"Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked"

December 20, 2017 by  
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Mussels might serve as a global “bioindicator of microplastic pollution ,” Chinese researchers suggested last year, as the creatures remain in the same area and reside on the seabed where plastic ends up. And a new study from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) uncovered plastic in 76.6 percent of individual blue mussels they tested. Reuters pointed to other surveys where researchers found microplastics in mussels near China, Belgium, Britain, Canada, and Chile. NIVA Researcher Amy Lusher told Reuters, “Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked.” The new NIVA research found on average 1.8 pieces of microplastic in mollusks near Norway, while and mussels living in waters thought to be pristine in the Arctic actually had the greatest amount of plastic among any of the creatures tested near the Norwegian coast. Lusher said ocean currents and winds from American and Europe may be sweeping plastic north, where it might then swirl in the Arctic Ocean. Related: Plankton Pundit video shows exact moment plastic enters the food chain Scientists aren’t quite sure how microplastics in marine life will impact humans that consume them, but think you’d have to eat a whole lot of shellfish to be at risk. Microplastics expert and Plymouth University professor Richard Thompson told Reuters of the global discoveries, “It’s a warning signal that we need to do something about reducing the input of plastic to the ocean. It’s a cause for concern at the moment rather than an alarm story for human consumption.” You can check out the NIVA report here . Via Reuters and Norwegian Institute for Water Research Images via Janne Kim Gitmark, NIVA and NIVA

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"Microplastics have been found in mussels everywhere scientists have looked"

Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste

December 7, 2017 by  
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Over 200 countries signed a United Nations resolution in Nairobi, Kenya to eliminate plastic waste in the world’s oceans. The resolution is an important step forward to establishing a legally binding treaty that would deal with the global oceanic plastic pollution problem. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), there will be more plastic by weight in the world’s oceans than fish by 2050 if current trends continue. The resolution offers hope for the future. “There is very strong language in this resolution,” said Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s environment minister, in an interview with Reuters . “We now have an agreement to explore a legally binding instrument and other measures and that will be done at the international level over the next 18 months.” Although plastic pollution is a global problem, Norway was the country that initiated the UN resolution. “We found micro plastics inside mussels, which is something we like to eat,” said Helgesen. “In January this year, a fairly rare species of whale was stranded on a beach because of exhaustion and they simply had to kill it. In its tummy they found 30 plastic bags.” Even the most remote parts of the globe have not escaped the plastic menace. In the final episode of the acclaimed  Blue Planet II ,  plastic pollution is documented in isolated areas of Antarctica . Related: Scientists discover cheap method to identify “lost” 99% of ocean microplastics China is the world’s largest producer of plastic waste and biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. However, the world’s most populous country has taken the global lead in addressing these environmental crises. “If there is one nation changing at the moment more than anyone else, it’s China … the speed and determination of the government to change is enormous,” said Erik Solheim, head of UNEP, according to Reuters . Meanwhile, the resolution, which was originally intended to have legally binding targets and timetables, was weakened by the United States , after Trump Administration officials rejected the stronger language. Current American intransigence notwithstanding, Solheim envisions a future in which products and manufacturing systems are redesigned to use as little plastic as possible. “Let’s abolish products that we do not need … if you go to tourist places like Bali, a huge amount of the plastic picked from the oceans are actually straws,” said Solheim. Although there is much work to be done before a treaty is signed, several nations are already moving ahead to protect the environment. To mark the signing of the UN resolutions, 39 countries, including Chile, Oman, Sri Lanka and South Africa, adopted new commitments to reduce plastic pollution . Via Reuters Images via Depositphotos and  Trevor Leyenhorst/Flickr

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Over 200 nations commit to ending ocean plastic waste

