A guide to the different types of plastic

April 18, 2019 by  
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BPA, PET, HDPE. You’re trying to do the right thing by recycling, following health alerts and shopping wisely, but you’re not fluent in molecular chemistry. So how do you decipher exactly what it all means and how to stay green? We’re here to help with a handy guide on different types of plastic and how they impact the planet and your health. Fast facts about our plastic problem According to Earth Day , here are some stats that give you an idea of the scale of our plastic addiction. • Since its invention in the 1950s, over 9 billion tons of plastic have been produced. • Ninety-one percent of all plastics are not recycled, meaning almost all plastic ever produced is piled up in our landfills and oceans . • Americans use 100 billion plastic bags every year. If you tie all these bags together, they reach around the Earth 773 times. • By 2050, there will be more pounds of plastic in the ocean than fish. • There are more microplastics in the ocean than stars in the Milk Way. What are microplastics? Keep reading! Types of plastic: what the terms mean, where you find them and how they impact health Courtesy of National Geographic and  Waste4Change , below are terms commonly used by manufacturers and health advisers. Additives Additives are chemicals added to plastic to enhance certain qualities. For example, they might make the material stronger, more flexible, fire-resistant or UV inhibitive. Depending on what is added to the plastic, these substances can be toxic to your health. Biodegradable This term means that a material can break down into natural substances through decomposition within a reasonable amount of time. Plastic does not biodegrade , so the term is misleading and still means that the substance may leave toxic residue behind. In fact, some states are now banning this term in relation to plastic. Bioplastic Bioplastic is a broad term for all types of plastic, including both petroleum and biological-based products. It does not mean that a plastic is non-toxic, made from safe or natural sources or non-fossil-fuel-based. This term can be misleading, because many consumers assume “bio” means natural and therefore healthy. Related: Shellworks upcycled leftover lobster shells into biodegradable bioplastics Bisphenol-A (BPA) BPA is a toxic industrial chemical that can be found in plastic containers and in the coating of cans, among other uses. It can leach into foods and liquids. BPA-free products have merely replaced the substance with less-toxic bisphenol-S or bisphenol-F, both of which still pose health concerns. Compostable This term means something can break down or degrade into natural materials within a composting system, typically through decomposition by microorganisms. Some new plastics are labeled as compostable; however, this certification mostly requires industrial composting systems, not your garden compost pile. Compostable plastics do not leave behind toxic residue after they decompose, but they must be separated out for industrial composting and not put in recycle or landfill bins. Some major cities like New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Minneapolis have industrial composting programs, but many do not. Ghost nets/fishing gear Approximately 640,000 tons of fishing gear are abandoned, lost or discarded in the ocean every year. Most of this equipment is made from plastic, including nets, buoys, traps and lines, and all of it endangers marine life . Related: Ghost gear is haunting our oceans High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) HDPE is thick plastic used in bags, containers and bottles. It is safer and more stable that other plastics for food and drinks and can be recycled . Microplastics Microplastics are particles less than 5 millimeters long. There are two types: Primary: resin pellets melted down to make plastic or microbeads used in cosmetics and soaps Secondary : particles that result from larger pieces of plastic (such as fabrics and bottles) breaking down into millions of tiny particles that can enter air and water Ocean garbage patches Specific ocean currents carry litter thousands of miles and cause it to collect in certain areas known as garbage patches . The largest patch in the world spans a million square miles of ocean and is mostly made up of plastics. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PETE) Polyethylene terephthalate is a widely used plastic that is clear, strong and lightweight. It does not wrinkle and is typically used in food containers and fabrics. It is the most likely to be recycled, but it is a known carcinogen, meaning it can be absorbed into liquids over time and cause cancer . Polypropylene (PP) PP is stiffer and more heat-resistant than other types of plastic. It is often used for hot food containers, diapers, sanitary pads and car parts. It is safer than PVC and PET but still linked to asthma and hormone issues. Polystyrene (Styrofoam) Typically used in food containers and helmets, this material does not recycle well and can leach styrene that is toxic for the brain and nervous system. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) PVC is considered the most hazardous plastic, because it can leach chemicals like BPA, lead, mercury and cadmium that may cause cancer and disrupt hormones. It is often used in toys, cling wrap, detergent bottles, pipes and medical tubes. It usually has to be recycled into separate and more rare recycling programs. Single-use plastic Single-use plastic is designed to be used only once and then disposed of, such as grocery bags and packaging. Environmentalists encourage reducing your single-use plastic consumption, because after their short lifespan, these plastics pile up and pollute the Earth for centuries. Via National Geographic ,  Earth Day , Waste4Change and The Dodo Images via Shutterstock

