Infinite Plastic Pollution Meets Systemic Inelasticity

Fantastic Plastic Export Boom
Unmissable Fantastic Plastic Video!

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Plastic waste?

In the 1970’s economists typically dismissed the “Limits to Growth” report as “worthless science” and “ignorance masquerading as knowledge”. Robert Solow’s possibly illogical but impressively complex maths of “Eternal Growth” obscured his own ignorant limits of imagination.

“Solow and colleagues never considered outputs—waste and pollution—to be more than a nuisance. They did not imagine that greenhouse gas emissions could be so consequential as to threaten ecosystem integrity in ways that could affect growth.”  C F Jones 2019

All that beautifully aggregating maths was never gonna add up to modelling the real world, let alone predict tsunamis of plastic, or any other waste waiting in the wings of wasted history.

Like recycling.

What a waste.

I started sorting rubbish in the early 1980’s in Berlin when recycling was officially built into the system.  The new recycling regime was adopted with great enthusiasm. This produced a lot more sorted waste than expected and the carefully (re)constructed re-cycling market couldn’t cope with the excess supply.

So one started to export sorted waste to be dumped or burnt “abroad”.  This never stopped.  Exporting rubbish has been a growth business for 40 years.

Not just for the Exportweltmeister.

Wasteminster UK plastic exports Greenpeace video still 2021
Fantastic Plastic Export Boom

Globally, recycling turns out to have been a 91% marketing myth. 

Plastics are now everywhere. From beaches to breastmilk. 

Just follow the nanoparticles …

gaia0geld – back to top


animated plastic history

BBC4 iplayer  23/8/2021 Plastic  In a new show produced by Jon Holmes, Comedian (and actual council Waste Education Officer) Jon Long and Biologist Gillian Burke take on green issues in this fast paced new enviro-comedy. The topic – Plastic. Scourge of the planet, or synthetic scapegoat? Featuring sketches, songs, and expert interviews. Tonnes of questions, and even one or two answers. Producer: Jon Holmes An unusual production for BBC Radio 4

Plastic Futures   3/2021 The coronavirus pandemic’s led to a huge increase in plastic waste, six or seven times higher in some countries. It’s partly down to obvious things like the massive global demand for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). There are other pressures too, like lower oil prices, which help manufacturers make things more cheaply. For years the focus has been on trying to cut down how much we end up throwing away for landfill. The UK Plastics Pact – a group of businesses, organisations and governments – say they’re focused on trying to cut down on plastic packaging and encourage new tech and recycling ideas for the future. Scientists are busy coming up with new ideas on what to do with plastic – it’s even being tested as a building material. But after 2020 – and the possible effects Covid has had on that progress – what now for the relationship between Earth and her former favourite? Is it heading to the end – or can plastic find a future?

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updates 11-2023

Die Plastiksucht: Wie Konzerne Milliarden verdienen und uns abhängig machen  Von Jacqueline Goebel , Benedict Wermter

weiter unten 13-11-2023 ‘We can’t carry on’: the godfather of microplastics on how to stop them – by Emma Bryce

As a UN summit in Nairobi debates a treaty on plastic pollution, Richard Thompson, the biologist who first identified microplastics 30 years ago, explains why ocean cleanups and biodegradables will not solve a global crisis

…In a short study in 2004, co-authored with Prof Andrea Russell at Southampton University, Thompson first described the particles as “microplastics”. He hypothesised that as plastic entered the sea, it slowly fragmented into small but persistent pieces that spread even farther afield. He did not expect much reaction from his modest one-page article… The discovery helped spawn an entire field of microplastics research, and would be instrumental in plastic bag taxes and bans on plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics in countries including the US, New Zealand and Canada. Researchers now look at even tinier fragments called nanoplastics that infiltrate our bloodwombs and breastmilk. … Most recently, he has been catapulted into the heart of international negotiations to draw up a global treaty to curb plastic pollution, which had its most recent talks in Paris in June…. But the problem began in the 1950s when the industry’s ambitions turned to single-use packaging, which now accounts for 40% of the more than 400m tonnes of plastic produced each year – at least 8m tonnes of which finds its way to the ocean. Meanwhile, production is only increasing. …The other side to this coin is plastic’s persistence in nature. Thompson’s hypothesis was correct: microplastics result from the lengthy breakdown of larger items, and they will linger for decades more thanks to plastic’s inherent durability, all the while absorbing harmful toxins and pathogens that end up in the bodies of marine animals… The plastics treaty would be a shot at stemming this flow, he notes. Much depends on the treaty’s scope, on questions such as whether it should ban some types of plastic, or regulate the array of 13,000 chemicals in everyday packaging. What concerns Thompson is that policymakers may be led astray by much-hyped approaches that are already being used – for instance, hi-tech initiatives to remove plastic from the sea, such as the Ocean Cleanup. … Psychologists call it ‘techno-optimism’ … a big gadget in the Pacific gyre is going to mop it all up for us … “It’s an attractive story – from the point of view of not having to change anything we do.” …. Similarly, the proliferation of plastic alternatives such as biodegradable and bio-based plastics. “I was really curious, was this going to be an answer to the problem?” Thompson says. But, although they are a partial improvement on the fossil-fuel footprint of conventional plastics, and may have some legitimate uses, most biodegradable plastics do not melt away into nature – a fact Thompson first realised when, early in his research career, he visited a government trade fair and brought home a bag marked biodegradable. “I’ve still got it here somewhere!” he says, gesturing at shelves stacked with folders. We now know – again, thanks to experiments by Thompson and colleagues – that many biodegradables need controlled industrial conditions to degrade, and take years to disappear in soil and sea…. “If we keep the nearly 300-400m tonnes of plastic we’re making every year, and all we’re doing is chucking biosource plastics [which are biodegradable] to fill the gap, it doesn’t fix the problem of litter, it doesn’t fix the problem of waste, it doesn’t fix the problem of chemicals,” he says. “It’s just substituting the carbon source.” …

None of these kinds of actions change what he thinks is the real danger: the linear relationship we have with plastic – produce, consume, dispose – which created the problem. After two decades describing that problem, he is now focused on the cause. “It’s very much coming back to the land, my research, because the problem isn’t made in the ocean: it’s made by practices on land.” He said as much at the Paris talks. “Let’s turn to the solutions, which lie upstream,” he told an audience of delegates from 58 countries, explaining that in order to slow the flowing river of plastic, we first need to narrow its source. “We can’t carry on [producing] at the rate we are. It’s overwhelming any ability to cope with it.” … Just 10% of plastic is recycled globally, a staggeringly low figure that is partly due to the thousands of chemicals that give plastic its diverse qualities, colours and forms and make it almost impossible to remix. “We do a really bad job of designing stuff for circularity. …Take the problem of polymer-rich fabrics that shed plastic microfibres into the sea. Several countries now require filters on washing machines to capture these threads. Yet Thompson and his team have found that half the shedding happens, not during washing, but while people are wearing clothes. Redesigning fabric for longer wear reduces shedding by a striking 80%. “So the systemic answer would work for the planet,” he says. His latest work is examining other design challenges such as car tyres, a primary source of marine microplastics. Growing scientific consensus on these and other issues could soon be crucial in guiding nations towards solutions, so as a scientist, Thompson is frustrated that there is no UN-level mechanism to communicate the most up-to-date plastics research to governments. In its absence, he helped establish the Scientists Coalition for an Effective Plastics Treaty, an independent, voluntary group of 200 multidisciplinary researchers from 40 countries who are filling the gap by providing scientific advice to treaty negotiators. “Scientific evidence has brought us to this point. We’re going to need scientific evidence to go forward in the right way,” he says. … 3-11-2023 Could microbes help turn plastic pollution into useful chemicals? by Rob Waugh

Millions of pieces of plastic make their way into the sea every day – but could microbes turn them into useful chemicals instead? Researchers in America have created a microbe which can turn one particular plastic into a chemical which can be used to make perfumes, clothes and even drugs. The breakthrough is one of several which suggest that much of the millions of tons of plastic which is currently thrown away could be reused.

… Researchers developed a plastic-eating bacteria (a version of E. coli) which can turn a particular plastic, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), into a useful chemical. The bacteria turn waste into adipic acid – a fuel for many everyday products that’s typically generated from fossil fuels using energy-intensive processes. Using real-world samples of terephthalic acid from a discarded bottle and a coating taken from waste packaging labels, the engineered E. coli system efficiently produced adipic acid. The researchers hope in future to look for pathways to biosynthesize additional higher-value products.

…The 2001 discovery of a microbe that could eat plastic in a Japanese rubbish dump has sparked hope that microbes could offer a solution to plastic pollution. Recent research found that around the world, microbes are evolving to eat plastic – and the finding could have important implications for the battle against plastic pollution. Microbes in the ground and in seawater have evolved to have enzymes which can break down different plastics, researchers at Sweden’s Chalmers University have found. The global plastic problem has exploded in the past 70 years – from around 2 million tonnes per year to around 380 million. The researchers analysed samples of environmental DNA from around the world, looking for microbial enzymes which could break down plastic. They found that levels of such enzymes were highest in the areas with the most plastic pollution.

