The Discovery of Plastic Pollution

In the past few years, plastic pollution has been all over the media. But if you explore the history of science, it turns out that the problem really isn’t all that new: some scientists have been aware of plastic in the ocean for over half a century. So how was plastic pollution first discovered? And why didn’t we hear about it earlier? In this episode of Plastiphere, MPIWG alumna journalist and podcaster Anja Krieger speaks to scientists who called attention to the problem long before it was widely discussed. Scientists Ed Carpenter, Steve Rothstein, Elizabeth Venrick, Arne Holmström, Hans van Weenen, and Peter Ryan share their stories.

Anja Krieger was an MPIWG Journalist in Residence in 2019. She later joined Department I as a guest researcher and journalist, where she continued her research on the history of science of plastic pollution that contributed to this podcast episode.

Biography: Anja Krieger

Anja Krieger is the producer of Plastisphere, the podcast on plastic, people, and the planet, in which she explores plastic's impacts on nature and humanity alike, and the global quest to tackle plastic pollution. She is a member of the journalism collaborative RiffReporter, and in 2015 and 2016 was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she delved into environmental sciences and science writing. Her journalistic work has been published by the German national public Deutschlandradios, the Undark podcast, Ensia magazine, and supplements of Nature.


Plastisphere podcast and episode by Anja Krieger
Photo: Beach Find by Andrea Westmoreland from DeLand, United States / CC BY-SA / Go to image