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A guide to the different types of plastic

Boa Mistura turns 52 fishing boats into art to bring awareness to the plight of the parrotfish

April 16, 2019 by  
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Inspired by the natural design and shapes of the tropical parrotfish, these previously-rusty old boats now don bright new exteriors. The venture was another in a long line of community projects aimed to create “art as a tool for change” organized by the Madrid-based art collective Boa Mistura . The Pepillo Salcedo village in the Dominican Republic has limited access to electricity and running water, and fishing is an essential facet of the economy and life. Boa Mistura, known for inspiring neighborhoods with its artwork, incorporated the community into the endeavor. With the help of local fishermen and their families, 52 fishing boats were sanded down, removed of mollusks, repaired with fiberglass and painted with primer to prepare them for their colorful transformations. The fishermen of Pepillo Salcedo took to the project enthusiastically, some paddling for hours to reach Los Coquitos Beach, where their boats were to be painted. Related: Old fisherman’s shack is reimagined as a dreamy eco retreat The utilization of the parrotfish conception was a mindful decision, as the animal holds a special significance in the tropical Caribbean region. The parrotfish feed off algae that collect onto the coral reefs , contributing to the cleanliness and therefore survival of the vital coral. What’s more, when the parrotfish eat the algae, it allows for the coral polyps (the soft, tiny organisms that help to form the structure of reefs) to become more resilient to other stressors, such as pollution or global warming. The fish feeds off of the coral itself as well, which is then turned into sand through the parrotfish’s digestive system and the animal’s tough teeth — some of the strongest teeth in the ocean , according to scientists. It is a fragile balance and relationship that benefits both the fish and the reef. A single parrotfish can produce hundreds of pounds worth of white sand in a single year, which means a substantial portion of the Caribbean beaches is made of parrotfish poop. Though the parrotfish is a protected species, intense illegal fishing has caused a devastating deterioration in both the fish population and the delicate harmony of the ecosystem. Needless to say, if the parrotfish numbers continue to decline, the region’s iconic white sand beaches and the colorful coral reefs will be in big trouble . The entire project took about four weeks, and now the 52 yolas (the local term for these traditional fishing boats) that cruise the Bay of Manzanillo serve as a reminder for the respect and mindfulness required for the survival of the Caribbean parrotfish, white sand beaches and coral reefs. + Boa Mistura Images via Boa Mistura

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Boa Mistura turns 52 fishing boats into art to bring awareness to the plight of the parrotfish

Truman’s wants to eliminate single-use plastics in the household cleaner industry

