How to Kill a Whale?

As a researcher I generate lab plastic waste everyday. However, I have never seriously thought of reducing it until one day my colleague kindly reminded me that I produced too much plastic waste. That’s true, I could have consumed one pair of gloves rather than three pairs a day. I was ashamed of myself. On the very same day, I came across a news which made me sad and guilty.

The News

A small pilot whale has died in southern Thailand after swallowing more than 80 plastic bags. These plastic bags weigh up to 8 kg in the whale’s stomach.
– Source: The Guardian

This is not a single case. As a matter of fact, one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.

I feel so sorry for the animals that did not do anything wrong, but have to bear the brunt of human actions.

Dead Whale Sculpture
Dead whale sculpture (source:

The Fact

Based on an article published in Nature (Urbina, et al., 2015), I roughly estimate that an bench scientist in biology generates about 119 kg plastic waste per year. If all those plastic waste was ended up in the oceans, 14 whales might be killed by each of us every year. The number would be much higher if I add the amount of plastic waste we produce in our daily life.

Below are some important facts I found online:

  • Plastic constitutes approximately 90% of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
  • 44% of all seabird species, 22% of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.
    – source: EcoWatch

The Conslusion

There are many simple and effective ways to reduce plastic waste. All of us shoud raise awareness of the plastic pollution, and in particular as responsible researchers we should reduce, reuse and recycle lab waste as well (Bistulfi, 2013).


[1] G. Bistulfi. “Reduce, reuse and recycle lab waste”. In: Nature 502.7470 (Oct. 2013), pp. 170-170. DOI: 10.1038/502170a. <URL:>.

[2] M. A. Urbina et al. “Labs should cut plastic waste too”. In: Nature 528.7583 (Dec. 2015), pp. 479-479. DOI: 10.1038/528479c. <URL:>.

Yonghui Dong

My research interests include mass spectrometry imaging, metabolomics, chemometrics and chemical ecology.

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