Scientists discover cheap method to identify "lost" 99% of ocean microplastics

December 1, 2017 by  
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The world’s oceans are awash with hazardous microplastics that are largely invisible to the naked eye. These tiny plastic fragments, which are less than 5 millimeters in diameter and originate from the breakdown of synthetic clothing fibers, polyester from disposable bags and bottles, and so-called “microbeads” from facial scrubs and other exfoliants, mostly go undetected, according to scientists. In fact, previous surveys suggest only 1 percent of marine plastic waste is identifiable. To suss out the “missing” 99 percent, researchers from the University of Warwick in England decided to shine a light on the problem—quite literally—by using fluorescent dyes. Gabriel Erni-Cassola and Joseph A. Christie-Oleza from Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, who spearheaded the research, claim that the new technique can detect microplastics as small as 20 micrometers—about the width of a single human hair. Because the dye they created binds only to plastic, the “tagged” microplastics show up easily among other natural materials when viewed under a fluorescence microscope. Related: Is synthetic clothing causing “microplastic” pollution in our oceans? Testing the method on samples of surface sea water and beach sand from the coast around Plymouth, the scientists said they were able to extract a far greater number of microplastics than they would have with traditional methods. “Using this method, a huge series of samples can be viewed and analysed very quickly, to obtain large amounts of data on the quantities of small microplastics in seawater or, effectively, in any environmental sample,” said Erni-Cassola in a statement.”Current methods used to assess the amount of microplastics mostly consist in manually picking the microplastics out of samples one by one—demonstrating the great improvement of our method.” Meanwhile, the team at Warwick discovered that the largest quantity of microplastics less than 1 mm in diameter was polypropylene, the ubiquitous polymer found in plastic bags and takeout containers. This finding proves that “our consumer habits are directly affecting the oceans,” the scientists said. Related: Which personal-care brands are still polluting the oceans with microbeads? The research is still in its early days, Christie-Oleza insisted, but it’s a beginning. “Have we found the lost 99 percent of missing plastic in surface oceans?” he said. “Obviously this method needs to be implemented in future scientific surveys to confirm our preliminary findings. It is important to understand how plastic waste behaves in the environment to correctly assess future policies.” + University of Warwick Top image by by Gaetano Cessati on Unsplash

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Scientists discover cheap method to identify "lost" 99% of ocean microplastics

Whale mother can’t let go of dead calf likely poisoned by plastic

November 20, 2017 by  
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The impact of humanity’s pollution on nature became all too real in a heartbreaking clip from Blue Planet II . A mother pilot whale grieved her dead baby, carrying it around with her. The calf may have died because of industrial chemicals – and our plastic littering the oceans . A preview for episode four of BBC One’s Blue Planet II revealed a tragic scene: a mother pilot whale who seemingly couldn’t let go of her dead calf. The calf might have been poisoned by the mother’s milk, contaminated with pollutants of ours which enter the oceans. Narrator David Attenborough said she’d been carrying the baby for several days. “In top predators like these, industrial chemicals can build up to lethal levels. And plastic could be part of the problem. As plastic breaks down, it combines with these other pollutants that are consumed by vast numbers of marine creatures,” Attenborough said in the video. Related: Plankton Pundit video shows exact moment plastic enters the food chain Pilot whales possess large brains, Attenborough explained in the video, and have the capacity to feel emotions. He said the adults’ behavior following the death of the calf reveals its loss impacted the whole family. “Unless the flow of plastics and industrial pollution into the world’s oceans is reduced, marine life will be poisoned by them for many centuries to come,” he said. Around eight million metric tons of plastic enters Earth’s oceans every single year, according to the Blue Planet II website, and can kill ocean creatures. They offered several suggestions for how concerned viewers can get involved with ocean conservation , such as picking up trash or downloading the Beat the Microbead app, which tells users if a cosmetic or household product contains microbeads so they can avoid purchasing it (click the links to download for Android or iOS ). + Blue Planet II Images via BBC on YouTube

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Could France-sized ocean garbage patch become 196th nation?

September 19, 2017 by  
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Plastic trash is polluting our oceans , and now there’s a garbage patch near Hawaii that is about as large as the entire country of France. The charity Plastic Oceans Foundation and publication LADbible want to have the patch acknowledged as a country called Trash Isles . Why? Two main reasons: to raise awareness of the pollution problem, and to get the area cleaned up. LADbible and Plastic Oceans want to set up the world’s 196th nation: Trash Isles, currently a giant garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean . They’re working to raise awareness, but they also submitted a Declaration of Independence to the United Nations (UN) on World Oceans Day back in June. They’re now collecting signatures of ‘citizens’ on Change.org to submit a petition to UN Secretary General António Guterres. Related: A garbage patch bigger than Texas was just discovered in the Pacific Ocean Trash Isles actually could meet country criteria. LADbible says under Article 1 of the 1993 Montevido Convention on the rights and duties of States, a country must define a territory, form a government, have a permanent population – they say that one’s open for interpretation – and be able to interact with other states. Quartz said they can roughly draw borders around the garbage patch and it wouldn’t be hard to create a government and organizations for interacting. Trash Isles can already count former United States vice president Al Gore as their first citizen, and over 107,750 people have signed the Change.org petition. What’s the point of all this effort, besides awareness of an environmental issue? If accepted as a country and UN member, Trash Isles will be protected under the UN’s Environmental Charters. LADbible pointed to a specific line which reads, “All members shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect, and restore the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystem .” They interpret that to mean the world’s countries will have to work to clean up Trash Isles. LADbible said people can help out by signing the Change.org petition to become a Trash Isles citizen, or by donating to Plastic Oceans . Trash Isles already has an official flag, currency, and passports created with recycled materials . LADbible Group Head of Marketing Stephen Mai said, “We are just getting started. There may well be a national anthem, general elections, and even a national football team.” + Trash Isles + Plastic Oceans Foundation Via LADbible ( 1 , 2 ) and Quartz Images via LADbible and Mario Kerkstra ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 )