March 21, 2019 by  
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The household cleaning aisle at the store features dozens of spray cleaners for different surfaces, and the ingredient lists are a mile long with chemical names that are impossible to pronounce. While many of those cleaners are effective for getting rid of dirt and germs, some of the chemicals inside are environmental hazards. Then, there are the  plastic  bottles, which get thrown into the trash once they are empty, adding to the plastic pollution problem. As the marketplace shifts to products with more sustainable packaging and more eco-friendly ingredients, a new company, Truman’s, is attempting to change the game in the household cleaner industry. Truman’s is trying to “upend the nearly $10 billion spray cleaner market” with its new direct-to-consumer subscription website that features four non-toxic cleaners shipped to customers’ doors in special bottles that they refill when the bottles are empty. “Cleaning is cluttered” Truman’s entered the cleaning market after discovering 57 different cleaners on local store shelves, with 43 different scents and 15 unique surface cleaners. The company founders became “obsessed with reducing waste and clutter” and wanted to find a way to reduce the number of cleaning products filled with harsh chemicals that are filling cabinets in homes across the country. Related: How to decode confusing labels on common household cleaners The plastic problem Plastic production went bonkers in the 1950s, with Life magazine praising an American future that would feature “throwaway living.” Since then, according to Truman’s website, the “planet has accumulated 9.2 billion tons of plastic,” which breaks down to “1.3 tons for every man, woman and child on Earth.” Globally, less than one-fifth of all plastic gets recycled , and in the United States, the number is less than 10 percent. Single-use plastic bottles are a major factor in the plastic problem. According to a recently published University of California study , in the past 13 years, the world has produced more plastic than it did in the previous 50. Research from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation says that by 2050, “the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish.” Truman’s says that if just 5 percent of Americans would opt for its delivery service instead of buying cleaning products at the store, it would save 4 billion pounds of water from being shipped in single-use, plastic-bottled cleaning products, and it would reduce the amount of plastic used by 300 million pounds. How does it work? Truman’s offers four spray cleaners: The Glass Is Always Cleaner, Everything and the Kitchen Sink, Floors Truly and More Shower To You. When they join Truman’s, customers receive a starter kit that they can use for 30 days, risk-free. After that first month, Truman’s will then ship refill cartridges, and the automatic shipments continue every six months. However, customers can order extras if needed, or the service can be paused or canceled. The refill cartridges work when mixed with water, and the bottles can be continuously reused . This allows customers to save space under the kitchen sink. Plus it’s significantly cheaper, because the refills are $3.75 while the bottles and shipping are always free. Truman’s always ships refills four at a time per cleaner, which is $15. They also ship all four cleaners, which means every six months, customers are charged $60. However, there is the option to remove certain cleaners from the subscription. This method reduces plastic waste by more than 90 percent, according to Truman’s website, and the bottles are also recyclable. The men behind Truman’s Jon Bostock and Alex Reed had years of experience working with companies like General Electric and Big Ass Fans. But when Big Ass Fans was sold for $500 million in late 2017, Bostock and Reed looked for something new to focus their efforts on. “Alex and I are both neat-freaks, and we knew the home cleaning industry needed real change,” Bostock said. “It’s dominated by a few global companies that add new cleaners you don’t need just to pad profits. Then they compete for shelf space at stores, which all get their share of the price.” Related: Scientists discover hazardous chemicals accumulate in household dust The duo felt that it was time for the cleaning industry to change, so they created a company that delivers easy-to-use cleaning products directly to the consumer. Bostock and Reed knew that large businesses already use concentrated refills to fill the same bottles over and over again, and they believe that if that model works for businesses, it could work for everyone else. They never planned to put their product on store shelves, because that would just add to the problem. Truman’s opted to avoid the shelf rental fees and sell directly to customers to keep costs low and get constant feedback from customers via the website. Truman’s definitely gives customers an eco-friendly cleaning option that can significantly reduce plastic waste. But just remember to ditch disposable paper towels and use reusable cleaning cloths and old T-shirts when using these cleaners. + Truman’s Images via Truman’s

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Truman’s wants to eliminate single-use plastics in the household cleaner industry

Can Florida save its prized Everglades from climate change destruction?