… Specially prepared bacteria could be used to turn carbon dioxide (the most common greenhouse gas) into chemicals, plastic or even fuel, a new study has shown. The research raises the possibility of turning carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into useful chemicals. Researchers from Newcastle University created a bioreactor full of E. coli bacteria which could capture carbon dioxide and turn it into useful chemicals. The breakthrough is based on reversing a chemical reaction catalysed by bacteria, by growing the bacteria with a supply of molybdenum. The new reaction captures CO2, turning it into formic acid (a vinegar compound ants use to ward off predators and which can be used to make fuel). The findings could mean that one day CO2 is captured and used instead of being released into the atmosphere. 19-10-2023 Plastic packaging from a UK supermarket found dumped in vulnerable Myanmar communities – ‘The more you dig into the recycling of plastic, you realize that it’s really a sham,’ an international waste trade expert tells senior climate correspondent – by Louise Boyle

Packaging from a UK supermarket has been dumped 7,000 miles away in a low-income township in Myanmar – raising troubling questions about how the West’s outsized plastic pollution crisis is being forced upon vulnerable communities with little ability to push back. Labels and plastic wrapping for bottled water and diet lemonade from a Lidl in Lichfield were discovered in the piles of festering garbage which engulf low-income areas of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Lidl’s plastic waste was found in a sea of foreign trash in Shwe Pyi Thar township that also included items from companies in France, Poland and Canada. The plastic waste was collected by journalists from the independent news organisation Frontier during a six-month investigation into dumping in Myanmar. The Independent is publishing the findings in partnership with Lighthouse Reports, a collaborative newsroom working with media outlets in six countries. Shwe Pyi Thar residents spoke anonymously to Frontier Myanmar journalists for fear of reprisal. Some locals said they had been coerced by local “strong men” to sign agreements allowing plastic waste to be dumped next to their home. …The largest amount of plastic waste found by Frontier reporters came from Lidl UK…

With these regulations in mind, Jim Puckett, executive director of environmental advocacy group Basel Action Network, told The Independent that Lidl’s packaging was likely “illegally exported to Myanmar” by a third party. He pointed out that companies usually don’t handle their own shipments and hire a separate waste management company. “Something went wrong,” said Mr Puckett. How is it that plastic waste from the English Midlands ends up in a township in southeast Asia? The answer lies somewhere in the global recycling supply chain – an opaque, Byzantine system riddled with contradictory regulations, loopholes and corruption…

The investigative team found that the porous 1,500-mile border between Thailand and Myanmar is allowing a vast flow of illegal plastics. Established routes for trafficking drugs and people are being used to smuggle plastic waste, a trade lubricated by weak law enforcement, political instability and poverty. Overland shipments get less scrutiny than what arrives at maritime ports, and sources told the investigative team that border officials could be bribed in order to bring banned plastic into Myanmar. It was also discovered that a number of western countries are using Thailand as a middle-man. An Interpol survey of national law enforcement agencies found that 60 per cent reported an increase in illegal waste shipments using transit countries to obscure their routes since China’s plastic ban five years ago…

Hundreds of millions of tonnes of plastic are produced annually with most being used in rich countries. The average American uses 560lbs of new plastics every year while a person in sub-Saharan Africa uses less than one-tenth of that, according to OECD’s 2022 Global Plastics Outlook. Yet only 9 per cent of plastic is being recycled around the world. Half ends up in landfill, and one-fifth is incinerated. Another 22 per cent is burned in open pits or dumped, especially in poorer countries. “The more you dig into the recycling of plastic, and plastics in general, you realize that it’s really a sham,” Mr Puckett said. “It’s very difficult and costly to recycle plastic as it’s not that valuable, so the margins are low. The price of virgin plastic is so cheap right now that huge quantities of these shipments to places like Myanmar will be dumped or burned because there’s no market for a lot of the polymers, especially if they’re dirty.” Next month 175 countries will gather in Nairobi to hammer out the first, legally-binding global treaty on plastic pollution intended to go into effect by the end of 2024…

More about PackagingPollutionRecycled PlasticPlastic Pollution 30-9-2023 Lego Is a Company Haunted by Its Own Plastic – While the toy brand kills its plans for an oil-free plastic alternative, it’s still pumping out billions of non-biodegradable bricks a year. Can Lego ever be sustainable? by Chris Baraniuk

Lego has built an empire out of plastic. It was always thus. The bricks weren’t originally made from wood, or metal, or some other material. Ever since the company’s founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, bought Denmark’s first plastic-injection molding machine in 1946, Lego pieces have been derived from oil, a fossil fuel. The fiddly little parts that the company churns out—many billions every year—are today mostly made from acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, or ABS. This material doesn’t biodegrade, nor is it easily recycled. If a smiling mini figure gets into the environment, it will likely very slowly break down into highly polluting microplastics 7-4-2023 Plastics touching our food may be making us gain weight – Hormone-disrupting chemicals are entering our bodies. We eat 44lbs of plastic in our lifetimes -by Adrienne Matei

When it comes to keeping off extra pounds, watching what we eat may not be enough – we have to keep an eye on our food’s packaging, too.

Rates of obesity among US adults have increased from 14% in 1980 to 42% today, and half the world is expected to be overweight or obese by 2035, with children and teens facing the sharpest increase in obesity and its consequences. Because data doesn’t support the idea that overeating and lack of exercise are squarely to blame, the scientific community is exploring other factors that may contribute – including metabolic disruption caused by eating products packaged in plastic.

For a study published last year, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology set out to determine what chemical compounds exist in 34 common plastic items that touch things we eat, such as yogurt cups, juice bottles, styrofoam meat trays, gummy-candy packages, and plastic wrap used for produce and cheese, as well as items often found in kitchens, like polyurethane placemats and sponges.

Of the 55,000 chemicals the researchers found in these items, only 629 were identifiable, with 11 being known metabolic disruptors such as phthalates and bisphenols, which interfere with our bodies’ ability to regulate weight, among other troubling health effects. However, when exposed to in vitro human cell cultures (studies have not used human or animal test subjects), far more chemicals than the identified 11 metabolic disruptors triggered adipogenesis – the process underlying obesity, in which cells proliferate and accumulate an excess of fat. …

…The scientists I speak to frequently argue that we need to start reducing our exposure to plastic without waiting for more slow-moving research to unequivocally prove that the plastics in our food, products, blood and organs are risk factors for bad health outcomes. Wagner is no exception. While he cannot make a causal link between metabolism-disrupting chemicals in plastic and the obesity epidemic, “How much evidence do we need before we do something right?” Wagner asks.

There is potentially positive news from the Norwegian study … some plastic producers, whether intentionally or not, are making less harmful forms of plastic. If industry manufacturers were transparent about the entire suite of chemicals present in their products, consumers could choose plastics with safer formulations and better overall industry safety standards could be developed.

Really, reducing our plastic exposure should be our overall goal; the FDA’s approach to regulating chemicals used in food packaging has been described by experts as “woefully outdated”, and there’s a chance that even plastic producers are not sure what chemicals end up in the products they make. But it’s clear that these plastics and the chemicals associated with them are making their way into our bodies – by transference from packaging, but also in the form of microplastics, with humans eating an estimated 44lbs of plastic in our lifetimes.

When we think about cutting junk out of our diets, the culprits shouldn’t just be candy and soda – plastic needs to go, too.

>ocean plastic 18-3-2023 Scientists sound the alarm as plastic waste forms rocks off coast of Brazil: ‘New and terrifying’ – ‘Pollution has reached geology’ says a scientist – by Stuti Mishra

…”…Geologists in Brazil’s Trindade Island have made a ”terrifying” discovery: rocks made from plastic debris. Scientists studying the remote island – which is a turtle refuge – found that plastic has become intertwined with rocks on the island, sparking alarms over the growing impact of plastic waste over the earth’s geological cycles. The island is located 1,140km from the southeastern state of Espirito Santo and it is a protected area for green turtles, which lay their eggs there. “This is new and terrifying at the same time, because pollution has reached geology,” Fernanda Avelar Santos, a geologist at the Federal University of Parana, said, Mr Santos went on to say that “the pollution, the garbage in the sea, and the plastic dumped incorrectly in the oceans is becoming geological material…preserved in the earth’s geological records”…”…

Die Plastiksucht: Wie Konzerne Milliarden verdienen und uns abhängig machen  Von Jacqueline Goebel , Benedict Wermter 3-2023 Die Plastiksucht: Wie Konzerne Milliarden verdienen und uns abhängig machen Von Jacqueline Goebel , Benedict Wermter

Wir leben im Plastikzeitalter. Kunststoffe sind das Werkzeug unserer Zeit, ohne sie gäbe es die moderne Gesellschaft nicht. Doch was wir hinterlassen, ist Müll, der in der Umwelt Ewigkeiten überdauert. Bereits in 30 Jahren soll es mehr Plastik als Fische im Ozean geben. Schon heute verursachen Plastikproduktion und Plastikmüll mehr als 3 Prozent der weltweiten Klimagasemissionen – mehr als ganze Staaten. Die Profiteure der Plastikkrise nehmen das in Kauf. Die Ölindustrie, Chemiekonzerne und die bekanntesten Marken der Welt sind abhängig von Plastik. Denn sie haben ihr Geschäftsmodell auf Müll gebaut. Und sie planen noch mehr Plastikfabriken, wollen noch mehr Produkte in Wegwerfverpackungen verkaufen – in Ländern, in denen Plastik bisher kaum gesammelt oder recycelt wird. Diese Konzerne wissen, dass Recycling allein das Problem nicht lösen wird. Trotzdem schmieden sie mächtige Allianzen, um weiter die Hoffnung auf eine Kreislaufwirtschaft zu schüren. Sie weichen Verboten aus und setzen ihre ganze Lobbymacht ein, um Einwegplastik grüner erscheinen zu lassen. Für noch mehr Müll, der unseren Planeten umhüllen wird. Diese Sucht schadet uns allen. Ein Entzug ist nötig. Jacqueline Goebel und Benedict Wermter haben jahrelang zu Plastikindustrie und Kreislaufwirtschaft recherchiert. Sie zeigen schonungslos die Methoden und Probleme der Industrie auf – und erklären, wie wir uns der Plastikkrise endlich entziehen können. 27-3 2023 Die fragwürdigen Erfolge der Plastik-Allianz – von Jacqueline Goebel und Benedict Wermter 3-6-2023 Kann ein Zwölf-Schritte-Programm gegen Plastiksucht helfen? – „Unsere Abhängigkeit von Einwegplastik ist wie eine Drogensucht“, sagt Müllexperte Benedict Wermter. Könnte sein Programm diese Sucht behandeln? Ein Treffen.

Wenn Benedict Wermter einkaufen geht, begegnet ihm regelmäßig „Irrsinn“. Er meint damit Verpackungen, die nichts damit zu tun haben, Nahrung vor äußeren Einflüssen zu schützen, sondern die unnötigen Hightech erfordern, der ihm die Sprache verschlägt. „Warum bitte muss eine Chipstüte aus bis zu sieben verschiedenen Schichten bestehen?“, fragt er. Dann zählt er auf: Eine Außenschicht für die Farbe, eine für das elastische Tütenmaterial, eine, die vor Licht schützt, die gleichzeitig metallisch glänzt, und dann noch eine, damit die Lebensmittel nach innen vor dem Metall geschützt sind. Er könnte diese Liste immer weiterführen. „Es gibt Schokoriegel, da ist die Metallschicht nur dafür da, dass es schön glänzt, wenn wir den Riegel öffnen.“ Danach wird diese Verpackung weggeworfen und nie wieder benutzt. 22-5-2023 Günther Jauch und die Lidl-Plastikflasche: Greenwashing oder klimafreundlich? 16-3-2023 What happened to The Ocean Cleanup — the system that would rid the oceans of plastic?

