River plastic Interceptors are stopping trash from reaching the ocean

via CNET

Nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup is continuing its mission of ridding the world of ocean plastic by catching garbage before it makes its way to the sea. The organization has introduced a new third-generation Interceptor that it says can remove larger debris more efficiently and at a lower cost.

The Ocean Cleanup Interceptors were first announced by founder and CEO Boyan Slat in 2019. The trash Interceptors are moored to river beds and use river current to snag debris floating on the surface. Then they direct the trash onto a conveyor belt that shuttles it into six large onboard dumpsters. The Interceptors run completely autonomously day and night, getting power from solar panels. 

Read the full sotry here: https://www.cnet.com/news/river-plastic-interceptors-are-stopping-trash-from-reaching-the-ocean/

Doosan outlines plan to produce hydrogen from plastic waste

via GlobalConstructionReview.com

South Korean equipment maker Doosan Heavy Industries has signed a memorandum of understanding with another Korean company to develop the technology to produce hydrogen from waste plastics and vinyl.

Doosan has teamed up with RevoTech, a plastic pyrolysis specialist, to carry out the work. RevoTech will handle the thermal decomposition of the plastic waste to produce gas, and Doosan Heavy will develop facilities and processes to extract hydrogen from it.

Read the full story here: https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/doosan-outlines-plan-produce-hydrogen-plastic-wast/

Nanoplastics — an underestimated problem?

via Science Daily

Wherever scientists look, they can spot them: whether in remote mountain lakes, in Arctic sea ice, in the deep-ocean floor or in air samples, even in edible fish — thousands upon thousands of microscopic plastic particles in the micro to millimeter range. This microplastic is now even considered one of the defining features of the Anthropocene, the age of the Earth shaped by modern humans.

Microplastics are formed by weathering and physicochemical or biological degradation processes from macroscopic plastic products, such as the tons of plastic waste in the oceans. It is unlikely that these degradation processes will stop at the micrometer scale. And so there is growing concern about the potential harmful effects nanoplastics could have on various ecosystems. “Numerous media reports suggest, through their sometimes highly emotional coverage, that we are facing a huge problem here,” says Empa researcher Bernd Nowack, who has long studied the material flows of synthetic micro- and nanoparticles, for example from textiles or tire abrasion, into the environment. But Nowack says at present this statement can hardly be substantiated by scientific findings: “We don’t even know how much nanoplastics there is in the different ecosystems.”

Read the full story here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210504112641.htm

Microplastics are everywhere — but are they harmful?

via Nature.com

Dunzhu Li used to microwave his lunch each day in a plastic container. But Li, an environmental engineer, stopped when he and his colleagues made a disturbing discovery: plastic food containers shed huge numbers of tiny specks — called microplastics — into hot water. “We were shocked,” Li says. Kettles and baby bottles also shed microplastics, Li and other researchers, at Trinity College Dublin, reported last October1. If parents prepare baby formula by shaking it up in hot water inside a plastic bottle, their infant might end up swallowing more than one million microplastic particles each day, the team calculated.

What Li and other researchers don’t yet know is whether this is dangerous. Everyone eats and inhales sand and dust, and it’s not clear if an extra diet of plastic specks will harm us. “Most of what you ingest is going to pass straight through your gut and out the other end,” says Tamara Galloway, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Exeter, UK. “I think it is fair to say the potential risk might be high,” says Li, choosing his words carefully.

Read the full story here: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01143-3

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/