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Could France-sized ocean garbage patch become 196th nation?

Plastic fibers found in over 80% of tap water samples from five continents

September 7, 2017 by  
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If you had a glass of water from the tap today, you likely ingested plastic. Orb Media conducted an investigation of plastic in our tap water over 10 months, and their results were shocking: over 80 percent of samples they collected – in places like the United States Capitol building or the shores of Uganda’s Lake Victoria – contained plastic fibers. The authors of the study say we’re living in the Plastic Age – and the contamination probably is not limited to our water. Orb Media and a researcher from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health scrutinized plastic fibers in our tap water for the report, titled Invisibles, for what Orb Media described as the “first public scientific study of its kind.” Microplastics contaminating our water come from a variety of sources, from synthetic clothes to tire dust to microbeads to plastic utensils. According to Orb Media, “We have produced more plastic in the last 10 years than in the entirety of the last century.” They said experts said plastics are probably in your food too – like baby formula, sauces, or craft beer. Related: Plankton Pundit video shows exact moment plastic enters the food chain The research authors tested tap water in the United States, Europe, Indonesia, India, Lebanon, Uganda, and Ecuador. The United States had the greatest amount of plastics in their water at 94 percent of samples; the researchers detected the fibers at the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, Congress buildings, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next greatest amounts of contamination. Europe had the least – but plastics were still found in 72 percent of samples there. It’s easy to blame waste management or sewage treatment systems. But one marine biology professor said designers have a role to play too. Associate Dean of Research at Plymouth University Richard Thompson told Orb Media, “Plastics are inherently recyclable . What’s preventing us from recycling I’d argue, is inadequate, inappropriate, or…lack of proper consideration on the design stage for what’s going to happen at the end of life.” Senior Research Associate at the University of New South Wales Mark Browne said, “It’s all of our fault.” + Invisibles Via Orb Media and The Guardian Lead image via Depositphotos , others via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Plastic fibers found in over 80% of tap water samples from five continents

White House kills ban on bottled water at National Parks

August 18, 2017 by  
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The Trump administration has put the kibosh on a six-year-old ban on selling bottled water at some national parks . The National Park Service announced on Wednesday that, effectively immediately, parks like the Grand Canyon will no longer be able to block the sale of plastic water bottles in a bid to reduce litter. In a statement, the National Park Service said it wanted to “expand hydration options for recreationalists, hikers, and other visitors to national parks.” The decision serves as yet another rollback of one of President Barack Obama’s environmental policies. Since 2011, the Green Parks Plan has encouraged the use of refillable water bottles on park lands. While it didn’t prohibit the sale of bottled sweetened drinks, the policy allowed parks to prevent the sale of disposable water bottles in vending machines, stores, and hotels. Related: Big Water fights plans to ban plastic water bottles in national parks Besides the Grand Canyon, 22 of the 417 National Park Service sites implemented the policy, officials said. These included Bryce Canyon National Park, Mount Rushmore, and Zion National Park. The rollback is a win for the bottled water and beverage industry, which campaigned against the ban, noting that the Obama administration “removed the healthiest beverage choice at a variety of parks while still allowing sales of bottled sweetened drinks.” “Consumption of water in all forms, tap, filtered, and bottled, should always be encouraged,” said Jill Culora, a spokeswoman for the International Bottled Water Association , a trade group. “The rescinded policy was seriously flawed.” The move by the National Parks comes three weeks after the Senate confirmation of David Bernhardt as deputy interior secretary. Bernhardt, according to the Washington Post , served as a lobbyist with the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which has represented Nestlé Water , one of the largest water bottlers in the United States and the distributor of the Deer Park brand. Via Washington Post and Associated Press Lead image via Pixabay , others by National Park Service/Flickr

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White House kills ban on bottled water at National Parks

