Wild bees are building nests with plastic

June 10, 2019 by  
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While plastic use is going out of vogue with more enlightened humans, it’s catching on with Argentinian bees. Scientists don’t know why Argentina’s solitary bees are now constructing nests out of plastic packaging left on crop fields. Unlike the large hive model with queens and workers, wild bees lay larvae in individual nests. Researchers at Argentina’s National Agricultural Technology Institute constructed 63 wooden nests for wild bees from 2017 to 2018. They later found that three nests were entirely lined with pieces of plastic that bees had cut and arranged in an overlapping pattern. The plastic seemed to have come from plastic bags or a similar material, with a texture reminiscent of the leaves bees usually use to line nests. Related: McDonald’s creates McHives to raise awareness of the world’s decreasing bee populations The scientists’ study, published in Apidologie, is the first to find nests entirely made from plastic. But researchers have known for years that bees sometimes incorporate plastic into nests otherwise made of natural materials . Canadian scientists have chronicled bees’ use of plastic foams and films in Toronto. Like the Argentinian bees, bees in Canada cut the plastic to mimic leaves. Scientists aren’t yet sure what to make of this architectural development. “It would demonstrate the adaptive flexibility that certain species of bees would have in the face of changes in environmental conditions,” Mariana Allasino, the Argentinian study’s lead author, wrote in a press release translated from Spanish. But will the plastic harm the bees? More research is required to gauge the risks. While microplastics are a huge threat to marine animals, some enterprising creatures find ways to use trash to their advantage. Finches and sparrows arrange cigarette butts in their nests to repel parasitic mites. Stinky but effective. “Sure it’s possible it might afford some benefits, but that hasn’t been shown yet,” entomologist Hollis Woodard told National Geographic. “I think it’s equally likely to have things that are harmful.” Via National Geographic Image via Judy Gallagher

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Wild bees are building nests with plastic

Navigating the fast-changing landscape of bioplastics and biomaterials

June 7, 2019 by  
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From sugar to flax to algae, entrepreneurs and multinationals are racing to cultivate plant-based solutions meant to downplay the world’s dependence on single-use plastics.

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Navigating the fast-changing landscape of bioplastics and biomaterials

Why we’re still at sea on ocean plastics — the real reasons we haven’t solved the plastic crisis yet

May 27, 2019 by  
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Our circular economy analyst on the Ocean Plastics Leadership Summit, a seaside session with companies, NGOs, waste management firms and innovators.

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Why we’re still at sea on ocean plastics — the real reasons we haven’t solved the plastic crisis yet

Can we prepare for climate impacts without creating financial chaos?

May 27, 2019 by  
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How can communities prepare for impacts without scaring away homeowners and investors and setting off a damaging economic spiral?

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Can we prepare for climate impacts without creating financial chaos?

Exploring employee activism: Why this stakeholder group can no longer be ignored

May 27, 2019 by  
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Don’t underestimate the power of your workforce as a vocal advocate for transparency and change, with a huge impact on strategy and reputation.

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Exploring employee activism: Why this stakeholder group can no longer be ignored

Bringing the power of plastic recycling to the people

May 24, 2019 by  
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A new project can help empower local communities to take recycling into their own bins.

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Bringing the power of plastic recycling to the people