March 19, 2019 by  
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Half of all Floridians will live underwater by the end of the century, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predictions . In her disheartening article in The Guardian , researcher and author of Rising, Elizabeth Grant instructs Floridians to flip a coin – tails and your home is headed under the sea. Overpopulation, unsustainable development and sea level rise also threaten to destroy Florida’s famous Everglades, but the newly elected Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, is an unexpected champion of its restoration. The Everglades are an expansive wetland preserve in Southern Florida that originally spanned millions of acres. Since European settlers arrived, the wetlands were rapidly drained and filled to make way for farms, roads and housing. Now, 1.5 million acres remain protected in the Everglades National Park, which is home to incredible biodiversity, such as “mangrove forests and cypress swamps, alligators, orchids, storks and ibises, as well as threatened species such as the Florida panther,” according to  The Guardian Related: Meet Squid: Key West’s solar-powered boat for dolphin tours Florida’s history of wetland destruction Changes to the landscape, including draining, paving and building, as well as carving out agricultural lands, have damaged the wetland’s sensitive ecology. The amount of water flowing into the wetland had already been cut in half by the 1960’s and is currently a third of what it used to be. Fresh water from Lake Okeechobee, its main source, has largely been rerouted to irrigate farms and re-enter the wetlands full of agricultural chemicals. Steve Davis, senior ecologist from the Everglades Foundation explained to The Guardian , “We only get about a third of the water in the eastern Florida Bay that we received historically. A national park, a world heritage site, an international biosphere reserve, and we’re starving it of fresh water.” These changes in water circulation not only introduce synthetic nutrients that kill wildlife and produce toxic algae blooms, but an overall decrease in water, exacerbated by drought and sea level rise, also changes the water salinity. In 2015, a decline in rainfall caused the water to be twice as salty as the ocean, leading to rapid die-off of its expansive sea grass, which caused a domino-effect die-off of the hundreds of species that live and breed in sea grass beds. Recent changes to a fragile ecosystem In 2017, Category 4 Hurricane Irma tore through and uprooted the mangroves – an ecosystem typically celebrated for its fortitude and ability to protect infrastructure during storms. Without mangrove roots and sea grass beds to stabilize the sediment, what used to be a mecca for birdwatching, fishing and buggy tours is now what The Guardian’s Oliver Milman calls a “mud pit.” “The water used to be so clear you could see the seagrass move back and forth. Now you can’t see the bottom. The dead water sort of moves around the bay and you think ‘I’ve just gotta get out of here,’” a seasoned fisherman lamented to Milman . Related: Can the Cayman Islands save the Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? An unexpected green champion – for some In January 2019, Florida elected a new governor: Ron DeSantis, a self-proclaimed “conservative warrior” and Trump bestie . In just two months in office, DeSantis released a progressive $250-billion plan to restore the Everglades and invest in water quality remediation infrastructure. Though DeSantis’s predecessor, Rick Scott, set the bar pretty low in terms of green policy (he reportedly banned the phrase “climate change” ), environmentalists are generally hopeful about DeSantis’s commitment. “Our water and natural resources are the foundation of our economy and our way of life in Florida,” Governor DeSantis said in a news release . “The protection of water resources is one of the most pressing issues facing our state.” The four-year plan, “Achieving More Now for Florida’s Environment ,” designates $625 million per year to address water pollution, restore ecosystems and raise the Tamiami Trail, a highway that traverses the Everglades and cuts off water circulation. Annual Budget Breakdown: $360 million for Everglades restoration, such as creating a reservoir and raising the highway to allow water to flow beneath it $175 million for targeted water quality remediation infrastructure, monitoring and treatment $50 million to restore natural springs $40 million to develop alternate water supplies and reduce water drawn from Everglade sources Many Democrats, however, believe the proposed budget is still too modest and needs to be reassessed. In 2000, a similar “Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan” passed Congress with ambitions to redirect freshwater and reduce sea water incursion. In the nearly 20 years since the bill passed, the crisis of sea level rise had become far more serious. The Guardian reports that the sea level is now three inches above the 1993 average and future levels are a “moving target.” A more comprehensive restoration plan, conservationists argue , would need to consider the worst-case predictions. Still, the new plan provides one billion dollars more than the budget from previous years, which is a welcomed, albeit insufficient, increase in much needed investment. “This is not a partisan issue,” DeSantis said in a news release . “This is something that Floridians from all walks of life and political persuasions think needs to be done. I look forward to working with the Legislature on bringing this into fruition and getting the job done for the people of this state.” Via The Guardian Images via Shutterstock 

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Can Florida save its prized Everglades from climate change destruction?

Taiwan introduces one of the world’s most comprehensive plastic bans

March 12, 2019 by  
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Taiwan aims to be completely free of plastic bags and all single-use plastic items, such as utensils and beverage cups, by 2030. But first, the straws. Starting this year, chain restaurants will be restricted from giving straws to customers for in-store use. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Ying-Yuan Lee announced the new policy at a press conference last month. “”We aim to implement a blanket ban by 2030 to significantly reduce plastic waste that pollutes the ocean and also gets into the food chain to affect human health,” said Ying-Yuan Lee. Related: Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic Aspects of Taiwan’s new program will be phased in over the next decade. Retail stores will face fines for giving customers disposable food containers, utensils and plastic bags in 2020. By 2025, those fees will increase. As for straws, the new policy will first affect in-store diners, then later extend to carry-out. By 2030, the straw ban should be complete throughout Taiwan. Taiwan’s new plastic policy is among the farthest-reaching in the world, though other countries are also stepping up the war against plastic waste. Scotland has banned single-use straws. In Kenya, people caught producing or selling plastic bags face stiff fines and even jail time. Rwanda banned plastic bags all the way back in 2008. Cities around the world have enacted anti-plastic policies to try to put a dent in the 8 million metric tons of plastic that wind up in the oceans every year. A 2018 policy to severely decrease plastic bag use in Taiwan met great success. Starting January 1 of last year, businesses like pharmacies, bakeries and beverage shops could no longer offer customers free plastic bags. Follow-up research indicated that 70 percent of customers chose to forego buying plastic bags . The EPA minister isn’t losing any sleep over the despair of single-use straw devotees. “You can use steel products, or edible straws — or maybe you just don’t need to use straws at all,” Ying-Yuan Lee said. “There is no inconvenience caused at all.” + Environmental Protection Administration (Taiwan) Via Global Citizen Image via Hans Braxmeier

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Singapores new-build, first net-zero energy building opens its doors

March 12, 2019 by  
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Opened earlier this year, the newly completed NUS School of Design & Environment 4 (SDE4) is distinguished as Singapore’s first new-build, net-zero energy building school. Developed by the School of Design and Environment at the National University of Singapore and designed by Serie + Multiply Architects with Surbana Jurong , the six-story multidisciplinary building is located on a hillock along Clementi Road near the southern coastline of Singapore where it joins a larger campus redevelopment. Engineered to strict net-zero energy standards, the 8,500-square-meter building is powered with over 1,200 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels and features a climate-responsive design to stay naturally cool in the region’s tropical climate. Serie + Multiply Architects and Surbana Jurong won the bid for the academic building through an international design competition back in 2013 with their design of a porous structure meant to blur the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors. Instead of creating a hermetically sealed environment heavily reliant on AC—like many of Singapore’s buildings—the architects wanted to integrate Singapore’s lush tropics into the building. Not only do landscape views and natural ventilation penetrate the building, but nature has also been made part of the teaching curriculum, from the planting palette that incorporates many native species to the south gardens that serve as a natural purification system for stormwater runoff. SDE4 includes over 1,500 square meters of design studio space, a 500-square-meter open plaza, public and social spaces, workshops, research centers, a cafe and library. The rooms are designed for flexibility with layouts that can be rearranged to suit diverse usage. The net-zero energy building also takes inspiration from vernacular Southeast Asian tropical architecture with an abundance of verandas and shaded terraces. Natural ventilation is supplemented with an innovative hybrid cooling system that feeds rooms with 100% pre-cooled air that work in tandem with ceiling fans. Related: A green-roofed underground extension breaks the mold for school architecture “Buildings are not isolated entities in their own context,” Lam Khee Poh, Dean of the School of Design and Environment, explains. “They form an environment, a precinct, or a neighborhood supporting community activities, which is crucial for all educational institutions. Our students and faculty get the opportunity to learn both inside and outside the classroom , being engaged in an integrated process of designing, developing, constructing, and operating state-of-the-art buildings that will, in turn, influence them to adapt their own behavior when they occupy it.” + Serie + Multiply Architects + Surbana Jurong Images by Rory Gardiner