Woven bamboo pavilion offers shelter to passion fruit farmers in China

August 18, 2017 by  
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A team of students at the University of Hong Kong is exploring the limitless potential of bamboo as a sustainable alternative to conventional building materials. After completing a glowing pavilion in their hometown, they designed another innovative bamboo structure– this time in China– using traditional weaving techniques and digital technologies. The 215-square-foot Sun Room pavilion is located in the village of Peitian, amidst a passion fruit plantation. The structure references the area’s cultural history, and it provides shelter from storms and sun while serving as a tea house where farmers can rest and relax. Related: Elegant bamboo bridge adds unexpected beauty to ancient Chinese town In an attempt to revive the ancient craft of bamboo weaving, the design team worked with the last remaining bamboo weaver in the village. They also used digital software and CNC machines to come up with an optimal wave-like form. The outer shell of the pavilion is made from woven bamboo, while the pine load-bearing structure was sourced regionally and cut by local carpenters. Related: Gorgeous bamboo gridshell combines Cambodian design with mathematical forms “Tools and jigs were developed and then digitally fabricated at HKU using the faculty CNC and robotic equipment,” said HKU architecture course leader Donn Holohan. “These elements along with the pattern maps allowed the villagers to achieve the complex form without a prior training in the craft of bamboo weaving ,” he added. + University of Hong Kong (HKU) Via Dezeen

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Woven bamboo pavilion offers shelter to passion fruit farmers in China

Global population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute

July 3, 2017 by  
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We’re drowning in plastic bottles . You already know plastic water bottle use – and their disposal or lack thereof – is a worldwide dilemma, but new statistics released by The Guardian reveal just how staggering the issue has become. Every minute humans purchase one million plastic bottles, consuming nearly 500 billion a year. And while it’s true many of these bottles can be recycled , it’s becoming harder for us to keep up with the sheer volume of trash that needs recycling, and a great deal of it lands up polluting our oceans . In 2016 humans bought over 480 billion plastic water bottles. But that’s only the beginning of the bad news. Less than half of those 480 billion bottles were collected for recycling. And a mere seven percent of those found a second life as new bottles. What happened to the rest? You guessed it: they’re littering our oceans and landfills . And estimates from Euromonitor International indicate their use will only increase, to 583.5 billion by 2021. Related: Plastic waste pop-up pavilion rethinks recycling in the Netherlands Surfers Against Sewage chief executive Hugo Tagholm told The Guardian, “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change …Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain . Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.” Plastic is already showing up in our food, according to recent studies. Scientists at Belgium’s Ghent University found people who eat seafood unwittingly consume 11,000 tiny plastic pieces yearly. Researchers at Plymouth University in England discovered plastic in one third of fish caught in the United Kingdom. According to The Guardian, plastic was first popularized in the 1940’s – but much of the material manufactured then is still around today because plastic takes hundreds of years at best to break down. These bottles could be comprised of 100 percent recycled plastic , but many brands haven’t made the switch because they prefer the shiny look of traditional plastic. And many companies have fought against a tax on single-use bottles. But a similar tax on plastic bags has been quite successful: England’s five pound plastic bag tax has resulted in usage of the polluting bags plummeting by 85 percent . Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Emilian Robert Vicol on Flickr

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Global population buys one million plastic bottles every single minute

Artist recycles old typewriters into beautiful guns

July 3, 2017 by  
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The Art of War takes on new meaning in Canadian artist Eric Nado’s evocative typewriter-guns. Inspired by the old adage “the pen is mightier than the sword,” these beautiful and futuristic Typewriter Guns are fully recycled from colorful vintage typewriters. These powerful pieces explore the impact of words, over arms, in shaping history. Nado’s reconstructive artworks are crafted with all original parts of vintage typewriters, including brands such as Underwood and Royal. Though startlingly realistic, these steampunk-esque guns are non-functional. The assemblage artist has also worked with other mediums, most notably in his Seamstress Series where he transforms vintage sewing machines in sculptures reminiscent of workingwomen of the post-war era. Related: Fascinating Sculptures Made from Recycled Typewriter Parts In an interview with Creators , Nado said he was motivated by his childhood memories of playing with his mother’s typewriter. “The sound of the keys evoked, for me, the sound of guns going off. It is this memory that initiated in me, years later, a new obsession, fueled by what were now years of experience in technical manifestations of art,” he said. “I wondered, could it be possible to transform these evocative machines into representations of a gun arsenal? My intuition was that it could be done and the objective was to do so by deconstructing and reconstructing solely the pieces of one typewriter at a time, making each and every gun an art piece with a history in itself.” + Eric Nado Via Creators Images via Eric Nado

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Artist recycles old typewriters into beautiful guns

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