New report reveals 70 million metric tons of plastic burned worldwide each year

May 21, 2019 by  
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A new report reveals the scale of the world’s plastic problem and the alarming amount of plastic that is burned. Despite the grave and well-documented consequences for human health, about 12 percent of all plastic in the U.S. is burned. In middle- and low-income countries without the infrastructure to recycle, plastic is burned at a much higher rate. According to the report , published by Tearfund, Fauna & Flora International, WasteAid and The Institute of Development Studies, a double-decker bus full of plastic is burned or dumped every single second. When calculated annually, that is equivalent to 70 million metric tons. Burning plastic releases toxic chemicals into the air that have been linked to heart disease, headache, nausea, rashes and damage to the kidney, liver and nervous system. In low- and middle-income countries without garbage facilities, the majority of trash is burned near homes — such as in the backyard — and poses direct threat to the inhabitants. In many cases, repeated exposure to the chemicals can lead to respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema. Related: Microplastic rain — new study reveals microplastics are in the air In wealthier countries, new incinerator technology claims to burn trash with fewer direct health concerns. The negative health impacts of plastic are not new; in fact, this month the United Nations voted to list plastic as a hazardous waste material . Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced, and nearly half of that is only used once . This number is enormous but hard for many people to truly understand. According to National Geographic , this will be equivalent to the weight of 35,000 Empire State Buildings by 2050. But do these abstract numbers really help us put our problem into perspective? The first step is understanding the world’s addiction to plastic, but then specific actions must be taken. The American Chemistry Council, which contested the report’s results, argues that governments and companies need to enforce stricter requirements for packaging. Last year, major plastic producers formed the Alliance to End Plastic Waste , inclusive of Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corp. and Procter & Gamble. The Alliance promised to invest $1.5 billion into the effort to reduce plastic’s impact on the environment. Via HuffPost Image via Stacie DePonte

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New report reveals 70 million metric tons of plastic burned worldwide each year

Even the most remote islands are victims of plastic pollution

May 17, 2019 by  
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Plastic hasn’t taken much more than a century to conquer the entire world. Since plastic’s invention in 1907, it has infiltrated even the most remote island chains, according to a new study by marine biologist Jennifer Lavers and her associates. When the researchers visited the Cocos Keeling Islands — 6 square miles of land 1,300 miles off Australia’s northwest coast — they found a staggering accumulation of plastic waste . Because nearly no one lives on the islands, the plastic bags, straws , cutlery, 373,000 toothbrushes and 975,000 shoes must have floated there. “So, more than 414 million pieces of plastic debris are estimated to be currently sitting on the Cocos Keeling Islands, weighing a remarkable 238 tons,” Lavers said in an NPR report . Lavers is a research scientist at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. Related: Ocean explorer finds plastic waste during world’s deepest dive Lavers and her research team studied seven of the 27 islands, mostly in 2017. They marked off transects of the beaches , then counted the plastic pollution inside the transects. Their estimated total is based on multiplying the plastic waste found in each transect by the total beach area of the Cocos Keeling Islands. But what surprised Lavers most was how much plastic pollution was buried beneath the sand. Her team dug four inches down. “What was really quite amazing was that the deeper we went, the more plastic we were actually finding,” she said. The sun’s heat breaks down plastic waste sitting on the sand’s surface, then waves drive tiny plastic pieces into the sand. “It’s the little stuff that’s perfectly bite-sized,” Lavers said. “The stuff that fish and squid and birds and even turtles can eat.” There’s not a lot of good news in Lavers’ study , which was published in the journal Nature. As the authors point out in their introduction, global plastic production is increasing exponentially, with about 40 percent of items entering the waste stream after a single use . “Unfortunately, unless drastic steps are taken, the numbers and challenges will only grow, with the quantity of waste entering the ocean predicted to increase ten-fold by 2025,” the study warned. + Nature Via NPR Image via Jennifer Lavers

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Even the most remote islands are victims of plastic pollution

Episode 172: How new packaging ideas bubble up at Sealed Air, talking green buildings

May 17, 2019 by  
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Plus, why Republican Bob Inglis, a former representative for South Carolina, has made it his mission to educate conservatives about the economics of climate change.

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Episode 172: How new packaging ideas bubble up at Sealed Air, talking green buildings

Why Fisk Johnson and David Katz believe in retail and finance’s role in ending plastic pollution

May 13, 2019 by  
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The best of live interviews from GreenBiz events. This episode: Can consumer goods companies and NGOs team up for material health and social good?

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Why Fisk Johnson and David Katz believe in retail and finance’s role in ending plastic pollution

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