Environment: The Perils of Plastic Pollution

Cups, sandwich bags and other debris threaten marine life

Biologist Stewart Fefer and three colleagues from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had eagerly anticipated their assignment: a trip to Laysan, a 960-acre island about 1,000 miles northwest of Honolulu. They were to study some of the 14 million seabirds that nest there, and they looked forward to their stay on what they assumed would be an island paradise with pristine beaches. What they discovered came as a shock. The sands of Laysan were strewed with an unbelievable variety of plastic trash. While doing his bird-watching chores, Fefer cataloged thousands of pellets as well as toy soldiers, disposable lighters and...

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