…”…The UN estimates at least 14 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year. “The trouble is, and the old saying is, if you depend on clean-up, you’ll be cleaning for the rest of your life. You have to get into prevention,” Professor McIlgorm said. Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, a marine ecotoxicologist at Southern Cross University, said the work The Ocean Cleanup is doing in the Pacific can help get the ball rolling on the necessary prevention that is needed. “Those type of images [of the clean up of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch] send messages to help change people’s behaviour,” Professor Reichelt-Brushett said. “They’re really important visual messages that go towards awareness raising and dealing with the problem at its source.”…”…

>plastic futures 14-3-2023 Could waste plastic become a useful fuel source? Plastic waste dumps, says Prof Erwin Reisner, could be the oil fields of the future. – By Katherine Latham

“Effectively, plastic is another form of fossil fuel,” says Prof Reisner, who is professor of energy and sustainability at the University of Cambridge. “It’s rich in energy and in chemical composition, which we want to unlock.”

But the chemical bonds that make up plastics are made to last and, of the seven billion tonnes ever created, less than 10% has been recycled. Dilyana Mihaylova, plastics programme manager for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, says: “Our extractive, take-make-waste economy [means] billions of dollars’ worth of valuable materials are lost.”

Worldwide, more than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year – roughly the same weight as all of humanity. Today, around 85% ends up in landfill or is lost to the environment where it will stay for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years.

Now the race is on to find the best way to break those chemical bonds and reclaim the Earth’s precious resources locked into plastic.

Mechanical recycling, where waste plastic is washed, shredded, melted and reformed, degrades plastic over time and can result in inconsistent quality products. The plastics industry is keen on chemical recycling, where additives are used to alter the chemical structure of waste plastic, turning it back into substances that can be used as raw materials, perhaps for making fuel like petrol and diesel.

But that approach is currently costly and inefficient and has been criticised by environmental groups. “So,” says Ms Mihaylova, “just as we can’t recycle our way out of the plastics pollution crisis, we can’t rely on plastics-to-fuel processes to solve the problem either.”

Could a new solar-powered system show the way forward? Prof Reisner and his team have developed a process that can convert not one, but two waste streams – plastic and CO2 – into two chemical products at the same time – all powered by sunlight.

The technology transforms CO2 and plastic into syngas – the key component of sustainable fuels such as hydrogen. It also produces glycolic acid, which is widely used in the cosmetics industry. The system works by integrating catalysts, chemical compounds which accelerate a chemical reaction, into a light absorber.

“Our process works at room temperature and room pressure,” he says. “Reactions run automatically when you expose it to sunlight. You don’t need anything else.” And, assures Prof Reisner, the process produces no harmful waste. “The chemistry is clean,” he says.

Other solar-powered technologies hold promise for tackling plastic pollution and CO2 conversion, but this is the first time they have been combined in a single process…”… 8-3-2023 More than 170tn plastic particles afloat in oceans, say scientists – ‘Cleanup is futile’ if production continues at current rate, amid rapid rise in marine pollution – by Helena Horton, Damian Carrington

>recycling 2-2023 Stop ‘wishcycling’ and get wise: how to recycle (almost) everything – From contact lenses to blister packs and used dental floss, there are items that perplex even the most dedicated recycler. Here is the expert guide to getting organised – and getting rid of your rubbish – by Emma Beddington 2-2023 Degradation of plastic waste using newly developed biocatalysts 1-2023 PlasticFree is a database of plastic alternatives for designers

twitter/HannahRitchie 1-2023 plastic versus other grocery bags 1-2023 Bacteria Can Use Plastic Waste as a Food Source, Which Isn’t as Good as It Sounds – by Carly Assella

…”…The rate of plastic decay identified in the current study is far too slow to completely solve the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans, but it does indicate where some of our planet’s missing plastic might have gone.

“Our data show that sunlight could thus have degraded a substantial amount of all the floating plastic that has been littered into the oceans since the 1950s,” says microbiologist Annalisa Delre.

Microbes could have then come in and digested some of the Sun’s leftovers.

Since 2013, researchers have warned that microbes are likely thriving on plastic patches in the ocean, forming a synthetic ecosystem that has come to be known as a ‘plastisphere’.

There’s even evidence to suggest that some of these microbial communities are adapting to eating different types of plastic.

Previous studies have identified specific bacteria and fungi, on land and in the sea, that appear to eat plastic. But while that knowledge could help us better recycle our waste before it ends up in the wild, its other uses are controversial.

Some scientists have proposed we unleash plastic-munching equivalents on pollution hotspots, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Others are not so sure that’s a good ideaEngineered enzymes and bacteria that break down plastic might sound like a great way to make our waste disappear, but some experts are worried about unintended side effects to natural ecosystems and food webs.

After all, breaking down plastic isn’t necessarily a good thing. Microplastics are a lot harder to clean up than larger pieces, and these tiny remnants could infiltrate food webs. Filter feeders, for instance, might mistakenly grab tiny pieces of plastic before microbes do…”…

> micro plastics, pollution 10-1-2023 Are we breathing airborne microplastics? Study finds higher concentrations indoors – by Colin Hutchins

>plastic pollution, recycling 27-12-2022 Amazon Packages Burn in India, Final Stop in Broken Recycling System – Plastic wrappers and parcels that start off in Americans’ recycling bins end up at illegal dumpsites and industrial furnaces — and inside the lungs of people in Muzaffarnagar. – By K Oanh Ha

More from Bloomberg Green’s Big Plastic series:
• A Plastic Bag’s 2,000-Mile Journey
• West Africa Is Drowning in Plastic
• TerraCycle’s Recycling Dream
• Thailand Is Tired of Recycling Your Trash
• Big Plastic’s Faltering Global Cleanup Effort 21-12-2022 Microplastics deposited on the seafloor have tripled in 20 years

…”…This new study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, shows that microplastics are retained unaltered in marine sediments, and that the microplastic mass sequestered in the seafloor mimics the global plastic production from 1965 to 2016. “Specifically, the results show that, since 2000, the amount of plastic particles deposited on the seafloor has tripled and that, far from decreasing, the accumulation has not stopped growing mimicking the production and global use of these materials,”…”… 3-12-2022 Record number of plastic nurdles found on beaches as environmental groups call for tougher laws – The tiny plastic pellets are hazardous to the environment and wildlife and are very difficult to clean up. A survey has now found a record number on beaches around the world and campaigners want new laws in place to help reduce spillages. – by Aisha Zahid

>plastic futures, pollution treaty 28-11-2022 Plastic pollution treaty: Countries prepare to negotiate details of ‘landmark’ deal – by Maeve Campbell & Charlotte Elton

…”…The United Nations approved a landmark agreement to create the world’s first ever global plastic pollution treaty in March.Though the resolution was a major step forward, negotiators still have a long way to go. Any treaty that puts restrictions on plastic production, use or design would affect oil and chemicals companies that make raw plastic, as well as consumer goods giants which sell thousands of products in single-use packaging. It would also affect the economies of major plastic-producing countries, including the United States, China, India, Saudi Arabia and Japan….”…

see also Good eggs: Eggs can be used to filter microplastics and salt out of water, research findsMicroplastics: Polluting our blood, foetuses – and now the dairy and meat we eatA roadmap towards a circular plastics economy 28-11-2022 What to expect as negotiations to end plastic pollution kick off

…”From 28 November to 2 December, representatives from governments, the private sector and civil society will start developing an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, a document they hope to finalize by 2024. The first session of this Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), known as INC-1, comes nine months after representatives from 175 countries endorsed a landmark resolution on plastic pollution … The resolution comes amid a mounting plastic crisis that experts say threatens the environment, human health and the economy. Research shows that humanity produces around 460 million metric tonnes of plastic a year, and without urgent action, this will triple by 2060. According to one UNEP study, over 14 million metric tonnes of plastic enters and damages aquatic ecosystems annually, and greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastics are expected to account for 15 per cent of the total emissions allowable by 2050 if humanity is to limit global warming to 1.5°C…”…

see also – A roadmap towards a circular plastics economyChemicals & pollution actionPollutionIndustryWaste management

>plastic realities , pollution, Antarctica 25-11-2022 Synthetic fibres discovered in Antarctic samples show the ‘pristine’ continent is now a sink for plastic pollution

>plastic futures, enzymes 5-10-2022 Worm’s saliva found to break down plastic in major pollution breakthrough – Enzymes in the saliva of the wax worm have been found to speed up the time it takes polyethylene to degrade from decades to a matter of hours. – By Guy Birchall

> plastic realities ,pollution, oceans 9-2022 NGO retracts ‘waste colonialism’ report blaming Asian countries for plastic pollution – Ocean Conservancy apologises for ‘false narrative’ of 2015 study that put blame for bulk of world’s plastic waste on five Asian states

…”…An environmental watchdog has retracted an influential report that blamed five Asian countries for the majority of plastic pollution in the ocean. The report, Stemming the Tide, from the US-based environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy, also included incineration and waste-to-energy as “solutions” to the plastics crisis. Published in 2015, it was decried as “waste colonialism” by hundreds of environmental, health and social justice groups across Asia. The watchdog has now publicly apologised for unfairly “creating a narrative” about who is responsible for producing plastic waste and removed the report from its website. Its apology was welcomed on Wednesday as “long overdue” by Gaia, an alliance of 800 waste-reduction groups in 90 countries, and by Break Free From Plastic, a global movement of more than 2,000 organisations. …

…Since then, data has been published showing that the US ranks third among countries contributing to coastal plastic pollution and challenges the widely held belief that the US is adequately managing its pollution, underlining its waste footprint to developing nations. Other research, which Ocean Conservancy is now promoting, recommends interventions to reduce, reuse and better manage plastic across all economies.”

>microplastics, food pollution 15-9-2022 University of Brighton researchers warn of ’emerging crisis’ as ‘toxic’ microplastics found in Sussex seafood – Researchers from the University of Brighton described the evidence as “alarming” – By Kieran Graves

ALT plastic futures 8-2022 Incredibly promising’: the bubble barrier extracting plastic from a Dutch river – Technology applied to Oude Rijn river helps stop plastic pollution reaching sea – by Senay Boztas

… Katwijk is the site for the world’s first river “bubble barrier” – an experimental concept where a 120-metre stream of rising bubbles, plus the water current, pushes plastic waste to one side in order to be collected….

