To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

Do Now

Answer one of the following questions: How much plastic do you use on a daily basis? What are the most common plastic items that you recycle or throw away? How could you reduce the amount of plastic that you use?


Saturday, September 17, 2011 is California’s Coastal Cleanup Day — an annual beach and waterway cleanup that takes place around California and the world. It is the state’s largest volunteer event. In 2010, over 82,500 volunteers removed more than 1.2 million pounds of trash and recyclables from California beaches, lakes, and waterways. Much of the debris found on our beaches and in our waterways is plastic and actually starts as street litter or garbage. Besides being unsightly, garbage affects ecosystems. Plastic, instead of biodegrading, photodegrades—it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces. These pieces of nondigestible debris are often mistaken for food by marine animals. Derelict fishing nets and lines, another type of marine debris, can entangle and harm birds, seals and other animals. Households and communities can prevent trash from getting into waterways and becoming marine debris by making sure that garbage is disposed of properly. Recycling bottles, cans and other products reduces the amount of trash headed for landfills. Reusable shopping bags and containers also decrease the amount of trash produced from single-use items.


KQED QUEST segment Plastic in the Pacific
Imagine every person on earth had 100 pounds of plastic. That’s how much new plastic was estimated to be manufactured in 2010. Sadly, much of that will end up in the ocean within a massive area dubbed the Pacific Garbage Patch. Can anything be done to clean it up?

To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with @KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

More Resources for Follow-up Lessons

KQED QUEST segment Future History: Plastic Water Bottles
What does our use of bottled water say about us? Take a look from the perspective of an anthropologist from the distant future.

KQED QUEST segment Sea of Plastic
When you order your double latte to-go at the corner coffee shop, the empty cup and lid may end up in a giant pit of plastic ocean litter off the coast of California. Some cities and counties are so concerned about the garbage in the so-called North Pacific Gyre that they’ve passed ordinances to try to limit the amount of plastic in our lives.

Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures Trash on the Spin Cycle
Jean-Michel Cousteau and his team sail into the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” while shooting “Voyage to Kure.”Discover what causes huge quantities of garbage to end up on the most remote islands in the world and how this garbage affects wildlife.

Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures Kure Waste Chase
Remote Kure Atoll is awash with trash – lighters, bottles and fishing gear – that threatens its amazing wildlife. But you have the chance to help restore the island’s natural beauty. Chase the waste away from Kure’s beaches, waves and ocean depths to protect the dolphins, seals, seabirds and more in this amazing interactive web game.


Andrea Aust

Andrea is the Senior Manager of Science Education for KQED. In addition to QUEST, she's had the pleasure of coordinating education and outreach for the public television series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures and the four-hour documentary Saving the Bay. Andrea graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Environmental Science and earned her M.A. in Teaching and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco. Prior to KQED, she taught, developed, and managed marine science and environmental education programs in Aspen, Catalina Island and the Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter at @KQEDaust.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor