Which cities are the most sustainable? WalletHub releases Top 100 Greenest US Cities 2019

October 9, 2019 by  
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Ever wonder which American cities are the most eco-friendly? WalletHub recently unveiled its list of 2019’s Greenest Cities in the U.S., after comparing 100 of the country’s most populated cities across 28 underlying indicators of environmental-friendliness and sustainability. Some of the key factors surveyed were greenhouse gas emissions per capita, green job opportunities per capita, smart energy policies and clean initiatives. Interestingly, nine of the top 10 greenest U.S. cities are on the West Coast. WalletHub, renowned as a personal finance website, has long advocated for consumer interests. Green living is a growing public concern, perhaps because sustainability and financial needs are closely intertwined. To find the American cities with the best green programs and eco-conscious consumer habits, WalletHub conducted this study. Related: 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard reveals leading states in clean energy adoption What is green living, though? Green living is a lifestyle that embraces environmental preservation by reducing, reusing and recycling . It contributes to ecological protection and habitat biodiversity while simultaneously conserving natural resources. There is, after all, increasing demand for coordination around land conservation, local agriculture, renewable energy and waste reduction. According to WalletHub, green living boils down to a choice of preserving the planet. This can be achieved via cleaner, more sustainable practices and habits. Green living benefits both the environment and public health , which places greener cities at an advantage. By assessing 28 metrics, including a city’s environmental quality and climate change contributions, transportation and energy sources, lifestyle and eco-friendly behaviors and policies, WalletHub determined the following to be the top 10 greenest cities in the country. 1. San Francisco, California 2. San Diego, California 3. Irvine, California 4. Washington, D.C. 5. San Jose, California 6. Seattle, Washington 7. Fremont, California 8. Sacramento, California 9. Portland, Oregon 10. Oakland, California While WalletHub’s study did not assess all cities in the U.S., it did examine the top 100 largest cities by population. After highlighting the greenest states in the group, WalletHub also called out those at the bottom of the list, citing them as needing improvement. Those that ranked in the bottom as the least green of the most populous American cities are: 91. Virginia Beach, Virginia 92. Jacksonville, Florida 93. Detroit, Michigan 94. Cleveland, Ohio 95. Gilbert, Arizona 96. Mesa, Arizona 97. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky 98. Toledo, Ohio 99. Corpus Christi, Texas 100. Baton Rouge, Lousiana Green living continues to gain momentum. It is hoped that by more people consistently choosing to go green, incessant waste and its associated long-term costs can be reduced, thereby saving money at the household, local, state, national and even international levels. More importantly, it can preserve our planet for years to come. + WalletHub Image via Pexels

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Which cities are the most sustainable? WalletHub releases Top 100 Greenest US Cities 2019

Recycling can get kids free books in southern Italy

February 27, 2019 by  
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An Italian bookseller has come up with a novel way to promote recycling . Michele Gentile, who owns Ex Libris Cafe in southern Italy, is giving away free books to children in exchange for plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Michele Gentile said he thought of the recycling program, because he wanted to inspire children in the small town of Polla to read and pay attention to the environment. To that end, his book giveaway is offered to school kids who donate one aluminum can and a plastic bottle to his shop. Related: Bottle recycling in Oregon hits 90 percent record high “My goal is to spread the passion and love for books among those people in Italy who do not usually read while at the time helping the environment,” Gentile explained. The idea for the initiative came after Gentile collaborated with a nearby middle school on an aluminum recycling project. Working together, the schoolchildren and Gentile collected enough cans to purchase books for an entire classroom. His new program took off from there and has already spread into northern Italy . Gentile hopes his work will continue to make headlines and become a worldwide initiative. The free books come from customers in Gentile’s shop who have donated money to purchase a “suspended” book. The idea stems from a World War II practice in which customers would buy two coffees : one for themselves and another for the next person in line. Gentile has been using the extra books as part of his recycling initiative. While Gentile’s program is a great way to recycle and get kids to read, it also brings awareness to the growing problem of plastic waste. Single-use plastics make up around 26 percent of all the plastics in the world, only 14 percent of which are recycled. Plastics that end up in landfills take around 500 years to decompose, posing a major concern for environmentalists. Cutting down on plastic waste is important if we want to better the environment for future generations, and recycling programs like Gentile’s book giveaway are a great way to meet that goal. Via CNN Image via Public Domain Pictures

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Recycling can get kids free books in southern Italy

Bottle recycling in Oregon hits 90 percent record high

February 7, 2019 by  
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Oregon is seeing record-breaking recycling  rates for their progressive movement dating back to 1971. As the first state in the nation to initiate a bottle return bill, residents of the west coast state are long-accustomed to paying a bit more for their canned and bottled beverages. The idea is simple — pay a deposit when you purchase a six-pack and get that money back when you return the container to the store, but 48 years after the bill was introduced, the state is experiencing high recycling levels for the first time. The original bill, called the Oregon Bottle Bill, requires all beverage distributors, excepting alcohol, milk and a few other select beverages, to charge a minimum refundable amount on each container sold. From 1971 until 2017 that amount was five cents. So a six-pack of beer or soda would have cost 30 cents more at the store. That 30 cents was then refunded to the consumer when they took the cans back to the store. In 2017, the state supported a legislative increase to ten cents per container, with remarkable results. This change alone is credited with increasing return rates to 82 percent. The national average runs around 33 percent. While legislators likely would have directed policy towards the change eventually, the increase was triggered by a provision of state law enacted in 2011, which states that the increase must occur if return rates fall below 80 percent for two consecutive years. After 2014 clocked 68.3 percent and a 2015 return rate of 64.5 percent, 2016 got the ball rolling on the initiative. Related: Oregon initiates first modern statewide refillable glass bottle system in the US Since the recycling program’s initiation in Oregon, the state has seen promising results, especially in reductions of roadside waste and a dramatic increase in return rates. Reports state that at the time of the bill, bottles and cans were estimated to make up 40 percent of roadside waste. That estimate is now six percent. An even more impressive marker of success is the 2018 90 percent return rate. Put a different way, that represents two billion containers. Obviously the goal is to recycle every single recyclable bottle and can, not only to save on resources such as virgin aluminum, but to minimize waste. It’s easy to see that Oregon citizens have bought into the program with a 90 percent return rate. Oregon is known as a progressive state, especially when it comes to environmental issues, so it’s no surprise they’ve led the nation in this drive towards awareness of single-use containers and the importance of recycling. With this in mind, another major policy change contributed to the increase in recycling numbers. In January 2018, the bottle return policy expanded to include all plastic , aluminum and glass beverage containers such as energy drinks, juice, coffee, tea and others. To hit the 90 percent mark with all of those added containers is a testament to the efficiency of the system and dedication of Oregon’s consumers. The combination of the increased refund value, along with a wider variety of containers being accepted, is credited with a 35 percent increase in refund returns over just the last two years. While the legislation has remained relatively unchanged over the years, the process for returning bottles has evolved to accommodate those growing numbers. What once began as hand-counting returned containers later became automated, as return machines were installed in most major retail locations. The machines accept the different types of materials, read the barcode and keep an electronic tally of the return value. A printed slip is then taken to a cashier who exchanges it for cash. Many retailers in the state have pooled resources to initiate a centralized bottle return center known as BottleDrop. These return centers are located away from retail establishments, meaning that consumers have to make a special stop to return cans rather than being able to return them at the store where they shop. While it makes it somewhat less convenient, the fact that BottleDrop specializes in container returns means that the process is streamlined with hi-tech machines and staff available to help with any issues. Related: Hundreds of organisms hitch a ride from Japan to Oregon on waves of plastic trash Consumers have the option of feeding cans into the machine themselves or dropping them at the location and having staff count the cans for a small fee (around 40 cents per bag). Those that manually feed their cans receive a printed receipt. The receipt is then scanned into a nearby machine that dispenses payment. For those that choose to drop their bags, their account is credited after the cans and bottles are processed. The consumer can then cash out or even move those funds as a credit to a nearby participating retail grocery store . The convenience of this program has proved to be another valuable key in the success of the overall bottle return initiative. 2018 saw a 50 increase in BottleDrop accounts, needless to say, people are definitely taking advantage of it. With the high return rate and low waste rate, it seems shocking that the idea has not taken affect nationally. While most of Canada has now adopted the policy, only 11 states currently participate in a state- legislated bottle return plan. In addition to Oregon, those states are Vermont, Maine, Michigan, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, California and Hawaii. Via KPTV Images via Shutterstock

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Oregon initiates first modern statewide refillable glass bottle system in the US

October 22, 2018 by  
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At the beginning of the century, refillable bottles were the only option when you purchased a beer or soda from the local merchant. With the invention of the steel can in 1938, however, that practice began to change. Within 10 years, the 100 percent refillable glass usage for beer had dropped to 84 percent. When non-refillable glass started taking over mainstream production, that number dropped to 8 percent by 1986 and, according to the Container Recycling Institute , refillable beer bottles now account for less than 4 percent of the total containers used. Today, Oregon is getting back to the basics by revitalizing the use of refillable beer bottles. The World Counts reported, “The world’s beer and soda consumption uses about 200 billion aluminium cans every year. This is 6,700 cans every second — enough to go around the planet every 17 hours.” While recycling is an important piece of the puzzle, a large percentage of cans and bottles are tossed into the landfill. Those that do make it to the recycling plant require massive amounts of water and energy to recycle into clean, usable material. With all of this in mind, Oregon recently initiated a statewide recycling program that cuts out the need to break down materials and turn them into something new. Instead, they’ve gone old school by bringing back refillable bottles. Related: Eco-minded Melbourne brewery breaks the mold for sustainable beer production The process works the same as any other bottle deposit system. The consumer pays a deposit upfront when buying a beverage. Upon returning the empty container, they receive the deposit back. The bottle return machines identify the refillable bottles by a unique barcode and automatically separate them from the recyclable glass options. The bottles themselves are slightly different in other ways, too. Noticeably thicker and marked with a “refillable” stamp, the bottles can be reused up to 40 times, which sharply dials back the carbon footprint for the industry. Oregon has been poised to reintroduce refillable bottles into the market because of an existing statewide program that collects and recycles bottles and cans. With that efficient infrastructure in place, adding refillable bottles to the mix is a natural step in the progression of responsible resource management within the state. It’s no surprise that Oregon is an early adopter of the program, as it has a long history of innovation in the beverage recycling industry. In fact, Oregon was the first state to pass a bottle refund law in 1971. In order for the program to be cost-effective, there are some stipulations in place. For example, bottles leaving the state and not being returned for refill drives up costs. To protect against this, bottlers who commit to using the refillable bottles are only allowed to export 20 percent of those bottles out of state. Although Oregon hopes to be a leader in the refillable bottle movement, the program is still going through some growing pains. Bottles are currently being shipped to Montana for cleaning until Oregon can complete its own facility to do the work. While the state’s Department of Environmental Quality hasn’t put an exact measurement on the impact of these efforts, most agree that even with temporary transport to another state, refillable bottles cut the carbon footprint at every post-production phase of the life cycle. The real measure of the program’s success will come with the deposit return rates. If people don’t return the bottles, the system won’t work. This is a struggle that Double Mountain Brewery founder Matt Swihart knows all too well as the original provider of refillable bottles within the Oregon brewing industry. He’s fought an uphill battle in his efforts to successfully introduce refillable bottles to his Hood River bottling plant. With an initial return rate of only 15-20 percent, he’s hoping an organized state system will help facilitate his goals. “Anything we get back and clean saves us money down the road, and of course is a more responsible environmental package,” Swihart told OPB . “Frankly, it’s just the right thing to do.” Currently, seven breweries in Oregon have stepped up to the program. Widmer Brothers Brewing is one such optimistic leader of change. It has always been transparent in its efforts to maintain sustainability wherever possible in the beer-making process, with actions like donating spent grains to local farms and providing reusable to-go containers for employees to cut back on waste. For a company that looks to repurpose and recycle everything down to the crayons and corks, moving to refillable bottles is a natural progression. The company stated, “In 2016, we completed our first Life Cycle Analysis on a bottle of beer produced at our brewery to understand the biggest opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint, learning that one bottle generates 392 grams of carbon dioxide emissions. We are partnering with suppliers to improve!” And now, the brewery is doing just that. Buoy Beer, Double Mountain, GoodLife, Gigantic, Wild Ride and Rock Bottom breweries have also signed on with hopes of many others joining as the program gains credibility. Although breweries are in the spotlight right now, there is hope that the soda industry will also jump on the refillable bottle bandwagon. Who knows — maybe it’s just a few short years before we make the full circle back to refillable milk bottles. Via  OPB ,  The World Counts and  Container Recycling Institute Images via Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative and Thomas Picauly

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The largest solar farm apiary in the US opens this week

June 20, 2018 by  
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An important feature of permaculture is the concept of stacking functions, or finding multiple uses for the same space or resource. North Carolina-based PineGate Renewables is taking this principle to a new level with the opening of the largest solar farm apiary in the U.S.  Starting this week, the Eagle Point solar farm in Jackson County, Oregon will host 48 hives of honey bees underneath and between the solar panels. John Jacob of Old Sol Apiaries helped to determine the site’s suitability and will serve as the caretaker of the bees. “In 2016/17, Oregon beekeepers reported losing nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies statewide,” Jacob said. “The pollinator-friendly solar sites Pine Gate Renewables is developing can play an important role in helping address the population crisis among our managed and native pollinators.” Studies conducted on solar farm apiaries in the U.K.  suggest these kinds of hybrid projects can increase the bee and insect pollinator population in a region, thus benefiting the natural environment and agricultural farms. A new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that there are more than 16,000 acres of pollinator-dependent crops near 204 megawatts of solar energy facilities in Oregon alone. Related: Bee Saving Paper “works like an energy drink for bees” PineGate Renewables’ SolarCulture sites are planted with low-ground native flowers and grasses, which boost soil health, store storm water and support a healthy ecology. The specific vegetation plan for the Oregon site was designed by Colorado -based ecological services firm Regenerate, and by spring 2019, this site is expected to provide pollinator habitat equivalent to about 24,800 homes with 6’ x 12’ pollinator gardens maintained for 25 years. In the future, the buzz about PineGate Renewables’ pollinator project may inspire others to join forces to serve the public and the environment with solar farm apiaries. + PineGate Renewables + Old Sol Apiaries Images via PineGateRenewables

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The largest solar farm apiary in the US opens this week

Warming seas could shift fish habitats out of the reach of some fishers

May 18, 2018 by  
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Climate change is doing more than causing  sea levels to rise or sea ice to dwindle — it’s pressuring  fish to move far away from their typical habitats. Warming waters have already prompted some fish to migrate south or north. As the climate continues to change, marine species’ shifts could be challenging for fisheries as the fish potentially move into new areas altogether — some hundreds of miles away. Fish are already seeking more favorable habitats in a changing world, and a team of six scientists at institutions in the U.S. and Switzerland decided to predict how they might move in the future. In research published this week in PLOS One , the team modeled the habitat of 686 species. Ecologist and co-author Malin Pinksy of Rutgers University told NPR they have high certainty for how far around 450 of those species will shift in the future. Related: Bottlenose dolphins spotted in Canadian Pacific waters for the first time “We found a major effect of carbon emissions scenario on the magnitude of projected shifts in species habitat during the 21st century,” lead author James Morley of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said in a statement . “Under a high carbon emissions future we anticipate that many economically important species will expand into new regions and decline in areas of historic abundance.” Some species might just shift a few miles. But others might move so far that they become out of reach for some fishers. For example, the Alaskan snow crab could move north as far as 900 miles. A shift of just a couple hundred miles could place lobster or other fish out of the range for fishers with small boats — and limited time and fuel. The scientists aren’t sure when the shifts might happen; it depends on how much the waters warm. But the movement could pose challenges for resource management — co-author Richard Seagraves, formerly with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council , told NPR that states get a catch limit, or quota, for fish. The catch limit is based on where the fish were decades ago. Seagraves said, “Some of the Southern states are having trouble catching their quota, and states to the north have more availability of fish.” + PLOS One Via NPR and EurekAlert! Images via Depositphotos (1, 2)

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Warming seas could shift fish habitats out of the reach of some fishers

Metal-clad Treehouse for "no-commute lifestyles" mimics Portlands forests

February 15, 2018 by  
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With projects like LEVER Architecture’s recently completed Treehouse, it’s little wonder Portland, Ore. scores high marks for livability and sustainability. Located on the Marquam Hill campus of the Oregon Health & Science University (OSHU), Treehouse caters to those interested in a “live/work/no-commute lifestyle”. Designed for mixed use , the seven-story houses 69 apartment units as well as retail on the ground floor. Taking cues from the forest, Treehouse is wrapped in a textured metal skin that mimics the color and form of tree trunks. The facade’s consistent texture and pattern give the building a dynamic depth and appearance that changes throughout the day. “The design bridges the urban and topographical qualities of the campus by placing the building as an “in the round” object in the forest,” wrote the architects. “Instead of cutting into the hill, the building form is carved to follow the landscape. A continuous carved building skin is achieved by eliminating the expression of floor levels by incorporating all expansion joints into the custom window surrounds.” Related: Nation’s tallest timber building to rise in Portland The apartment units are clustered around a compact central core housing the stairs and elevator. Glazing can be found on all sides of the irregular octagonal building and maximize daylight into the studio and one-bedroom units. A rain garden landscape and deck on the lower level handles all stormwater runoff. + LEVER Architecture Via ArchDaily Images via LEVER Architecture

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Pacific starfish bounce back after massive die-off

January 1, 2018 by  
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It may feel like it’s a constant stream of bad news for the environment, so brace yourself for something good. A few years ago, it seemed as though we may completely lose sea stars after a mysterious wasting syndrome rapidly killed millions of the creatures from Canada to Mexico. But this year, researchers say that starfish are making a massive comeback. Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, which is linked to warming waters , hit the West Coast from 2013 to 2014, causing starfish to sort of “melt,” dropping limbs, deflating and wasting away. But where sea stars had practically vanished in some areas, they can be seen popping up again. “They are coming back, big time,” said Darryl Deleske, a researcher for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium . Related: Researchers in Oregon Expect Wasting Disease to Completely Wipe Out Starfish Populations in the Near Future These types of die-offs have happened every decade since the 1970s, but never on the scale of 2013. But lately, places that were completely devoid of starfish are filling up with them once again. Sadly, it isn’t time to celebrate, yet. While populations seem to be rebounding, the disease hasn’t completely disappeared. It appears to be active in Washington and has never completely stopped in California or Oregon. Still, experts are hopeful that future generations of sea stars will be more resilient to the disease. Via Phys.org Images via Unsplash and UCSC

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Tel Aviv builds world’s tallest block tower to honor 8-year-old cancer victim

January 1, 2018 by  
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Tel Aviv is shooting for the stars with the world’s tallest LEGO tower . Technically, the 118-foot tower is made out of LEGO and other toy bricks, and the attempt isn’t sponsored by LEGO, like other towers have been. Instead, this tower is a playful way to honor an 8-year old cancer victim named Omer Sayag. Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’LK_n8Ge2RURt1djGz5PRkw’,sig:’yDrTFkOxwQULu4XBM14CfRxI62Hm_kzNZ_MoNE5oTTo=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’898930378′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); Milan and Budapest have both made attempts at the world’s tallest LEGO tower, although both were in collaboration with LEGO. Tel Aviv’s tower is a collaboration between Tel Aviv City Hall and Young Engineers, a program that uses LEGO blocks to help teach kids engineering. Omer Sayang lost his battle to cancer in 2014, and his teachers, knowing how much he loved to build, started a petition to build what is being called Omer’s Tower. Related: Hungary Builds World’s Tallest LEGO Tower Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’HfCEwf1aSJJ8hV_iH3ewQA’,sig:’zIl0az1XJK5K9FWYnapqRC0KoPvzgf8ZAAtIRFpdzZY=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’898928316′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); The tower stretches 117 feet 11 inches and required a half million toy bricks. Thousands of people collaborated to realize its construction, marking it with their team insignias and positive messages. The measurements were sent to Guinness and now the team is waiting for official confirmation that the tower is, in fact, the tallest ever, beating Milan by 35 inches. Embed from Getty Images window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:’Dhg7nk98SkBUJyx9FCHqsQ’,sig:’Gi2GkMIY6wzABbr2ze7xbejRs0UzlxJDU0hExwjZZRg=’,w:’594px’,h:’396px’,items:’898928182′,caption: true ,tld:’com’,is360: false })}); Via the New York Times Lead image via Unsplash

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Tel Aviv builds world’s tallest block tower to honor 8-year-old cancer victim

Hundreds of organisms hitch a ride from Japan to Oregon on waves of plastic trash

September 29, 2017 by  
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Japanese marine animals have hitched a ride all the way to the United States with unlikely help from plastic garbage. The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami dumped debris into the ocean , and now, several years later, scientists have recorded almost 300 marine animal species showing up in Hawaii and North America, riding on hundreds of crates, buoys, vessels, and trash. Scientists didn’t think organisms passively drifted on debris across the ocean, according to marine scientist John Chapman of Oregon State University . He said, “This has turned out to be one of the biggest, unplanned, natural experiments in marine biology , perhaps in history.” You knew plastic trash was polluting the oceans, but you probably didn’t know it was transporting non-native species across them. Neither did many scientists, who were surprised to discover Japanese species landing alive in North America and Hawaii. Researchers didn’t expect organisms to live through the trip across the North Pacific Ocean – and many species have lived four or more years longer than any previous records of organisms living on ocean rafts. Related: Japanese sculpture memorializes 18,000 people dead or missing after the 2011 earthquake In the beginning, wood released in the natural disasters showed up in Oregon with shipworms inside, but after 2014, wood landings plummeted, and researchers realized non-biodegradable trash like plastic, styrofoam, and fiberglass was allowing non-native species to travel and survive for so long. So far, scientists haven’t found any Japanese species established on the West Coast, but Chapman said that can take years to happen. He said, “One thing this event has taught us is that some of these organisms can be extraordinarily resilient…It would not surprise me if there were species from Japan that are out there living along the Oregon coast. In fact, it would surprise me if there weren’t.” Oregon State University marine scientist Jessica Miller said out of the species that arrived in 2017, almost 20 percent were capable of reproducing. James Carlton of Williams College , who was the lead author on a study published today in Science , said, “These vast quantities of non-biodegradable debris, potentially acting as novel ocean transport vectors, are of increasing concern given the vast economic cost and environmental impacts documented from the proliferation of marine invasive species around the world.” Chapman and Miller were co-authors of the study, along with six other scientists from institutions around the United States. Via Oregon State University Images via Oregon State University on Flickr ( 1 , 2 , 3 )

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