… Some researchers, however, point out that river plastics do not necessarily end up in the ocean, although they can still harm ecosystems and human livelihoods. Tim van Emmerik, an assistant professor at Wageningen University’s hydrology and quantitative water management group, says river systems also differ. “When thinking about rivers globally, just imagine how widely they can vary, from narrow canals in Amsterdam and Leiden, to great deltas like the Mekong,” he points out. “Most tech solutions, such as the Bubble Barrier, only cover a range of them, emphasising there will always be a need of a solution portfolio. Of course, consuming and polluting less plastics will help no matter where you go, and may in fact have the greatest impact.”

Back in Katwijk, there are plans to build a visitor and education centre next to the bubble barrier to do just that, and hopes are running high. Under the summer sun, a stream of gentle bubbles breaks the river surface, a little like a jacuzzi. “We were looking forward,” says van Delft, quite seriously, “to coming to the opening in a swimsuit!”

> plastic realties/pollution 7-2022 Final destination deep sea: Microplastics’ impact on ocean floor even greater than assumed – by Serena Abel , Angelika Brandt, 7-2022 The Entire Arctic Ecosystem Is Awash in Plastic Pollution, Dire Study Reports – Plastic has seeped into the air, ocean, ice, snow, seafloor, and shorelines of the Arctic – By Becky Ferreira 5-2022 World’s plastic waste mapped from space for the first time – The Global Plastic Watch team took Sky News on a virtual tour of the site before it launched, showing the hundreds of plastic waste sites scattered round the world – by Victoria Seabrook 4-2022 How much plastic do you eat? It could be as much as a credit card a week – By Doloresz Katanich  

A recent study has found that people eat five grams of micro and nanoplastics every week. From the most remote depths of the ocean, to the deepest section of the lung, microplastics appear to have invaded every bit of our lives, including the human gastrointestinal tract. The Medical University of Vienna has recently published a study in the journal Exposure & Health which suggests that on average, five grams of plastic particles enter the human gastrointestinal tract per person, per week. Previous studies have already found particles in the human blood and organs. While microplastics have also been found to harm unborn babies.

>ALTernative plastic futures – recycling – enzymes 4-2022 Scientists invent enzyme that can break down plastic waste in ‘hours instead of centuries’ – Recycling process could revolutionise how big industry reuses materials, reports Jane Dalton 4-2022 Tailor-made enzymes poised to propel plastic recycling into a new era – Waste streams of the plastic poly(ethylene terephthalate) that can be recycled into material suitable for food packaging are limited, creating a shortfall of feedstocks. An enzyme has been discovered that widens the feedstock options – by Eggo U. Thoden van Velzen, Giusy Santomasi

>plastic export 4-2022 Another big shipping line is refusing to export the West’s plastic waste – By Nicolás Rivero 2-2022 Waste exports are exploited by criminal gangs and should be banned

…”Waste exports must be banned because they are exploited by criminal gangs and the rubbish can end up being dumped illegally, the chief executive of the Environment Agency says. … Waste can be legally exported for recycling or incineration to generate energy but investigations have shown that rubbish placed in recycling bins by British households ends up at illegal dumps overseas. More than half of plastic waste collected for recycling in the UK is exported…”…

>plastic futures 3-2022 Step towards ‘proper’ plastic recycling as researchers recover 92% of plastic by Rob Waugh

A team of researchers at ETH Zurich have broken down plastic into its molecular building blocks, recovering 90% of them – and it could lead to a new way of using plastic. Most of the plastic we use is not recycled – and one of the reasons is that recycling doesn’t produce great products. But if a process can break down the long chain polymers in plastic into building blocks – ‘monomers’ – it could lead to a circular economy where plastic is recycled with no loss in quality. Polymers are the basis of many everyday plastics, such as PET and polyurethane. Athina Anastasaki, Professor of Polymeric Materials at ETH Zurich, is attempting to produce polymers that can be easily broken down into their building blocks so that they can be fully recycled.

Her team broke down polymethacrylates (e.g. PlexiGlass) that were produced using a specific technique called reversible addition-fragmentation chain-transfer polymerisation — otherwise known as RAFT. The new method has already attracted the attention of industry, Professor Anastasaki says. Anastasaki says, “Our method could conceivably be developed even further to involve the use of a catalyst. This could increase the amount recovered even more.” The catch is that, “Products made with RAFT polymerisation are more expensive than conventional polymers,” says Anastasaki. But the team are already working on methods to make it cheaper – and researching whether other polymers can be depolymerised. Anastasaki says, “It will take a lot of time and research before the process is established in the chemical industry.”

Read more:   Why economists worry that reversing climate change is hopelessA 1988 warning about climate change was mostly right

>ALTernative plastic futures – recycling – enzymes

>plastic realities 2-2022 Plastic, chemical pollution beyond planet’s safe limit: study

“The torrent of man-made chemical and plastic waste worldwide has massively exceeded limits safe for humanity or the planet, and production caps are urgently needed, scientists have concluded for the first time. There are an estimated 350,000 different manufactured chemicals on the market and large volumes of them end up in the environment. “The impacts that we’re starting to see today are large enough to be impacting crucial functions of planet Earth and its systems”, Bethanie Carney Almroth, co-author of a new study told AFP in an interview. The study, by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, comes ahead of a UN meeting in Nairobi at the end of the month on tackling plastic pollution “from source to sea”, UN Environment Programme head Inger Andersen said on Monday. ..”… 2-2022 Plastic, chemical pollution beyond planet’s safe limit: study

>plastic export 3-2022 Rush of lawsuits over plastic waste expected after ‘historic’ deal– Like Paris climate agreement, treaty could provide tool to hold firms and states to account, say legal experts

>ALTernative plastic futures – politics 3-2022 Plastic pollution: Green light for ‘historic’ treaty – By Helen Briggs

…”…UN member states have agreed to start international negotiations on drawing up a global plastics treaty that could set rules for production, use and disposal of plastics. The decision was made at a meeting of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.

  • Facts on plastic:
  • It’s thought more than five trillion pieces of plastic are in the world’s oceans, which can take years to break down
  • Each year, 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced and 40% of that is single-use – plastic only used once before it’s thrown away
  • More than eight million tonnes of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year and most of that escapes from land
  • Not all plastic can be recycled, either because of the way it’s made or because it’s too expensive or difficult to do so
  • Animals on land or at sea can be harmed by plastic. They can get trapped in carrier bags or food packaging or mistake plastic for food. 2-2022 Reduce. Reuse. And then, when all else fails, recycle by Brynne Wilcox

>plastic realties 2-2022 Plastic, chemical pollution beyond planet’s safe limit: study

“The torrent of man-made chemical and plastic waste worldwide has massively exceeded limits safe for humanity or the planet, and production caps are urgently needed, scientists have concluded for the first time. There are an estimated 350,000 different manufactured chemicals on the market and large volumes of them end up in the environment. “The impacts that we’re starting to see today are large enough to be impacting crucial functions of planet Earth and its systems”, Bethanie Carney Almroth, co-author of a new study told AFP in an interview. …”… 2-2022 Plastic pollution in oceans on track to rise for decades

Source 12-2021 The Future of Plastic – As we transition from the Age of Oil, what’s going to happen to the material that changed the world?

…”… A new paper in Science modelled the global plastics production system, looking for ways to make plastics with a net-zero climate impact. The researchers found that … net-zero emission plastics can be achieved by combining biomass and carbon dioxide (CO2) utilization with an effective recycling rate of 70% …”…

The Future of Plastics — Key Takeaways

  • Plastics are here to stay, they’ll just be made differently
  • New bio-based materials will replace some fossil based plastic
  • Recycling rates need to rise significantly to create more sustainable plastics
  • AI, robotics, social startups and chemical recycling technologies are all helping bring recycling rates up   12/2021  ‘Disastrous’ plastic use in farming threatens food safety – UN  – Food and Agriculture Organization says most plastics are burned, buried or lost after use

“The “disastrous” way in which plastic is used in farming across the world is threatening food safety and potentially human health, according to a report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. It says soils contain more microplastic pollution than the oceans and that there is “irrefutable” evidence of the need for better management of the millions of tonnes of plastics used in the food and farming system each year…”…  12/2021 ‘Deluge of plastic waste’:  US is world’s biggest plastic polluter – At 42m metric tons of plastic waste a year, the US generates more waste than all EU countries combined  by Oliver Milman

…“…Plastic waste is an environmental and social crisis that the US needs to affirmatively address from source to sea,” said Margaret Spring, chief conservation and science officer at Monterey Bay Aquarium. Spring chaired a committee of experts who compiled the congressionally mandated report for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine…”… 9/11/2021  Six reasons to blame plastic pollution for climate change  by Nina Tsydenova, Pawan Patil 

…”…The impacts of mismanaged plastic waste on the climate, as well as on livelihoods and ecosystems, are an urgent development challenge.  To solve this problem, targeted, innovative circular economy approaches are needed. A circular economy approach starts at the stage of product design and selection of raw materials with an aim to develop products that are optimized for reuse, creating ‘renewable resources’ and minimizing the need for both the final disposal of waste and mining of virgin materials. 

The good news is that there are growing number of examples being implemented in South Asia. At all railway stations in India, tea will soon be served in perfectly biodegradable and environment-friendly earthen cups instead of plastic ones. Spider silk film and seaweed can replace plastic in various applications such as single-use sachets, which make up as much as 50 percent of all household plastic waste. In Maldives, an innovative collaboration between Parley for the Oceans and Adidas is bringing upcycled marine plastics into the global athletic wear supply chain. These sorts of innovations and partnerships show us that ground-breaking solutions for marine plastics and climate change exist and can be scaled up.”  9/11/2021 ‘Nurdles’ pollute our oceans as hundreds of thousands of plastic pellets found on coastline – Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets used in the manufacture of larger plastic products, as Ella Glover explains. Hundreds of thousands of plastic pellets, known as nurdles, have been found on the coastlines of 21 countries that took part in a pollution survey.  11/2021  Wishcycling: The dos and don’ts of being good at recycling  Helen Briggs  2/1//2021  Oil companies are ploughing money into fossil-fuelled plastics production at a record rate – new research – by  Fredric BauerTobias Dan Nielsen 

We have researched sustainable plastics for several years. And we have long argued that the climate impacts of plastics and petrochemicals production are being neglected, as the debate so far has mainly focused on later stages of plastic life-cycles. This resulted in a research project in which we mapped and analysed the fossil lock-ins of plastics and petrochemicals.

