sharon colman graham

The Life Cycle of a Plastic Bottle

We’ve all been told that we should recycle plastic bottles and containers. But what actually happens to the plastic if we just throw it away? Here are the life cycles of three different plastic bottles.

Bottle One, like hundreds of millions of tons of its plastic brethren, ends up in a landfill. This huge dump expands each day, as more trash moves in and continues to take up space. 

As plastics sit there being compressed, rainwater flows through the waste and absorbs the water soluble compounds it contains, and some of those are highly toxic. Together they create a harmful stew called “leachate”, which can move into groundwater, soil, and streams, poisoning ecosystems and harming wildlife. It can take Bottle One an agonizing 1,000 years to decompose.

Bottle Two floats on a trickle that reaches a stream, a stream that flows into a river, and a river that reaches the ocean. After months lost at sea, it’s slowly drawn into a massive vortex, where trash accumulates - place known as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” This is one of five plastic filled gyres in the worlds seas. 

Some animals mistake the brightly colored plastic bits for food. Plastic makes them feel full when they’re not, so they starve to death, passing the toxins from the plastic up the food chain, eventually to us.

Bottle Three, on the other hand, is recycled. It’s taken away on a truck to a plant, where it and its companions are squeezed flat and compressed into a block. The blocks are shredded into tiny pieces, which are washed and melted, so they become the raw materials that can be used again. Bottle Three is ready to be reborn, as something new.

So, what can you do? First - reduce your use of plastic altogether! And when you do find yourself needing to buy a bottle, don’t forget to recycle it. You’ll be doing Planet Earth a great, big favor.

From the TED-Ed Lesson What really happens to the plastic you throw away - Emma Bryce

Animation by Sharon Colman Graham

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout.

From the TED-Ed lesson How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins

Animation by Sharon Colman Graham

Playing music requires fine motor skills, which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision (which the left hemisphere is more involved in) with the novel and creative content (that the right hemisphere excels in). For these reasons, playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum - the bridge between the two hemispheres - allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. 

From the TED-Ed lesson How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins

Animation by Sharon Colman Graham

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain are lighting up at once as they process sound, take it apart to understand elements like melody and rhythm, and then put it all back together into unified musical experience. And our brains do all this work in the split second between when we first hear the music and when our foot starts to tap along. 

From the TED-Ed lesson How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins

Animation by Sharon Colman Graham

The assumption that sadness has an external cause outside the self is a relatively new idea. Ancient Greek doctors didn’t view sadness that way. They believed it was a dark fluid inside the body. Melaincholia comes from melaina kole, the phrase for ‘black bile.’

From the TED-Ed Lesson A brief history of melancholy - Courtney Stephens

Animation by Sharon Colman Graham

Did you know that every time musicians pick up their instruments, there are fireworks going off all over their brain? On the outside they may look calm and focused, reading the music and making the precise and practiced movements required. But inside their brains, there’s a party going on.

From the TED-Ed lesson How playing an instrument benefits your brain - Anita Collins

Animation by Sharon Colman Graham