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/

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/

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

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

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

Airborne plastic pollution ‘spiralling around the globe’, study finds

via The Guardian

Microplastic pollution is now “spiralling around the globe”, according to a study of airborne plastic particles.

The researchers said human pollution has led to a global plastic cycle, akin to natural processes such as the carbon cycle, with plastic moving through the atmosphere, oceans and land. The result is the “plastification” of the planet, said one scientist.

Read the full story here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/12/airborne-plastic-pollution-spiralling-around-the-globe-study-finds

Plastic Is Falling From the Sky. But Where’s It Coming From?

via Wired

At any given time, 1,100 tons of microplastic are floating over the western US. New modeling shows the surprising sources of the nefarious pollutant.

IF YOU FIND yourself in some secluded spot in the American West—maybe Yellowstone, or the deserts of Utah, or the forests of Oregon—take a deep breath and get some fresh air along with some microplastic. According to new modeling, 1,100 tons of it is currently floating above the western US. The stuff is falling out of the sky, tainting the most remote corners of North America—and the world. As I’ve said before, plastic rain is the new acid rain.

But where is it all coming from? You’d think it’d be arising from nearby cities—western metropolises like Denver and Salt Lake City. But new modeling published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that 84 percent of airborne microplastics in the American West actually comes from the roads outside of major cities. Another 11 percent could be blowing all the way in from the ocean. (The researchers who built the model reckon that microplastic particles stay airborne for nearly a week, and that’s more than enough time for them to cross continents and oceans.)

Read the full story here: https://www.wired.com/story/plastic-is-falling-from-the-sky/

How does plastic debris make its way into ocean garbage patches?

via EurekAlert

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2021 — Tons of plastic debris get released into the ocean every day, and most of it accumulates within the middle of garbage patches, which tend to float on the oceans’ surface in the center of each of their regions. The most infamous one, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is in the North Pacific Ocean.

Researchers in the U.S. and Germany decided to explore which pathways transport debris from the coasts to the middle of the oceans, as well as the relative strengths of different subtropical gyres in the oceans and how they influence long-term accumulation of debris.

Read the full story here: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/aiop-hdp022521.php