More recently, we investigated major plastics producers and the investments they are making which are likely to increase the production of fossil-based virgin plastics around the world. We discovered that the 12 largest petrochemical companies have cumulatively announced 88 new projects for production capacity increase and infrastructure expansion between 2012 and 2019. This is indicative of a global trend of increasing investments in the chemical industry, with available data for key regions showing that total investments more than doubled from 2007 to 2019, reaching levels we estimate have not been seen before.

These new and expanded facilities will operate for decades once they are opened, adding to the current greenhouse gas emissions of the chemical industry – which are already the third largest of all industries. …

Plastics therefore suffer from a severe case of “carbon lock-in” – a dependence on fossil fuel resources which is continually reinforced through technology, infrastructure, institutions and behaviour.

The IPCC recently warned that irreversible effects of intensifying climate change are imminent and that the agreed targets of limiting global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees are soon beyond reach. At this point in time, all sectors of the global economy ought to be on track to reduce their use of fossil fuel resources, especially the most energy and emissions-intensive industries, which include cement, steel and chemicals.

From energy efficiency improvements and switching to renewable energy to improving circularity and recycling, there are plenty of opportunities for the industry to invest in solutions for a cleaner environment, as identified by the IEA. Yet only very few of the plastics and chemical firms have set emission reductions targets aligned with the Paris agreement.

There is a great need to move beyond words and small incremental changes, and take larger steps towards low-carbon and sustainable plastics. Working seriously on how to get there entails many different changes. The industry must trust and plan for a future in which the majority of plastics will be produced from recycled rather than virgin material. As for the virgin materials used, they should come from sustainably sourced biomass and other alternative feedstocks, and all energy used must be low-carbon. Carbon capture could be a solution for the remaining fossil-based production and emissions which cannot be mitigated soon enough – including from chemical recycling plants.

At the top of their list should be collaborating with partners throughout the industry as well as researchers, decision-makers, consumers, and civil society to produce reliable roadmaps and strategies on how to transition towards a sustainable plastic system. A convention on plastic pollution is emerging, but global meetings on climate change, such as COP26, need to focus more attention on the somewhat overseen issue of petrochemicals.

Meanwhile, at Yushan island, tankers with crude oil from Saudi Arabia will dock regularly and pump their cargo into steam crackers that will run 24/7 for decades. Naming it the Green Petrochemical Base does nothing to change the fundamentals of the industry and its modus operandi. Plastics are locked into fossil resources and this connection continues to grow stronger by the day.”…  28/10/2021  TRASH AND BURN – BIG BRANDS STOKE CEMENT KILNS WITH PLASTIC WASTE AS RECYCLING FALTERS – Consumer goods giants are funding projects to send plastic trash to cement plants, where it is burned as cheap energy. They’re touting it as a way to keep plastic out of dumps and use less fossil fuel. Critics say it undercuts recycling efforts and worsens air quality. One said it was “like moving the landfill from the ground to the sky.”   By JOE BROCK, YUDDY CAHYA BUDIMAN, JOHN GEDDIE, VALERIE VOLCOVICI

“Less than 10% of all the plastic ever made has been recycled, in large part because it’s too costly to collect and sort. Plastic production, meanwhile, is projected to double within 20 years.”

…”… Critics say there’s little green about burning plastic, which is derived from oil, to make cement. A dozen sources with direct knowledge of the practice, among them scientists, academics and environmentalists, told Reuters that plastic burned in cement kilns emits harmful air emissions and amounts to swapping one dirty fuel for another. More importantly, environmental groups say, it’s a strategy that could potentially undercut efforts spreading globally to boost recycling rates and dramatically slash the production of single-use plastic…”   26/10/2021 Where Does All Our Plastic Recycling Actually Go? – The PM claims plastic recycling isn’t worth it – so here’s breakdown of what the UK actually does with all of our discarded materials.
By Kate Nicholson 

…”…What should we do? Greenpeace still encourages the public to continue recycling, but it is pushing for the government to drop all single-use plastic. The campaign group claims Downing Street’s previous pursuits against plastic straws and cotton bud sticks have little impact. Greenpeace’s Maja Darlington also told HuffPost UK that Johnson is right in that recycling alone is not the answer. She said: “We will not be able to recycle our way out of this mess. We need to turn off the tap of plastic pollution, and move to a system which prioritises reuse.”…”  21/10/2021 Microplastics in blood of farm animals by Peter Chappell

Microplastics have been found in the blood of cows and pigs in a study that raises questions over the food chain. Research at Vrije University in Amsterdam is believed to be the first to show that microplastic particles can be absorbed into the blood of mammals. Heather Leslie Vrije University  14/10/2021 The plastic recycling system is broken – here’s how we can fix it  Eleni Iacovidou

…”The investor Warren Buffett once remarked that “only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked”. For the plastics recycling industry, the pandemic was a bit like the tide going out, exposing its deep-rooted structural problems. Specifically, COVID-19 exposed the plastics recycling sector’s vulnerability to oil-price changes. Economic shutdown driven by the pandemic led to reduced global oil demand, which in turn caused oil prices to plunge. This shifted manufacturers’ preference towards making new plastic, increasing the cost of recycling plastics in the first place.  Changes like this are leading to increasing pollution from new plastic production, with negative consequences for the health of our planet. In the short term, it could also threaten the livelihoods of those working in plastic waste management across the world. And in the long term, it could result in lower investment in the recycling sector, as companies may be wary of risking financial loss. …”…  28/9/2021 Climate Change: Don’t sideline plastic problem, nations urged  By Roger Harrabin

“Scientists are warning politicians immersed in climate change policy not to forget that the world is also in the midst of a plastic waste crisis. They fear that so much energy is being expended on emissions policy that tackling plastic pollution will be sidelined. … the issues are actually intertwined – and each makes the other worse. … (ZSL’s Prof Heather Koldewey) is urging world governments and policy makers to put nature at the heart of all decision making in order to jointly tackle the combined global threats of climate change and biodiversity loss. “…   20/9/2021 Scooping Plastic Out of the Ocean Is a Losing Game – Open ocean cleanups won’t solve the marine plastics crisis. To really make a difference, here’s what we should do instead.  by Ryan Stuart

…”There is a harsh reality that all of us concerned with the mounting ocean plastic problem must confront: the vast majority of the plastic in the ocean is too small or too out of reach to ever be cleaned up. It is suspended in the water column, settled on the ocean floor, or degraded into microscopic particles that are difficult to detect, let alone collect. That realization is vital. With the plastic pollution problem growing increasingly dire, and with so many potential solutions on offer—all competing for limited funding, resources, and public support—it is more urgent than ever to focus on the approaches that are most likely to succeed. …

The unfortunate reality is that there is no key to cleaning up the ocean. The solution is not flashy or sensational. It’s not an entrepreneur with a big idea—a person we can look to as the one who will solve the problem. It’s the boring stuff: when you use plastic, dispose of it properly. If you want to do more, help clean up a river, harbor, or beach. But really, we need to slow the flow of garbage trucks. Because right now, they’re speeding up. We are using more plastic every year. By 2050, the garbage trucks could be unloading every 15 seconds instead of every minute. We don’t have all that long before the ocean is teeming with more plastic than fish.” 9/2021  Ocean Cleanup struggles to fulfill promise to scoop up plastic at sea

…”The non-profit, launched in 2013 amid buoyant media coverage, hopes to clear 90% of floating plastic from the world’s oceans by 2040. But the group’s own best-case scenario — still likely years away — envisions removing 20,000 tonnes a year from the North Pacific, a small fraction of the roughly 11 million tonnes of plastic flowing annually into the oceans. And that amount entering the ocean is expected to nearly triple to 29 million tonnes annually by 2040, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. “…. 3-2021 Reinventing recycling: taking plastics from rubbish to resource – by Dr Fernando Vidal Pena 3-2021 Plastic-eating bacteria: Genetic engineering and environmental impact – how plastic-eating bacteria were discovered and re-engineered to help tackle the worlds plastic problem – By Scott Dutfield

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plastic realities 10-2021 Pan-African research networks are needed to manage continent’s plastic pollution threat  4/11/2021  Wishcycling: The dos and don’ts of being good at recycling  Helen Briggs   26/10/2021 Where Does All Our Plastic Recycling Actually Go? – The PM claims plastic recycling isn’t worth it – so here’s breakdown of what the UK actually does with all of our discarded materials.
By Kate Nicholson 

…”…What should we do? Greenpeace still encourages the public to continue recycling, but it is pushing for the government to drop all single-use plastic. The campaign group claims Downing Street’s previous pursuits against plastic straws and cotton bud sticks have little impact. Greenpeace’s Maja Darlington also told HuffPost UK that Johnson is right in that recycling alone is not the answer. She said: “We will not be able to recycle our way out of this mess. We need to turn off the tap of plastic pollution, and move to a system which prioritises reuse.”…”  14/10/2021 The plastic recycling system is broken – here’s how we can fix it  Eleni Iacovidou

…”The investor Warren Buffett once remarked that “only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked”. For the plastics recycling industry, the pandemic was a bit like the tide going out, exposing its deep-rooted structural problems. Specifically, COVID-19 exposed the plastics recycling sector’s vulnerability to oil-price changes. Economic shutdown driven by the pandemic led to reduced global oil demand, which in turn caused oil prices to plunge. This shifted manufacturers’ preference towards making new plastic, increasing the cost of recycling plastics in the first place.  Changes like this are leading to increasing pollution from new plastic production, with negative consequences for the health of our planet. In the short term, it could also threaten the livelihoods of those working in plastic waste management across the world. And in the long term, it could result in lower investment in the recycling sector, as companies may be wary of risking financial loss. …”… 8-2021 Waste recycling is window-dressing because not all plastics are equal. Well-intentioned consumers recycle their plastics, but is there any point? The real problem is not just consumption and managing waste, say environmentalists – it’s the vested producers and the economy itself. By Onke Ngcuka   7/2021   Is global plastic pollution nearing an irreversible tipping point? by Stockholm University

…”Rates of plastic emissions globally may trigger effects that we will not be able to reverse, argues a new study by researchers from Sweden, Norway and Germany published on July 2nd in Science. According to the authors, plastic pollution is a global threat, and actions to drastically reduce emissions of plastic to the environment are “the rational policy response”.