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Singapores new-build, first net-zero energy building opens its doors

The Rising Tide of Corporate Action Against Ocean Plastic

March 11, 2019 by  
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It is estimated that there are already over 5 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, with 8 million tons of plastic entering the ocean each year. Hear from experts on the role companies can play in combatting this trend, and how to be part of the solution.

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The Rising Tide of Corporate Action Against Ocean Plastic

Combating Marine Debris with Courageous Collaborations

March 11, 2019 by  
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Marine debris is a growing issue for companies throughout the supply chain, as they grapple with their role in this challenge and how they can pivot operations to have a positive impact. Collaboration is key in developing creative, impactful solutions. Hear from leaders at Dow, Ocean Conservancy and Circulate Capital why collaborations across industries, governments and value chains are necessary to define and drive effective outcomes, and how companies can join these efforts.

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Combating Marine Debris with Courageous Collaborations

Drones: the future of ocean conservation

March 6, 2019 by  
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Unmanned systems such as drones, are increasingly used in a variety of fields — from border patrol, to cinematography to just plain showing off your cool new toy with neighbors. Thanks to rapidly improving technology , durability and artificial intelligence, these unmanned systems also show significant promise in the field of ocean conservation. Scientists can save significant time and resources by collecting data, mapping species and monitoring huge areas of ocean impossible to reach by boat. “Drones are fundamentally changing the way we monitor and manage our environment ,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Institute Captain, Brian Taggart, told  DroneLife . Taggart explained that unmanned systems can help scientists track the abundance and distribution of endangered species, patrol for illegal fishing and monitor areas that might be hard for boats to reach — such as shallow reefs. Related: Oceans are dubbed the ‘ultimate sink’ for plastic waste WasteShark: the trash-eating ocean drone RanMarine, a Dutch technology firm, has launched a floating drone called “WasteShark” in several countries. This remote-controlled  or autonomously running drone collects floating trash at a rate of 130 pounds per trip, equaling 15 tons of waste every year. Think of it as a large, high-tech, trash -eating Roomba vacuum for the ocean’s surface. In addition to alleviating litter, the robot can also test water quality and remove oils, chemicals and harmful algae — all without threatening wildlife. Video: See how WasteShark works “WasteShark is cheaper, greener, more effective and less disruptive than other methods of dealing with marine litter,” Chief Commercial Officer of RanMarine, Oliver Cunningham, told the Daily Mail . Aerial mapping and measuring Drones are also used to collect data everywhere from the Caribbean to Antarctica. Conservation website Monga Bay reported that scientists in Antarctica are using drone imagery to measure and monitor leopard seal populations. This technology saves the researchers huge amounts of time, money and resources when compared to business as usual; physically capturing, sedating and then releasing each seal they measure. Weighing an average of 800 pounds each, this is a huge and costly endeavor that also disrupts the seal population. The researchers conducted a study to compare the results of drone-measured seals versus those that they hand measure and found the results only varied by two to four percent. “Because we took the time to develop this technique and verify that it’s doing what we think it’s doing, we can feel confident about gathering monitoring information in the future that will both help us understand ecosystem function and also give us better data to support conservation efforts,” lead scientist Douglas J. Krause told Monga Bay . Drones give students a new perspective   Drones can also be used for educational purposes by giving scientists, researchers, students and the general public a gorgeous, birds-eye view of marine ecosystems and restoration projects that they otherwise could never see up-close. The Nature Conservancy used drones to teach students in Grenada about a coral reef restoration project and used the awe-inspiring robot technology to hover over the project infrastructure and convince the students of how cool ocean conservation can be . Cracking down on drones in parks With advancing technology and decreasing prices, it seems like everyone has a drone now, and many local and state governments are cracking down on their use in parks. All drones have been recently prohibited in California’s San Luis Obispo Coastal Park with authorities arguing that the unmanned systems disturb both wildlife and the public’s recreational experiences. For example, unskilled drone users have been cited for accidentally landing drones on rock islands inhabited by sunbathing seals. Others have scared birds from their nests, while others lose their drones and trample through fragile ecosystems to retrieve them. Drone use for scientific research is still allowed with a permit and trained pilot. Related: Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife Are drones taking jobs? There are many examples of how drone technology improves ocean conservation , but how does this artificial technology impact local fishers, park rangers and other ocean-based livelihoods? The National Geographic Society recently awarded Moroccan company ATLAN a World Oceans Day Prize for their drone that can identify, recognize and alert authorities of illegal fishing activities across 435 miles — far more than rangers on a motor boat could ever accomplish. This seems like a great achievement for protecting fish populations, especially when over 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are severely over fished. However, many marine protected areas — where fishing is prohibited — were established without consultation with subsistence and small-scale fishers. Despite their benefits to ecosystems, marine protected areas can often cause the displacement and criminalization of cultures and traditional ways of life without providing realistic alternatives. “The idea that conservation requires emptying the land of its customary inhabitants fails to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples and local communities are the most effective and efficient guardians,” Rights and Resources’s Lindsay Brigda wrote in their publication, Cornered by Protected Areas . Many environmental organizations are now making a determined effort to consult with local communities and develop jobs in areas such as eco-tourism and conservation. With their extensive knowledge of navigated waters, fishers are often given jobs as park rangers– an opportunity to earn a living protecting the species they used to exploit. Video: See how a fisher woman in Jamaica become a fisheries warden Drones, like most artificial intelligence , are still years away from completely replacing the need for humans, but a concerted effort to protect already limited conservation jobs and budget for displaced people is paramount. Images via Shutterstock

