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"Nearly 90% of floating marine litter is composed of plastic, which when ingested by sea

creatures often slowly strangles or starves them." (Opposing Viewpoints, page 25) Sea animals
often mistake plastic for fish eggs. Sea birds mistake things like plastic lighters and bottle caps
for food and eat them. They then die from starvation because their bodies can't digest the plastic.
A northern fulmar carcass was found with 59 plastic pieces in its body. The plastic weighed just
over half an ounce. The number of marine mammal deaths due to plastic ingestion and net
entanglement approaches 100,000 a year!
Plastic does not degrade and can last for hundreds of years. There is no organism that can
digest plastic in the world. "If you turned off the plastic switch somehow, you would still have
plastic washing ashore here for thirty or forty years." (Curt qtd. in Burns, 39). Plastic debris gets
washed up on beaches, even on deserted islands.
Plastic usually begins with petroleum, or oil, and then other chemicals are added
depending on the use of the plastic. Most plastics will not react chemically with other substances
such as alcohol, soap, water, acid, or gasoline. This makes it useful so you can store things in
plastic containers without the plastic dissolving. Though plastics do not react chemically with
many substances, they can soak up oily pollutants from the ocean. Then animals consume
pollutants with the plastic. In the ocean, chemicals seep out of the plastic due to the heat energy
from the sun. In this way, the plastics can spread pollution around the ocean.
There are two types of plastic called thermosets and thermoplastics. A thermoset
solidifies permanently when heated. They are used primarily in automobiles and construction
applications because they are very strong when hardened. They are also used for adhesives, inks,
and coatings. A thermoplastic softens when exposed to heat and returns to original condition at
room temperature. Thermoplastics are often used for milk jugs, floor coverings, credit cards, and

carpet fibers because they are easily molded. The plastic shopping bags used in this experiment
are composed of a thermoplastic called low-density polyethylene, or LDPE. LDPE plastic
fragments have been found in ocean debris worldwide.
It is harder than it seems to pick up the plastic litter. If you just scooped it up, marine life
may be harmed. Straining the water would trap the plankton, which is the base of the ocean food
chain. (Lytle) This experiment was done to see if static electricity was another way to get rid of
the plastic.
Static electricity is the imbalance of protons and electrons on one surface or static
electricity is caused by positive electrons and negative electrons attracting. In order to have a
constant flow of electricity caused by static electricity, you have to have electrons jumping from
one object to another. It is easier to build up a static charge in dry air as opposed to humid air
because in humid air, the electrons jump more quickly from one thing to another.
Conductors do not produce static electricity because they do not give up electrons.
Insulators (as in plastic, cloth, glass) can transfer electrons from one insulator to another, as long
as they are different insulators.
Discharge is when a conductor comes near an object with static electricity. When that
happens, the positive and negative charges spread out.
Ancient Greeks discovered static electricity over 2500 years ago. They discovered static
electricity by rubbing pieces of amber and finding that things such as feathers stuck to them. The
object of this experiment is to determine if static electricity can attract small pieces of plastic
from salt water, and possibly serve as a method for removing plastic debris from the ocean.