Plastic is found everywhere on the planet: from deserts and mountaintops to deep oceans and Arctic snow. As of 2016, estimates of global emissions of plastic to the world’s lakes, rivers and oceans ranged from 9 to 23 million metric tons per year, with a similar amount emitted onto land yearly. These estimates are expected to almost double by 2025 if business-as-usual scenarios apply.

“Plastic is deeply engrained in our society, and it leaks out into the environment everywhere, even in countries with good waste-handling infrastructure,” says Matthew MacLeod, Professor at Stockholm University and lead author of the study. He says that emissions are trending upward even though awareness about plastic pollution among scientists and the public has increased significantly in recent years.

That discrepancy is not surprising to Mine Tekman, a Ph.D. candidate at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany and co-author of the study, because plastic pollution is not just an environmental issue but also a “political and economic” one. She believes that the solutions currently on offer, such as recycling and cleanup technologies, are not sufficient, and that we must tackle the problem at its root.

“The world promotes technological solutions for recycling and to remove plastic from the environment. As consumers, we believe that when we properly separate our plastic trash, all of it will magically be recycled. Technologically, recycling of plastic has many limitations, and countries that have good infrastructures have been exporting their plastic waste to countries with worse facilities. Reducing emissions requires drastic actions, like capping the production of virgin plastic to increase the value of recycled plastic, and banning export of plastic waste unless it is to a country with better recycling” says Tekman. …” …    6/2021 Facing the Plastic Pollution Crisis

The world is facing a plastic crisis, the status quo is not an option. Plastic pollution is a serious issue of global concern which requires an urgent and international response involving all relevant actors at different levels. This page aims at listing relevant information, research, data and/or press releases issued by our partners in Geneva and other institutions around the world.

Of all the plastic that ever existed: more than half was produced in the last 15 years and 91% has never been recycled. The Story of Plastics

A Glimpse on the Global Plastic Crisis   2020  The plastic myth and the misunderstood triangle by Kate Raynes-Goldie

Of all the plastic we’ve ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you’ve put in the recycling bin over the years?  Hands up if you grew up thinking that recycling plastic waste is key to saving the environment. It turns out that for decades the recyclability of plastics was grossly oversold by the plastics industry

The creation of this recycling myth is why, despite 30 years of being diligent recyclers, we have things like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  In fact, we’ve only recycled 9% of all the plastics we’ve ever produced. And, our use of plastics is still increasing every year. The reality of the situation is that recycling plastics is actually really hard and expensive.

I am proud to be one of the developers of what is today called human-centered design. That is design that always starts off understanding the needs, capabilities, and desires of people. It has four basic principles, all four of which are being violated by today’s recycling craze.
Not Human – Centred   2020  recycling wrong solution by Don Norman “I am proud to be one of the developers of what is today called human-centered design. That is design that always starts off understanding the needs, capabilities, and desires of people. It has four basic principles, all four of which are being violated by today’s recycling craze.  2020   How much plastic actually gets recycled?  Recycling doesn’t always give your plastic bottle new life – “In most of the country, most types of plastic are not recyclable”  by Isobel Whitcomb 

… “A recent report  released by Greenpeace surveyed the United States’ 367 materials recovery facilities — the facilities that sort our recycling — and found that only plastic bottles are regularly recycled. The fate of most other types of plastic, from clamshells to packaging, is usually a landfill or incineration.

… Not all plastic is created equal …  is recycling worth it? For bottles labeled “1” or “2”, the answer is “yes,” Pochiro said. There’s also a growing market for plastics labeled “5,” a flexible plastic that includes mini-yogurt containers. An increasing percentage of fives are actually getting recycled. For other numbers, it’s important to check the restrictions of your local recycling facility, Pochiro said.  –  Hocevar’s answer was simpler: a resounding “no” on numbers 3, 4, 6 and 7. These plastics just gunk up an already strained recycling system, he said.  “It does more harm than good,” Hocevar said.” …  2020  The solution to the plastic waste crisis? It isn’t recycling – There’s no way of making current levels of consumption ‘environmentally friendly’   by John Vidal

“But would it really make much difference if … the 359m tonnes of plastic that the world makes a year, was recyclable? Is the type of plastic the problem, or is it the fact that we are overwhelmed with vast quantities of waste we cannot process? The question is barely raised by the Green Alliance, whose new report, paid for by some of Britain’s biggest plastic recyclers, laments that people are confused about what can be recycled or composted.”   2019   MIT researcher Andrew MCafee says recycling-is-useless  … and he’s probably right –  Recycling plastic uses up a lot of resources, and after all the hauling around, sorting, and processing of bottles and containers, it often ends up getting thrown away or burned. MIT business researcher Andrew McAfee says we’d be better off putting our plastic waste into well-managed landfills.  He argues we should spend our “mental budget for thinking about the Earth on more high-impact changes,” like carbon taxes on major polluters and nuclear energy.

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plastic export

Plastic waste washed up at Greta Beach, Christmas Island, Australia.
Greta Beach on Christmas Island  17/5/2021 UK plastic waste being dumped and burned in Turkey, says Greenpeace – by Kathryn Snowdon   27/5/2021  Call for G7 Cornwall summit to forge global plastic pollution treaty – Nestlé and UK supermarkets sign open letter calling for G7 nations to show leadership this June   5/2021 Stop exporting plastic waste out of Europe, EU lawmakers say – Thirty-one lawmakers in the European Parliament have signed a manifesto calling for the end of plastic waste exports outside Europe and the facilitation of intra-EU shipment procedures to promote a genuine circular economy within the EU.  4/2021 More than 1000 rivers account for 80% of global riverine plastic emissions into the ocean – Lourens J. J. Meijer, Tim van Emmerik, Ruud van der Ent, Christian Schmidt ,Laurent Lebreton

Plastic waste increasingly accumulates in the marine environment, but data on the distribution and quantification of riverine sources required for development of effective mitigation are limited. Our model approach includes geographically distributed data on plastic waste, land use, wind, precipitation, and rivers and calculates the probability for plastic waste to reach a river and subsequently the ocean. This probabilistic approach highlights regions that are likely to emit plastic into the ocean. We calibrated our model using recent field observations and show that emissions are distributed over more rivers than previously thought by up to two orders of magnitude. We estimate that more than 1000 rivers account for 80% of global annual emissions, which range between 0.8 million and 2.7 million metric tons per year, with small urban rivers among the most polluting. These high-resolution data allow for the focused development of mitigation strategies and technologies to reduce riverine plastic emissions.   4/2021 Even in the far reaches of the Indian Ocean we can’t escape plastic waste – we need coordinated action to tackle it – The most dire projections suggest our seas may contain more weight in plastics than fish by the year 2050 – we need creative measures on land and at sea to reduce it  by Rita Issa  4/5/2021  Plastic pollution in the deep sea: A geological perspective –  Geological Society of America – A new focus article in the May issue of Geology summarizes research on plastic waste in marine and sedimentary environments.  Pollutants, including plastic, reach deep-sea fans through linked sediment routing systems, as well as from outside the associated catchment(s), via near-shore and shelfal currents (i.e., littoral cells), eolian transport, surface currents, and direct input from oceanic sources such as shipping and fishing.  2021  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world and is located between Hawaii and California. Scientists of The Ocean Cleanup have conducted the most extensive analysis ever

bbc  marine debris  Photographer Mandy Barker – “Where Noon Wears a Watch”

von wong  2021 plastic faucet
turn off the plastic tap – Benjamin Von Wong -2021

How about raking and compounding the big plastic patches into islands of sufficient floating mass to carry, well, art festivals or energy farms, perhaps?   2021  Archaeologists Uncover Disturbing Amount of Plastic Waste at Iron Age Site  by George Dvorsky   2021  Plastic pollution: Bangor University researchers get samples in wine bottles By Catherine Evans  –  “She said getting local swim groups to become waterloggers for microplastics research was useful because “people who love the place where they swim know they need to take to protect it and are more likely to be horrified if they find it in their local swim spot.”

Megachile_rotunda_(14500665716).jpg   2019   Found: A Bees’ Nest Built Entirely of Plastic Waste – It could be a sign of bees’ adaptability to a changing environment—but the habit might also be causing them harm  by Brigit Katz,   2021   Pervasive’ plastic pollution in the Arctic – Polyester fibres that injure marine life were found in sea water across region.  The Arctic is “pervasively” polluted by microplastic fibres that most likely come from the washing of synthetic clothes by people in Europe and North America, research has found.  15/3/2021  Plastic warms the planet twice as much as aviation – here’s how to make it climate-friendly   by Laurie Wright

We’re all too aware of the consequences of plastics in the oceans and on land. However, beyond the visible pollution of our once pristine habitats, plastics are having a grave impact on the climate too. Newly published research calculates that across their lifecycle, plastics account for 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s almost double the emissions of the aviation sector. If it were a country, the “Plastic Kingdom” would be the fifth-highest emitter in the world.

the  2018  Plastic is now part of our planet’s fabric – a scientist and archaeologist discuss what happens next   Sharon George, Matt Edgeworth   –  A brief history of plastics –

A sea turtle eats a plastic shopping bag. Plastic bags and other plastic garbage are often ingested by marine animals confusing it with food.
sea turtle lunch  2020  The plastic we use unthinkingly every day is killing our planet – and slowly but surely killing us   by Andrew Paris  –  As researchers, we have been shocked to find the most remote depths of the Pacific Ocean polluted by our plastic. And it will outlive us all.  2019  The missing 99%: why can’t we find the vast majority of ocean plastic? What scientists can see and measure, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water. 

…”What we commonly see accumulating at the sea surface is “less than the tip of the iceberg, maybe a half of 1% of the total,” says Erik Van Sebille, an oceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

… Nanoplastic research is still in its infancy. But laboratory tests show that unlike microplastics, nanoplastics are small enough to accumulate within the bloodstreams and cell membranes of a range of organisms, even passing the blood-brain barrier in a test on Japanese medaka fish, and cause various toxic effects, including neurological damage, and reproductive abnormalities.

“This question of where is all the plastic in the sea … For 40 years we sought out plastic we could see. Now we reach the nanoscale, which is very particular, very reactive, and we have to begin again,” says Ter Halle.

