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The World Is Choking on Digital Pollution

A problem without a name cannot command attention, understanding, or resources—three essential ingredients of change. Recognizing that at some threshold industrial waste ceases to be an individual problem and becomes a social problem—a problem we can name—has been crucial to our ability to manage it. From the Clean Air Act to the Paris Accords, we have debated the environmental costs of progress with participants from all corners of society: the companies that produce energy or industrial products; the scientists who study our environment and our behaviors; the officials we elect to represent us; and groups of concerned citizens who want to take a stand……

Source: The World Is Choking on Digital Pollution

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The Ocean Cleanup System Begins Removing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – Sead Fadilpasic

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A Dutch non-profit organization announced they were working on advanced technologies in an attempt to remove the plastic waste from the world’s oceans. The Ocean Cleanup launched in September the cleanup system called “System 001” from the San Francisco Bay. On October 16, the system reached a location 240 nautical miles offshore, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, to begin the operation on its removal. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the world’s largest accumulation zone of ocean plastic pollution. It contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, covering an area twice the size of Texas……

Read more: https://techacute.com/the-ocean-cleanup-system-removes-plastic-from-oceans/

 

 

 

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Hurricane Florence Triggers Coal Ash Spill, Cuts Power to Millions – Gavin Bade

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The amount of coal ash released from the Sutton plant is relatively small compared to major spills, but it underscores the inherent risks of storing the waste product in close proximity to waterways and local communities. Coal ash, created by burning coal for electricity generation, contains heavy metals like mercury and lead known to be harmful to humans. Duke said enough ash was released to fill two-thirds of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, but most of it was caught in a ditch surrounding the storage facility……

Read more: https://www.utilitydive.com/news/hurricane-florence-triggers-coal-ash-spill-cuts-power-to-millions/532491/

 

 

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These Cultural Treasures Are Made of Plastic. Now They’re Falling Apart – XiaoZhi Lim

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LOS ANGELES — The custodians of Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit at the National Air and Space Museum saw it coming. A marvel of human engineering, the suit is made of 21 layers of various plastics: nylon, neoprene, Mylar, Dacron, Kapton and Teflon.

The rubbery neoprene layer would pose the biggest problem. Although invisible, buried deep between the other layers, the suit’s caretakers knew the neoprene would harden and become brittle with age, eventually making the suit stiff as a board. In January 2006, the Armstrong suit, a national treasure, was taken off display and stored to slow the degradation……

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/science/plastics-preservation-getty.html

 

 

 

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More Pollution Shows Up In New River, & This Time It’s Milky White – David Fleshler

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A few weeks ago, residents reported murky, “chocolate-milk color” water and an oily sheen on the river. Environmental inspectors for Broward County identified the source as a Fort Lauderdale street-improvement project at Southeast 2nd Street and Southeast 4th Avenue, where stormwater was being used under pressure and a pump was found to be leaking diesel fuel.

Source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/fort-lauderdale/fl-sb-new-river-pollution-20180829-story.html

 

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Why Bioplastics Made From Seaweed Could Be Indonesia’s Answer To The Plastic Pollution

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The impacts of global plastic use have reached an alarming level. Based on the latest data, 9 billion tonnes of plastics have been produced since the 1950s, creating 7 billion tonnes of waste. Plastic waste not only damages the environment and threaten animal life but also harms human populations.

One of the most dangerous elements of plastic waste is tiny pieces of debris known as microplastics. These are damaging the environment, mostly the ocean, and in much greater amounts than originally thought. A recent study shows the number of microplastics has reached up to 51 trillion particles, or 236,000 metric tonnes, globally. These tiny particles can end up in people’s stomachs via drinking water or eating seafood, which could present health risks.

Various attempts to minimise plastic use have been introduced. One involves developing plastic materials, known as biodegradable plastics or bioplastics, that decompose naturally in the environment.

My research aims to show how seaweed can be the best material for use in bioplastics. This article argues that Indonesia can play a key role in developing seaweed-based plastics.

Policies against plastic

A number of countries have recently introduced policies to encourage the use of degradable plastics and recycling to minimise plastic use.

The UK will ban all sales of single-use plastic, including plastic straws and cotton swabs, next year.

Cities in the US have declared war on plastic straws. Seattle has launched a campaign dubbed “Strawless in Seattle”, while New York is considering a ban on plastic straws.

In 2017, Kenya introduced the toughest plastic bag ban with a penalty of four years in jail or a $40,000 fine.

Finding solutions

However, it is impossible to stop plastic use.

So far, plastic is the most convenient and versatile material for various purposes and brings huge benefits to our lives. People’s continued dependency on plastic has encouraged the rise in the production of plastic now and in the future.

The plastic industry is huge and is expected to continue expanding. In 2014, the plastic packaging industry was valued at US$270 billion and this is projected to increase to $375 billion by 2030.

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One way to control plastic use is through recycling. However, things are not as easy as expected. Plastic products come in a hundred or more varieties. These variations are so huge that it is difficult to sort them out for the recycling process.

Therefore, only about 9% of plastic waste is recycled. Around 12% is incinerated. The rest ends up mostly in landfills or the ocean.

Bioplastics offer an alternative. The bioplastics are commonly made from plants or bacteria and are more environmentally friendly as well as sustainable.

Strong demand for bioplastics

The global bioplastic production capacity will increase to 6.1 million tonnes in 2021 from 4.2 million tonnes in 2016 due to people’s increasing awareness of eco-friendly products.

People have started using bioplastics in their daily lives, with uses ranging from shopping bags and disposable housewares to electronics.

Big brands such as Coca-Cola, Heinz, Unilever, Nestle, Danone and Nike have started using bioplastics for their packaging.

Why seaweed for bioplastics?

The materials commonly used to produce bioplastics are corn, sugarcane, vegetable oil and starch. However, using these ingredients for plastics has raised some concerns.

First, the production of bioplastics requires a huge investment in the land, fertilisers and chemicals. Second, the use of these plants for plastics will trigger a competition between plants for food versus plants for plastics, which will lead to food price hikes and food crisis.

Seaweed is so far the best candidate for bioplastics as it manages to answer both of the challenges above. First, it is cheap. Unlike other terrestrial plants, seaweed can grow without fertilisers. It does not take up huge space on land as it grows offshore. By using seaweed for bioplastics, the production of agricultural commodities for food will remain intact, so no food price hikes nor food crisis will occur.

Indonesia’s key role

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world and two-thirds of its territory is water. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest seaweed producers, accounting for more than a third of global seaweed production. Indonesia’s seaweed exports were valued at around US$200 million in 2014, with production reportedly increasing at about 30% per year.

Indonesia is also the world’s largest producer of red seaweed, whose carbohydrate element is the key ingredient for bioplastics.

A recent report suggests that Indonesia is a highly suitable place for red seaweed farming due to its climate, nutrients and geographical conditions.

Indonesia is also one step ahead of other countries in developing seaweed-based plastics. Indonesian start-up Indonesia Evoware has invented cups and food containers made from farmed seaweeds and sold them commercially.

The invention shows seaweed’s huge potential as an alternative material for bioplastics. More research is needed to ensure that seaweed-based plastics can be applied to other plastic products. In the future, we hope that seaweed-based plastics will be comparable with conventional plastics.

With its potential, Indonesia should play a key role in developing ecofriendly-plastics from seaweed to avert a global plastic crisis. When water bottles or shopping bags from seaweed-based plastics become waste, we will have nothing to worry about as the waste will just go back to where it came from.

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