A high-altitude clean-up in Bolivia’s Valley of the Souls

via Reuters

In Bolivia’s Valley of the Souls, razor sharp rock formations pierce the blue sky above the nearby highland city of La Paz, from where urban sprawl over years has left the picturesque spot littered with plastic waste and construction rubble.

Now the rocky canyon is getting a clean up amid a wider push to spruce up the South American country’s scenic spots and waterways, with hundreds of volunteers, aided by heavy machinery, shifting over 15 tons of debris in the last week.

Read the full story here: https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/high-altitude-clean-up-bolivias-valley-souls-2021-05-04/

Covid-19: the plastic pandemic

via Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa 

Lowered on the chin or worn correctly, generously distributed in schools and workplaces, sold everywhere at a controlled price, face masks are now a constant presence in the lives of billions of people. A gust of wind or a distraction is enough for them to disperse in the environment, and already in the first months of the pandemic, when for many they were still unavailable, they had become fairly common waste on the beaches of all oceans.

But protective gear – not just masks, but also gloves, aprons, visors – are just one of the factors that have led plastic consumption to skyrocket in times of pandemic.

Read the full story here: https://www.balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Areas/Europe/Covid-19-the-plastic-pandemic-210266

Why 99% of ocean plastic pollution is “missing”

via Vox

Starting in the 1990s, the world’s attention began turning to the specter of ocean garbage patches — heaps of plastic and other debris that accumulate in distinct areas of the ocean, thanks to currents known as gyres. These patches came to symbolize our global addiction to plastic production and consumption.

A lot of the plastic we consume ends up in the ocean due to man-made causes, such as poor waste management practices. Some of it ends up there because of natural disasters. There’s a lot of Japanese plastic floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example, due to the 2011 tsunami. Japan is a country that otherwise has above-average waste management policies.

Read the full story here: https://www.vox.com/videos/22406194/plastic-pollution-in-the-ocean-99-percent-missing

Researchers find how tiny plastics slip through the environment

via Eurekalert

Washington State University researchers have shown the fundamental mechanisms that allow tiny pieces of plastic bags and foam packaging at the nanoscale to move through the environment.

The researchers found that a silica surface such as sand has little effect on slowing down the movement of the plastics, but that natural organic matter resulting from decomposition of plant and animal remains can either temporarily or permanently trap the nanoscale plastic particles, depending on the type of plastics.

Read the full story here: here: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-04/wsu-rfh042721.php

This 185-foot sailboat can gobble up to three tons of plastic waste per hour

via Mobile Syrup

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, at least eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and make up 80 percent of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. If nothing is done about the situation, there will be more plastic waste in the oceans than fish by 2050. French ocean adventurer Yvan Bourgnon and his team have therefore taken it upon themselves to heal the ocean slowly but surely. They’ve designed Manta, a 185-foot, plastic-eating catamaran (sailboat) powered by renewable energy. Plastic trash is literally scooped up and converted into fuel to help power the catamaran.

Read more at MobileSyrup.comThis 185-foot sailboat can gobble up to three tons of plastic waste per hour

Adding enzymes to bioplastics can make them disappear

via Popular Science

With so many different plastics entering the waterways that take hundreds of years to decompose, plastic pollution and microplastics are almost everywhere on the planet, from the air to the sea, in vast quantities. Compostable plastics, like corn-based plastic cups and straws, are sometimes touted as a viable solution, but without the infrastructure to properly turn them into compost, they can end up in a landfill

To keep our oceans from becoming even more plastic-filled, scientists are finding the keys to making plastics quickly decompose, and baking them into the plastic’s formula. Ting Xu, professor of materials science and engineering and chemistry at the University of California Berkeley, and her research group investigate biologically available solutions that will allow single-use plastic to biodegrade under easily attainable conditions. In a new study, they describe how they used an innovative polymer coating on enzymes that can be built-in to bioplastics to make them easier to compost at home. 

Read the full story here: https://www.popsci.com/story/environment/biodegradable-plastics-enzyme/

Scientists develop a truly recyclable plastic. Is the world ready for it?

via Fast Company

If we can’t ditch plastic, we can at least make it more recyclable—at least that’s what researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Department of Energy are proposing with a new material called PDK.

The average American generates 220 pounds of plastic waste each year. A vast majority of it is not recycled, even if you send it to a recycling facility. Most plastic ends up in a dump.

There are all sorts of reasons for this. Some recycling facilities don’t have the technology to sort plastic correctly. And for companies, it’s actually cheaper to make “virgin” plastic than to produce recycled plastic. Recycled plastic is far from perfect anyway. Generally produced by melting down old plastic, recycled plastic actually needs virgin plastic mixed in to keep its structure. An estimated 91% of all plastic isn’t recycled at all.

Read the full story here: https://www.fastcompany.com/90628475/scientists-develop-a-truly-recyclable-plastic-is-the-world-ready-for-it

The Future Looks Bright for Infinitely Recyclable Plastic

via Berkeley Lab

Plastics are a part of nearly every product we use on a daily basis. The average person in the U.S. generates about 100 kg of plastic waste per year, most of which goes straight to a landfill. A team led by Corinne Scown, Brett Helms, Jay Keasling, and Kristin Persson at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) set out to change that.

Less than two years ago, Helms announced the invention of a new plastic that could tackle the waste crisis head on. Called poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, the material has all the convenient properties of traditional plastics while avoiding the environmental pitfalls, because unlike traditional plastics, PDKs can be recycled indefinitely with no loss in quality.

Read the full story here: https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2021/04/22/infinitely-recyclable-plastic/

IEEFA Says Formosa Plastics Plant Not Financially Viable

via Big Easy Magazine

Photo credit: zapravka2

In a March 23rd article, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) said that Formosa’s new plastic plant being built in “Cancer Alley” in St. James Parish, would not be financially sustainable, writing, “IEEFA finds that the project will begin operations at a time of market oversupply, lower petrochemical prices, strong competition for market share, restrictive trade policies, environmental regulatory challenges, judicial findings of historic racial discrimination, popular opposition, rising construction costs, and a weakened bond rating. The report urges the cancellation of ‘this ill-advised project, which should be abandoned in light of its weak fundamentals.’”

Among those reasons the Formosa plant seems unviable, they write, that the plant, which was proposed as a $9.7 billion dollar project has already now ballooned to $12 billion. Along with that, they also add that with the likelihood of recycling increasing that the, “Long-term demand for virgin plastic production will likely decline as recycling and bans on single-use plastic increase.”

Read the full story here: https://www.bigeasymagazine.com/2021/03/26/ieefa-says-formosa-plastics-plant-not-financially-viable/

Could Plastic-Eating Mushrooms Solve Humanity’s Plastic Problem?

via Interesting Engineering

Since the mass production of plastics began in the 1950s, humans have created 9 billion tons of plastic, and this creates a crisis that’s not easy to tackle since plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade. Those used by the people of the ’60s still exist in some form, and with only 9 percent recycled, only 12 percent has been incinerated.

This has lead scientists to search for alternative methods for plastic reduction, and one solution that could aid humanity might be hidden in fungi. Scientists have discovered mushrooms that eat plastic over the years: Some mushroom species have the ability to consume polyurethane, which is one of the main ingredients in plastic products.

Read the full story here: https://interestingengineering.com/could-plastic-eating-mushrooms-solve-humanitys-plastic-problem