded. Mehr Kumar, April Xie, and Jackie
Curley mention that microplastics absorb toxins from water, and are then
eaten by small organisms and passed through the food chain. In another article
by Oliver Milman, a statement is made saying that coral reefs are dying rapidly
due to starvation because they can not get plastic waste out of their stomachs,
restraining them from feeding on their natural prey.  

Microplastics can harm marine organisms
due to the toxins that they contain and carry. In an article titled
“Determining the Potential Secondary Impacts Associated with Microorganismal
Biodegradation of Microplastics in the Marine Environment”, authors Mehr Kumar, April Xie, and Jackie Curley show
support for this idea that microplastics carry chemicals that have negative
effects on those that consume them. Mehr Kumar and April Xie attended Loudoun
Academy of Science in Virginia as twelfth graders when they worked on this
article. Their focus at the school was the environmental problem of persistent
organic pollutants. Jackie Curley has a master’s degree in science education
and teaches at the Academy of Science.

The source contains two main sections: the
dangers of microplastics along with a study researching the byproducts left in
the environment after plastic degradation. Like many claims, it mentions that
when “toxins accumulate on microplastics, it
becomes much more likely that these toxins will be introduced into the food
chain through the ingestion of these smaller plastic fragments by marine
organisms”, affecting the organism directly ingesting this and their
consumers. The next main section, an experiment, contains an explanation of the
experiment’s importance with graphs to show results. After demonstrating the
effects of FTIR (Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) solvents on plastic,
the authors give an explanation of the results, saying that “no biodegradation
intermediates were detected”. Essentially, this ends the article on a hopeful
note to inform people that the biodegradation of plastics using FTIR is
seemingly safe for the environment.

This article was likely influential to
many people, as it was posted on a science-focused website and printed in a
journal. The source was relatively short given the amount of information
discussed and more elaboration may have been useful when it came to the main
points. In addition, it did mention a few undefined terms that may be hard for
the average reader to comprehend. However, the article gave both a problem and
solution, which lowers the bias, as both views are portrayed. Also, the data
given was plentiful and detailed, giving critical information to the article’s
positive ending. In this case, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses, as
statistics are a critical portion of a paper, while elaboration is not always
necessary.

The reputation of this source is fairly
neutral, considering two of the authors are high school students and are likely
not well known for their environmentally focused papers. However, one author is
a teacher at a science academy, which redeems the lack of experience from the
other authors. In addition, it is shown that the website’s vested interest is
specifically on science, so the fact that they published this article gives the
authors a reputation within the science community. These things impact the
credibility of the article, with ages and expertise decreasing the credibility,
but their platform increasing it. The authors were somewhat biased, as they
used persuasive words such as “death” and “combating” to address plastic
pollution, which could affect the credibility, but since it was not extreme and
data and facts were used with citations and little opinion, the bias does not
cause much of a problem. The credibility throughout this text positively
impacts the source’s overall arguments and ensures that the information being
given is reliable and factual.

While microplastics are very negatively
viewed due to toxins, they can be food for organisms such as ideonella
sakaiensis. In an article titled “This microbe makes a meal of plastic”,
author Sarah Schwartz mentions that a bacteria that was recently discovered has
the ability to break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of plastic.
Sarah Schwartz is a graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology who now
works as a journalist for Science News. Schwartz also won the Obermayer Prize
awarded by MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing in 2015. The article mentions three ideas: what PET is, what Ideonella
sakaiensis is, and how the bacteria can digest plastic material. In the
beginning, it mentions that polyethylene terephthalate is “a stiff, strong
plastic fiber that’s the main ingredient in polyester clothing and disposable
bottles.” The author then continues to say that for the plastic-eating bacteria
Ideonella sakaiensis, “PET is dinner.” After this explanation, the
author explains that this bacteria is found in “soil, wastewater and recycling
plant sludge”, all of which contain some PET. The end of the article tells that Ideonella sakaiensis “latches
onto PET particles and releases a protein that decomposes the plastic into
molecules” that they can digest. This ends the article in a positive way,
showing that the problem of plastic pollution can be aided with the help of
this bacteria.