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microplastics  22/12/2021 Study Finds Alarming Levels of Microplastics in The Feces of People With IBD  by Mike McRae

“Motes of weathered plastic increasingly dust every corner of our planet, permeating our foodour air, and our water. From the moment we’re born – if not long before – we’re exposed to its effects, and we don’t fully know what that’s doing to our health and wellbeing…”…   8/12/2021 Microplastics cause damage to human cells, study shows – Harm included cell death and occurred at levels of plastic eaten by people via their food  by Damian Carrington   24/11/2021  A rapid review and meta-regression analyses of the toxicological impacts of microplastic exposure in human cells  by Evangelos Danopoulosa, MaureenTwiddy, RobertWest, Jeanette M.Rotchellc  2020  Microplastics have moved into virtually every crevice on Earth – A collection of new research provides more clues about where and how microplastics are spreading.  by Laura Parker    26/5/2021  ocean plastic can get a boost to its wave-induced transport because of its size – 
Plastic pollution and other ocean debris are a complex global environmental problem. Every year, ten million tonnes of plastic are estimated to be mismanaged, resulting in entry into the ocean, of which half will float initially. Yet, only 0.3 million tonnes of plastic can be found floating on the surface of the ocean. Where has the rest of the plastic gone?  ‘Although anyone walking on the beach will know waves transport floating debris towards the shore, the rate at which they do so depends on many factors that existing models, which are highly simplified, ignore.” says Ton van den Bremer …”      read journal article here   4/2021  Biodegradables could be worse than regular plastics in an important way  By Asher Jones   3/2021 Microplastic and antibiotic-resistant bacteria: the double threat  by Lucy Shard

… Prof Mengyan Li : “These wastewater treatment plants can be hotspots where various chemicals, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and pathogens converge and what our study shows is that microplastics can serve as their carriers, posing imminent risks to aquatic biota and human health if they bypass the water treatment process.”   4/2021  How is bacteria being used to tackle microplastic pollution?

Microplastics are a big problem when it comes to protecting the environment. They pollute the world’s oceans and can be very damaging to sea creatures and other animals. Microbiologists at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) have come with a clever way of removing these tiny pieces of plastic from the environment, and it involves the use of bacteria!  Researchers at PolyU believe the sticky bacteria could be used to form microbe nets that can trap microplastics in polluted water.  5/2021  Microplastics are everywhere — but are they harmful?  Scientists are rushing to study the tiny plastic specks that are in marine animals — and in us.  by XiaoZhi Lim

False colour image of microplastic sample showing different types of plastics in different colours
Oldenburger Waste Particles

… “The tiniest specks, called nanoplastics — smaller than 1 micrometre — worry researchers most of all (see ‘Microplastics to scale’). Some might be able to enter cells, potentially disrupting cellular activity. But most of these particles are too small for scientists even to see; they were not counted in Koelmans’ diet estimates, for instance, and California will not try to monitor them. …

For the moment, levels of microplastics and nanoplastics in the environment are too low to affect human health, researchers think. But their numbers will rise. Last September, researchers projected15 that the amount of plastic added to existing waste each year — whether carefully disposed of in sealed landfills or strewn across land and sea — could more than double from 188 million tonnes in 2016 to 380 million tonnes in 2040. By then, around 10 million tonnes of this could be in the form of microplastics, the scientists estimated — a calculation that didn’t include the particles continually being eroded from existing waste.

It is possible to rein in some of our plastic waste, says Winnie Lau at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington DC, who is the first author on the study. The researchers found that if every proven solution to curb plastic pollution were adopted in 2020 and scaled up as quickly as possible — including switching to systems of reuse, adopting alternative materials, and recycling plastic — the amount of plastic waste added could drop to 140 million tonnes per year by 2040.

By far the biggest gains would come from cutting out plastics that are used only once and discarded. “There’s no point producing things that last for 500 years and then using them for 20 minutes,” Galloway says. “It’s a completely unsustainable way of being.”   3/2021   Plastic particles pass from mothers into foetuses, rat study shows – Nanoparticles found in foetal brains and hearts, but impact on human health is as yet unknown by Damian Carrington

Tiny plastic particles in the lungs of pregnant rats pass rapidly into the hearts, brains and other organs of their foetuses, research shows. It is the first study in a live mammal to show that the placenta does not block such particles.  The experiments also showed that the rat foetuses exposed to the particles put on significantly less weight towards the end of gestation. The research follows the revelation in December of small plastic particles in human placentas, which scientists described as “a matter of great concern”. Earlier laboratory research on human placentas donated by mothers after birth has also shown polystyrene beads can cross the placental barrier.   Microplastic pollution has reached every part of the planet, from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans, and people are already known to consume the tiny particles via food and water, and to breathe them in.

Demand is set to rise, too. At 380m tonnes a year, we produce 190 times more plastic than we did in 1950. If the demand for plastic continues to grow at its current rate of 4% a year, emissions from plastic production will reach 15% of global emissions by 2050.  More than 99% of plastics are manufactured from petrochemicals, most commonly from petroleum and natural gas. These raw materials are refined to form ethylene, propylene, butene, and other basic plastic building blocks, before being transported to manufacturers.

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paying for plastics

As with any product the negative cost to the ecosystem or human health should be in the price. But it isn’t.    3/2021   Plastic is part of the carbon cycle and needs to be included in climate calculations   3/2021   Plastic pollution: Is the drinks industry doing enough to reduce single-use plastics?   2021 Why Plastic Pollution Is a Producer Responsibility  By Alex Truelove

Remote Norwegian Collection

We’re all culprits in the plastic pollution crisis — and that’s by design.  I was reminded of this recently when I ordered a set of carbon filters for my countertop compost bin. (Like most people, I don’t care for smelly kitchens.) The package arrived in a layered-plastic bubble envelope. Inside I found another clear plastic bag encasing the filters. Finally, adding insult to injury, each filter was wrapped individually in plastic. That made at least three layers of plastic for each filter.

Frustratingly, in an effort to reduce waste, I had created more. And I’m not alone. A recent landmark study confirmed that the United States is the most plastic-polluting country in the world. Every 16 hours Americans throw away enough plastic to fill a football stadium.  Adding to my frustration was a sense of helplessness. There was no way I could have known or changed the fact that these products were shrouded in layer upon layer of disposable plastic packaging. 

I know millions of Americans feel the same way. …

But what if … companies were held responsible for their products? Would it prevent the onslaught of plastic junk filling up our landfills and too often ending up in the ocean? History suggests manufacturers would design products to be more reusable, repairable and resilient, because they’d want to limit the waste they would have to manage.

Which brings us to an idea known as producer responsibility.

Producer responsibility programs have existed around the world for decades and have successfully increased collection, recycling and reuse for the products they cover. For the most part these programs regulate hazardous, hard-to-dispose-of products such as batteries, paint, mercury thermostats, carpet, pesticides, tires and pharmaceuticals. Dozens of states already have programs in place for these items.”

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plastic production + use    5/2021  Twenty firms produce 55% of world’s plastic waste, report reveals – Plastic Waste Makers index identifies those driving climate crisis with virgin polymer production  6/2021 Petition:  20 Companies are Responsible for Most Plastic Waste – They Must Switch to Sustainable Alternatives Now! By Shelby Hettler

Plastic pollution is one of the huge issues that we are facing today. Chemicals and small particles from plastic are ending up everywhere – in the ocean, soilplacentas, animal stomachs, and human organs. Plastic is killing our planet as well as those who live on it, and we need to fight back against plastic pollution. Many people have started doing this in their own lives by opting for reusable alternatives to single-use plastic and being more mindful of the waste they create. While this is amazing, the problem won’t be solved until corporations are held accountable.

A recent study found that just 20 companies are responsible for 55% of the plastic waste in the entire world. These companies are headquartered in different countries around the world, with ExxonMobil of the US being the absolute worst. A few of the other companies include Dow, Sinopec, and Indorama Ventures. The report also highlighted investors and banks that finance the plastic producers including, Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America.

Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Polyvinyl, Polystyrene etal

The recycling problem has a lot to do with there being so many different types of plastic. – Too many. And none designed for recycling.  

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ALTernative plastic futures 15/12/2021  Microbes around the world are evolving to eat plastic (and it could help deal with plastic pollution)  by Rob Waugh

Across the world, microbes are evolving to eat plastic and the finding could have important implications for the battle against plastic pollution. Microbes in the ground and in seawater have evolved to have enzymes which can break down different plastics, researchers at Sweden’s Chalmers University have found.  The global plastic problem has exploded in the past 70 years — from around two million tonnes per year to around 380 million — which has given microbes time to evolve.

The researchers analysed samples of environmental DNA from around the world, looking for microbial enzymes which could break down plastic. They found that levels of such enzymes were highest in the areas with most plastic pollution. 

Aleksej Zelezniak, associate professor in systems biology at Chalmers, said: “Using our models, we found multiple lines of evidence supporting the fact that the global microbiome’s plastic-degrading potential correlates strongly with measurements of environmental plastic pollution – a significant demonstration of how the environment is responding to the pressures we are placing on it.”

In total, more than 30,000 enzyme ‘homologues’ were found with the potential to degrade 10 different types of commonly used plastic. Homologues are members of protein sequences sharing similar properties. 

