A great group of 4th-6th graders traveled from Grand Rapids to visit the lab and develop their own research project. The kids represented a FIRST LEGO League team and as part of their competition are investigating the problem of microplastic polution in the Great Lakes.
After a great discussion of the issue, we examined an Aveeno face wash they brought from home that we identified as having “polyethylene” in the ingredients list. We washed away the soap and collected tiny particles we could barely see on our 200 um sieve (you can try this at home with a black tshirt). We scraped all that was leftover into a Petri dish and observed our sample under the microscope.We performed the same filtering process with the very first Great Lakes sample that our lab collected last summer. The sample was taken by pulling a Manta net for 20 minutes over the surface of Lake St Clair (learn more about sampling on the boat, the Nancy K). Though the sample appeared to consist mostly of leaves and sticks when we were filtering, we observed many large colored fragments. But by far the most abundant type of plastic were small colored fibers and threads. What might these be coming from?