Some Plastic Pollution Isn’t Plastic After All

In the age of plastic pollution, it is nice to know that some organisms are more resistant to pollution than scientists expected them to be.

Researchers found lower than expected levels of microplastic pollution in shellfish collected off the coast of British Columbia. Photo by Don Paulson/Alamy Stock Photo The sea is awash with microscopic bits of plastic. But a hint of good news is emerging from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where a recent investigation found that the amount of plastic contamination in shellfish there is just a tiny percentage of what the scientists expected. For the study, the British Columbia Shellfish Growers’ Association worked with researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to investigate how much plastic is inside the province’s clams and oysters. The researchers studied roughly 20 sites—a mix of aquaculture and wild—from around Vancouver Island, and one site from mainland British Columbia. (The research was partly funded by the shellfish industry.) When the researchers first pried open the oysters and clams and examined them under the microscope, they found that the shellfish were rife with tiny bits of foreign material. But under further investigation, the team found that only about a quarter of this detritus was actually plastic. Much of the rest was natural fibers such as cotton. “That was shocking to me,” says Christopher Pearce, an aquaculture expert with […]

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