The influence from this article was
probably very strong, as the author works for a large science website that many
people go to for information. The source was very short, but effective, and got
straight to the point. Additionally, it was neutral and relatively unbiased
throughout all points; facts were given rather than opinions. The only negative
thing that stood out was the fact that an opposing side was not shown, which
could present bias; however, the main points were strong and the positives
easily exceeded the negatives.

The reputation of this source is likely
positive, not only because of the information that was relevant and stayed on
topic, but also because of the language that was simple enough for the average
reader to understand, but complicated enough to appear educated. The author
graduated from a prestigious college, and now works for a large science
website, which increases the credibility of the article. Also, the lack of bias
added to the quality and increased the credibility. The qualifications of the
author and the facts given throughout this text strengthen the arguments
because they are signs of reliable evidence.

The points in this article differed
greatly from those of the previous article. For example, the first article
talked about how bad plastic pollution is and how it negatively affects some
organisms. On the other hand, this article showed how plastic positively
affects some organisms. However, both articles mentioned that their “solution”
could make the degradation of plastic safer.

Similarly to the first perspective but in
opposition to the second, the third article is about how microplastics can lead
to starvation in marine life. The article “Corals face ‘slow starvation’ from
ingesting plastics pollution” is written by Oliver Milman. Milman is a
journalist and environmental reporter for The Guardian in New York City. This
article has two main sections: the effects of microplastics on coral reefs, and
multiple studies that support those claims. Throughout the article, statistics
like the fact that “coastal populations dumped 8m tonnes of plastic rubbish
into the oceans in 2010” are provided. Along with these facts are studies that
the author references. One study showed that “corals ingested plastics about
the same rate of their standard food, such as zooplankton.” The author
continues to say that corals can not rid the plastic from their stomachs, which
prevents them from being able to eat their natural prey, essentially leading to
a slow starvation. These experimental results and explanations put the
extremity of this issue into perspective.

This article is influential, seeing as the
author writes about the environment for a well-known magazine. The source was a
tolerable length and had enough proof to make it informational, but still easy
to read. There was also a surplus of useful information, complete with
statistics, quotes, and studies. It was somewhat biased; however, and did not
discuss ways to fix the issue at hand. Aside from the bias, the article was
filled with information and is a strong reference.

The reputation of this source is good due
to the content, author and evidence provided. The author is well-known and the
content was simple, but still filled with educational material. The bias
slightly decreased the quality and credibility, but was not extreme. Despite
the opinions shared, the article was strong and organized, which aided the
arguments.

The points in this article did not align
with those in the previous one, but were similar to those in the primary
article. While the second source mentioned how microplastics can be good, this
article mentioned the starvation of coral to show how microplastics are harmful,
similarly to the first source. The first and third articles were related in the
point of view on microplastics, but still discussed different aspects of the
topic.

The main weakness throughout these three
articles was the slight bias, which is nearly inevitable when it comes to a
topic that is so controversial. While all three articles were not too biased,
it did seem that each one had at least one aspect that was opinionated. On the
other hand, the strengths of all three articles was the length. Although each
source differed greatly in length, each one had a good amount of information
and conveyed their ideas effectively.

After researching the effects of
microplastics on the marine ecosystem and being convinced by the first and
third articles, I believe that microplastics have terrible effects on both the
environment and the organisms living within it and do more harm than good. The
“good”, or plastic-eating bacteria, of microplastics is a positive thing, but
should not be necessary in the first place. Microplastics are responsible for
the deaths of coral reefs and many other marine organisms that all play a role
in their environment. Despite the fact that a select few organisms can live off
microplastics, it should not be encouraged.

More investigation on the topic of
microplastics should be done and I will likely continue researching this topic
for myself. There are enough resources currently and the issue is studied in
depth, but if new technology were to come out, it could be useful. The studies
that have been done are extensive and informative, but more research could
potentially find more ways to help the planet.