In 1992, a shipping container filled with 28,000 "rubber" duckies was lost after it fell into the sea somewhere between Hong Kong and the United States.  Even today, those plastic bath toys still wash ashore from time to time, even in totally different oceans as far away as the eastern seaboard of the United States, as well as the coasts of Britain and Ireland.  That flotilla of escaped plastic ducks joins millions of Lego pieces, sneakers, plastic crates and a plethora of other items lost at sea that -- surprisingly -- are teaching us about ocean currents and about the astonishing indestructibility of plastics in marine environments.
 Plastic debris is ubiquitous - it is found from the Arctic to Antarctica.  It clogs street drains in our cities; it litters campgrounds and national parks, and is even piling up on Mount Everest.  But thanks runoff, and to our fondness for directly dumping our trash into the nearest river or lake, plastic is growing increasingly common in the world's oceans.  Mountains of plastic trash have been found everywhere in the world's oceans, from one of the remotest specks of dirt on the planet, Henderson Island, a tiny uninhabited coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, to the deepest spot on Earth, the Mariana Trench, which plummets to a depth of 10,994 meters below sea level.  As that flotilla of escaped rubber duckies demonstrated, floating plastic even forms massive "garbage patches" swirling slowly in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of kilometers away from land.  But more than floating around in the water column, plastic trash is found in the guts of more than 90% of the world's seabirds, in the stomachs of more than half of the world's sea turtles, and it's even choking the life out of whales.  At the rate at which plastic is accumulating in the oceans of the planet, it's predicted that, by 2050, the mass of plastic in the world's oceans will exceed the mass of all the fish that live there.
 In the last few months, the effects upon wildlife that come from eating, or becoming entangled in, plastic debris have been reported more widely and more often than ever before, leading to public outcry and protests.  These tragic events should come as no surprise: there are an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic floating through the world's seas where it threatens 700 marine species with its presence.  Further, there is growing evidence that plastics play a role in rising rates of species extinctions.
 But entangling or lodging inside the digestive tract of an unfortunate victim, like whales and other marine mammals, birds, sea turtles and fishes, is not the end of the line, because plastics do not biodegrade, nor are they digestible.  Instead, large plastic pieces break into smaller fragments that are easy for even more animal species to consume.  Eating plastics results in malnutrition, intestinal blockage, or slow poisoning from chemicals leached from or attached to plastics.
 It's almost as if seabirds and other marine animals are intentionally seeking out plastics and consuming them -- but why? Recent research proposed that plastics in the oceans become covered with marine algae that release a natural sulfur compound, dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), when they die or become damaged.  This chemical is detected by hungry seabirds and other marine creatures, which are attracted to it and then they mistake plastics for lunch.
 Not even microscopic animals, collectively known as zooplankton, are safe from ingesting plastics, the only difference being that they consume microscopic plastic bits.  Similar to plastics consumption by larger animals, microplastics can result in reduced feeding, energetic deficiencies, injury, or death of zooplankton -- a very unfortunate thing since zooplankton are part of the essential foundation upon which the entire marine food web rests.
 It is tempting to demonize plastics, but realistically, plastics themselves are not inherently evil.  Plastics make life better, and easier, for us.  For example, one of the first things you use every morning -- your toothbrush -- is made of plastics.  Every time you visit your supermarket, you meet many sorts of plastics that serve as packaging to prolong the freshness of foods, and in a hospital, a variety of plastics help prolong your life.
 In fact, it is the immortality of plastics has inspired some enterprising researchers to begin thinking "outside of the box" to develop innovations to re-purpose already existing plastics, perhaps to even reduce the effects of climate change.  The key lies in the chemical structure of plastics.  Plastics are made of long chains -- polymers -- of carbon molecules, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4).  Methane gas is a molecule in cow farts that is eighty times more powerful than CO2 for causing climate change.  CO2 gas is produced by burning natural things, like gas, oil, wood or plastics, and for this reason, we produce far more CO2 than methane, so the cumulative effects of all that CO2 are much greater than those of methane gas.  Basically, if we could permanently remove a portion of CO2 or CH4 gases from the atmosphere by sequestering them into plastics, we would effectively be preventing these gases from causing further damage to the climate.
(The article has been picked from www.forbes.com/sites/grrlscientist/2018/04/23/five-ways-that-plastics-harm-the-environment-and-one-way-they-may-help/ and has been edited for use.)