Episode 4 – The Plastic Burden

Visuals of the Pacific Garbage Patch and sea turtles with straws up their noses have captured people’s attention. We want to do our part to help solve the marine plastic pollution problem, but is it really fair for big corporations to place this burden on the consumer? What about the developed countries that export their plastic waste to developing nations for them to process and recycle? It seems the plastic problem is one big cycle of placing the blame on the next receiver in the supply chain. In this episode, Ali Boden and Cass Nieman explore the passers and receivers of the marine plastic burden and discuss current and future solutions.

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Episode Hosts

Cass Nieman head shot

Cassandra Nieman (Masters of Environmental Mangement, ’19) is currently an ORISE Fellow at EPA in Washington, D.C. She works in the Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds with the National Estuary Program. Her research focuses primarily on the use of collaborative partnership approaches to achieve EPA’s clean water goals, with a particular emphasis on the integration of partnership programs to improve water quality and ecosystem health, ensure water equity among all communities, and address major water resource management challenges in specific geographic locations across the U.S.

Twitter: @NiemanCassandra

Ali Boden head shot

Alexandra Boden (Masters of Environmental Management ’19) is currently an Operations Manager for a small company near Denver, Colorado called EcoEnclose, which has a mission of providing businesses environmentally-friendly packaging solutions. Though no longer residing on the coast, she finds herself combining her Supply Chain Management and Coastal Environmental Management education and experience very well in this new role. She has enjoyed taking part in a business centered on reducing marine debris and educating their consumers.

Twitter: @AliBoden1


Laura Dobroski, Project Analyst at Resource Recycling Systems
Laura Dobroksi is a Project Analyst at Resource Recycling Systems, bringing research and stakeholder engagement experience from both her collegiate tenure as well as her internships. Laura provides impartial analyses and actionable recommendations to various sectors including public, non-profit, institutional, and private.

Series Host

Lisa Campbell head shot

Dr. Lisa Campbell hosts the Conservation and Development series. The series showcases the work of students who produce podcasts as part of their term projects. Lisa introduced a podcast assignment after 16 years of teaching, in an effort to direct student energy and effort to a project that would enjoy a wider audience.

Related activities at Duke

The Duke University Marine Lab Community Science Initiative runs a marine debris program, with a year long interdisciplinary curriculum for 4th and 5th grade students. Founded in 2017, the goal of the Community Science Initiative is to increase meaningful opportunities for local schools, the general public and DUML to engage through public participation in research.


Researchers at Duke University have formed a Plastic Pollution Working Group. We’ll update this space when their website is live. In the meantime, Working Group members John Virdin (Nicholas Institute of Environmental Policy Solutions), Rachel Karasik (MEM ’16) and Zoie Diana (Marine Science and Conservation PhD student) are presenting in the United Nations Environment Programme’s webinar series on Single Use Plastic Products and Learnings from Life Cycle Assessments (LCA)

Supplemental material for this episode