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New hope for plastic recycling with IBM’s VolCat technology

March 6, 2019 by  
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Think how much more material would be reused if plastic recycling didn’t entail washing, sorting and individual processing. Now, IBM researchers have developed a new chemical process called VolatileCatalyst that eliminates these steps. VolCat recycling grinds up plastics, adds a chemical catalyst and cooks them at temperatures above 200 degrees Celsius. The chemicals eat through polymer strands, producing a fine white powder ready to be made into new containers. By heating PET with ethylene glycol and the catalyst, lab workers depolymerize plastic . After distillation, filtration, purification and cooling, scientists eventually recover usable matter called a monomer—in this case the white powder. This process digests and cleans the ground plastic, separating contaminants like dyes, glue and food residue. Related: 6 places to find the best recycled building materials PET is an abbreviation for polyethylene terephthalate, the chemical name for polyester. This type of plastic is used to manufacture containers for two-liter bottles of soft drinks, water bottles, salad dressings, cooking oil, shampoo, liquid hand soap and carry-out food containers. It’s even found in carpet, clothing and tennis balls. DuPont chemists first synthesized PET in the 1940s, probably never guessing that 70 years later between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic would wind up in the ocean each year. Humans have produced more than 8 billion metric tons of plastic since its invention. About half of new plastic becomes trash each year. By 2050, some scientists project there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean . VolCat developers hope to reverse this destructive trend. According to the researchers’ statement, “In the next five years, plastic recycling advancements like VolCat could be adopted around the globe to combat global plastic waste . People at the grocery store buying a bottle of soda or container of strawberries will know that the plastic they’ve purchased won’t end up in the ocean, but instead will be repurposed and put back on the shelf.” + IBM Images via Shutterstock

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