The Hills Are Alive, with the Signs of Plastic


A major new study found microplastics in soil across Switzerland. Scientists say more research is needed as other countries may be worse affected. (The Guardian)

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Researchers found 90% of soils in Swiss nature preserves to be contaminated with microplastics.
Photograph by Dan Westergren, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • A new survey reported finding microplastics in 90% of the soils sampled in Switzerland. What are microplastics?
    • Microplastics are just what they sound like—tiny plastic particles no more than 5 millimeters in diameter.


  • Where was the new survey conducted?
    • Researchers sampled soils from 29 flood plains in nature reserves across Switzerland. Many of these reserves are only accessible by foot.


  • How do researchers think so much plastic got into such remote areas?
    • wind. Debris from across the country or continent was likely blown to Switzerland’s windswept flood plains. “We think it has to be transported by the wind. There is no other explanation – there are no settlements there [in the mountains], no tourism.”



  • How might microplastics in the soil impact the ecosystem?



The Guardian: The hills are alive with the signs of plastic: even Swiss mountains are polluted

Nat Geo: What is pollution?

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