Some of the locations that contained the highest amounts were highly polluted areas, for example samples from the Mediterranean Sea and South Pacific Ocean. Jan Zrimec, lead author of the study and former postdoctorate student in Zelezniak’s group, now a researcher at the National Institute of Biology in Slovenia, said: “Currently, very little is known about these plastic-degrading enzymes…”…

Read more  10/2021  Plastic Health Summit  pdf download  speakers:   9/2021  Plastic waste is the next asbestos – WHO should declare it a public health emergency – While there is global agreement to curb plastic’s impact, production continues to rise – by Maria Westerbos   19/10/2021  How a bacterium may help solve the plastic pollution crisis  In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers from Nara Institute of Science and Technology revealed a bacterium that is not only able to degrade difficult-to-recycle petroleum-based plastics but can also sustainably produce more environmentally friendly biodegradable plastics.  11/2021   ECO-INNOVATION – This ‘floating continent’ could collect and recycle plastic from the ocean in future  By Doloresz Katanich  

‘The 8th continent’ is an award-winning design that recycles ocean plastic and is completely self-sustainable. Its five-part structure contains everything from greenhouses and living quarters to biodegradable waste collectors. Senior designer at Zaha Hadid Architects in London, Lenka Petráková, developed the idea for her student master thesis a few years ago in Vienna, Austria, having studied ocean pollution at university. The architect says the prototype is named after the sheer amount of plastic waste coagulating in the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’. “I realised how destroyed the oceans are and how many species are extinct, how much pollution is there, and that the parts that may have never seen a human being, feel the effects of our activities,” she says. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the sea every year. And a majority of this plastic ends up in our food and body.   On top of this, 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by plastic pollution annually…”…  11/2021 Plastic pollution: Can seaweed end problem? By Sarah Easedale  31/8/2021    The Plan to Stop the Plastic Crisis Is Gaining Momentum – And you can join the push to clean our planet today.   by Joe McCarthy

“Corporations have made pledges. Community organizers have staged beach clean-ups. Politicians have boldly described the urgency of the problem. Yet the rate of plastic pollution continues to climb. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of annual plastic waste entering the ocean rose by 30%, according to Scientific American. Over the next decade, plastic production is predicted to increase by 40%.  That means more marine animals will swallow and die from plastic. Our food system will become further infiltrated with plastic. And each gust of wind will carry even more nanoplastic particles.  This scenario is not tenable, according to the One Source Coalition, a group of environmental organizations that includes the World Wildlife Fund and corporations like Unilever.  …”…  31/8/2021  Billion investment in plastic recycling in Sweden – Swedish Plastic Recycling (Svensk Plaståtervinning) is investing in building the world’s largest and most modern facility for plastic recycling, Site Zero.  11/2021 Eco-friendly plastic is made of oil and salmon sperm  by Rhys Blakely

…”A new plastic made from salmon sperm and vegetable oil could be the most environmentally friendly version yet invented, a team of Chinese scientists has said. It is created from short strands of DNA, the substance that carries genetic code and which forms a twisting double helix structure inside living cells. The researchers obtained their raw material from salmon sperm, although just about any living thing is a potential source…”…  12/2021   Ocean plastic is creating new communities of life on the high seas

“Coastal plants and animals have found a new way to survive in the open ocean—by colonizing plastic pollution. A new commentary published Dec. 2 in Nature Communications reports coastal species growing on trash hundreds of miles out to sea in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, more commonly known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” “The issues of plastic go beyond just ingestion and entanglement…”…   7/2021  The fungus and bacteria tackling plastic waste – By accident Samantha Jenkins discovered the plastic eating properties of one fungus  By Emma Woollacott

…”The fungus had eaten its way through the plastic sponge intended to seal it in, breaking it down and assimilating it like any other food. The aim of the project was to evaluate a number of strains of fungus for use in bio-based insulation panels, but the hungry fungus has taken them in another direction. Biohm is now working to develop the strain to make it an even more efficient digester that could potentially help get rid of plastic waste.”… 19/7/2021  Using plastic waste to help solve sand shortages  By Bernd Debusmann

This means that sand is typically dredged from rivers, and due to the environmental damage this causes a number of countries have introduced bans in recent years – including India, Cambodia and Vietnam. The knock-on impact has been supply issues in nations undergoing construction booms such as China and India, which have the largest and second-largest construction sectors. Shortfalls of sand in India continue to fuel a big increase in illegal sand mining, controlled by criminal gangs, known as “sand mafias”, These groups have been linked to dozens of murders, including the 2015 killing of investigative journalist Jagendra Singh.

“People don’t comprehend, or it doesn’t strike them, that there is a shortage [of sand],” says Shobha Bhatia, a professor of civil and environment engineering at Syracuse University. …

“We found that you can replace up to 10% of the sand in concrete with the plastic, and it has the same strength and the same longevity,” says Dr John Orr. Unlike sand, plastic won’t stick to the cement paste around it, so it can only replace 10% of the raw material, he says. “But that still saves the need for a huge amount of sand, and helps to reduce the vast amount of plastic waste on India’s streets. …

“Sand is really just a symptom of a larger problem. It’s not just that we’re using too much sand, but we’re using too much of everything (says  Vince Beiser). “We’re using up all the planet’s resources at a rate that cannot continue.” “We should be looking for solutions that address the main problem – overconsumption of natural resources – rather than asking what one can do about sand, and then separately about climate change or traffic. “A lot of these problems are interconnected and the solutions have to be as well.”   7/2021 How LEGO perfected the recycled plastic brick  –  After 72 years and billions of interlocking polymer toy bricks, at last the company has an eco alternative

…”What’s more, the vast majority of those 110 billion bricks, as much as 80 per cent, were made from acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, or ABS, a petroleum-based thermoplastic prized for its strength and rigidity. ABS does not like being recycled because it loses those sturdy qualities. Such is the resilience of ABS, it takes lifetimes to break down, meaning whatever is made from the stuff will be hanging around on our planet for an awfully long time.   This is why, in 2015, after 66 years of pumping out vast quantities of unrecyclable interlocking toy bricks and perhaps sensing the impending plastic backlash, LEGO announced it was putting $155 million of its huge income (2019 revenue hit $7 billion) into a new Sustainable Materials Centre. …”…  10/6/2021 Genetically engineered microbes convert waste plastic into vanillin
BY Jack Washington

Scientists in the UK have genetically engineered Escherichia coli to transform plastic waste into vanillin. ‘Instead of simply recycling plastic waste into more plastic, what our system demonstrates for the first time is that you can use plastic as a feedstock for microbial cells and transform it into something with higher value and more industrial utility,’ says Stephen Wallace from the University of Edinburgh. The biotransformation ‘isn’t just replacing a current chemical process, it’s actually achieving something that can’t be done using modern synthetic methods.’

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is one of the most widely used types of plastic. Most existing recycling technologies degrade PET into its substituent monomers, ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid, then repurpose them in second-generation plastic materials. Wallace and Joanna Sadler, also at the University of Edinburgh, want to upcycle these monomers into alternative products.  6/2021  ‘Vegan spider silk’ provides sustainable alternative to single-use plastics

The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, created a polymer film by mimicking the properties of spider silk, one of the strongest materials in nature. The new material is as strong as many common plastics in use today and could replace plastic in many common household products.  4/2021   The future looks bright for infinitely recyclable plastic from 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, Kristin Persson at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory set out to change that.  …

“These days, there is a huge push for adopting circular economy practices in the industry. Everyone is trying to recycle whatever they’re putting out in the market,” said Vora. “We started talking to industry about deploying 100% percent infinitely recycled plastics and have received a lot of interest.”

Plastics were never designed to be recycled. The need to do so was recognized long afterward,” explained Nemi Vora, first author on the report and a former postdoctoral fellow who worked with senior author Corinne Scown. “But driving sustainability is the heart of this project. PDKs were designed to be recycled from the get-go, and since the beginning, the team has been working to refine the production and recycling processes for PDK so that the material could be inexpensive and easy enough to be deployed at commercial scales in anything from packaging to cars.” 12/5/2021  The world’s first ‘infinite’ plastic   By Katherine Latham

“The way we normally recycle plastics is a downward spiral of waste and degraded materials, but there is another option – turning plastic back into the oil it was made from.  There is one man-made material that you can find in the earththe air and in the deepest ocean trenches. It is so durable that the majority of what has been created is still present in our ecosystem. Having made its way into the food chain, it permeates our bodies, flowing from our blood into our organs, even finding its way into the human placenta.

It is of course plastic, and this durability is also what makes the material so useful. Cables stretching across ocean floors, water pipes under the ground and packaging that keeps food fresh all rely on this property.

Efficiently recycling plastic by conventional means is notoriously difficult, and only 9% of all plastic ever made has been recycled into new plastics. But what if there was a way to turn plastic back into the stuff it was made from? The “next grand challenge” for polymer chemistry – the field responsible for the creation of plastics – is learning to undo the process by turning plastics back into oil.

This process – known as chemical recycling – has been explored as a viable alternative to conventional recycling for decades. So far, the stumbling block has been the large amount of energy it requires. This, combined with the volatile price of crude oil sometimes makes it cheaper to produce new plastic products than to recycle existing plastic.” … 2020 How plastic “waste” is getting a greener second life – New innovations are creating a more sustainable future for single-use plastics.

A blue Nalgene Sustain bottle with a background of text that reads: 50% of each Sustain bottle is made from recycled content. That’s equivalent to 8 plastic bottles that would have gone to a landfill.
every little helps

physics  5/2021 Recycled plastic bags make sustainable fabrics   by Isabelle Dumé

… “Polyethylene is one of the most common plastics in the world, but it is seldom found in clothing because it cannot absorb or carry away water. (Imagine wearing a plastic bag – you would feel very uncomfortable very quickly.) Now, however, researchers in the US have developed a new material spun from polyethylene that not only “breathes” better than cotton, nylon or polyester, but also has a smaller ecological footprint due to the ease with which it can be manufactured, dyed, cleaned and used.

The textile industry produces about 62 million tons of fabric each year. In the process, it consumes huge quantities of water, generates millions of tonnes of waste and accounts for 5–10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it one of the world’s most polluting industries. Later stages of the textile use cycle also contribute to the industry’s environmental impact. Textiles made from natural fibres such as wool, cotton, silk or linen require considerable amounts of energy and water to recycle, while textiles that are coloured or made of composite materials are hard to recycle at all. … Researchers led by Svetlana Boriskina of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) set out to produce an alternative. …” 3/2021 New fuel from plastic waste aims to replace fossil fuels in marine industry 8/2019  Get Ready for the Onslaught of “Smart Plastic Incineration” By Lloyd Alter   5/4/2021  Scientists produce biodegradable plastic made from fish waste –  ‘When we start the process, there is a faint kind of smell, but that disappears,’ explains Francesca Kerton, lead project investigator  by  Tom Batchelor  –  Scientists working on an alternative to polluting plastic have discovered a biodegradable material derived from fish waste that would otherwise be thrown away, which could be used in a variety of products including packaging and clothing.   2019   The #ReuseRevolution is the answer to the plastics crisis   by Graham Forbes 
“Plastic pollution is everywhere. … In response to this global environmental crisis, a growing movement—the Reuse Revolution—is already finding real and innovative solutions focused on reusing sustainable materials instead of throwaway plastics.”   3/3021  Top 10 Benefits of Recycling Plastic  2020   small-steps-towards-a-plastic-free-world  24/5/2021  9 Ways to Combat Microplastics at Home  By Lisa Jo Rudy  2021  The brain behind Noida-based sustainable startup Kagzi Bottles, Samiksha Ganeriwal claims that their first-of-its-kind, 100% compostable paper bottles can be used to package toiletries, beverages, liquids and powders.  by Urshita Pandit

see also > Growth! What growth?

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