Tag Archives: GreenFire

The Tokenization Of GreenFire

The Tokenization Of GreenFire

The Token Economics Of The Landfill A “Rubbish-Based Economy”

GreenFire Engineered Reclamation

 

The Token Economy

GreenFire is an organization designed to remove plastic waste from the world’s oceans, beaches and waterways while empowering people living in poverty to raise their standard of living.

GreenFire wants to preserve plastic waste through a specially developed deposit system as well as give people an incentive to collect and sort. In order to make the system attractive, more money is returned than was previously paid in deposit. this could be achieved from the value a sorted plastic waste possesses for further recycling process. 

A strong focus will be on educating and empowering local people to both reveal value in themselves and to see the value in turning recyclable plastics into necessities and entrepreneurial opportunities. Additional efforts will go towards community collection projects that raise the overall standard of living in our host communities.

The group's vision is simple: By using cryptocurrency payments to reward people for recycling plastic waste, it hopes to provide a better incentive system, while also improving the quality of life for people who participate in its recycling networks.

The GreenFire use of Tokens is a little different to straight 'coins' given that they are more closely connected to one particular platform's ecosystem, and in a way, also act as shares in that platform. This is the basics of the Landfill Economy.

We believe in projects creating token-powered ecosystems. So, not just payment tokens or tokens that people can pump and dump, but creating an ecosystem, where people can actually use the tokens.

Alternatively, these tokens can be traded on crypto exchanges for other cryptocurrencies, or for fiat money. This idea may not be entirely unfamiliar to those who play online or video games, given that these often incorporate some form of 'in-game' currency or token that can sometimes be purchased for real-world currency. The difference is that these 'in-game' tokens cannot be traded back into real-world currency at an exchange.

Secondly, let's take the idea that these tokens can act as shares in the particular platform. This is due to the fact that most cryptocurrencies are modelled on gold, as every currency in the world used to be until the introduction of our current, 'fiat' monetary system. S

In addition, on decentralised, blockchain-based platforms – GreenFire, tokens also give you 'voting power' as part of a member of a community.

In the absence of a centralized regulatory body, these ecosystems are often governed instead by the communities who create them. For example, in the Landfill Economy members of the community can put themselves forward to a pool of arbitrators who will decide on contentious issues, and for The Landfill Economy, the number of tokens held translates directly into the amount of voting power wielded on issues.

In this case, tokens are not creating new systems, but simply offering a way to improve the current system.

Again, in these systems, trust would primarily come from smart contracts baked into the system, rather than lawyers.

The Token will quickly convert (with a transaction time of four seconds) fiat money into a cryptocurrency, to move it through the system before converting back into whatever the required currency is at the end.

Plastic Bank – Tokens for Waste

This is achieved through “Plastic Banks” established strategically in impoverished areas with an existing abundance of plastic waste. The Plastic Bank is making plastic waste a currency in addition to offering people both education and the opportunity to trade plastics for access to 3D printing services & other life improving opportunities.

GreenFire Plastic Bank is a social enterprise that creates environmental impact in areas with high levels of poverty and plastic pollution by turning plastic waste into a cryptocurrency by enabling the exchange of plastic for blockchain secure digital tokens they reveal the value of plastic this empowers recycling ecosystems and stops the flow of plastic into the ocean by creating a market that connects those who use plastic waste for recycling and those who have time to collect.

A cryptocurrency-based recycling rewards are important not just because they provide financial incentives for recycling that can be more valuable than the bottle deposits available in developed countries, but also because they enable rewards payments for people in developing countries who lack access to banks, and therefore cannot be paid in other ways for recycling. Given that much of the world's trash ends up in developing nations, cryptocurrency recycling rewards promise to be particularly innovative for increasing recycling rates worldwide – and, by extension, reducing overall waste and poverty.

That is exactly what makes the GreenFire Plastic Bank deposit system so attractive. The ‘GreenFire’ project wants to address this issue and obtain plastic waste through a specially developed deposit system. In addition, the project should make it possible to give the population an incentive to collect and sort.

The developing system is based on the fully suitable properties of , a distributed ledger technology. is a young cryptocurrency that enables a fast, secure and free transfer of data and finances.

Micropayments could be carried out together with data exchange. Furthermore, this system can also be used away from the facilities otherwise required for deposit systems, e.g. shops. If one thinks on a global scale, then this characteristic can be enormously important. That is exactly what makes the deposit system so attractive.

The GreenFire project wants to address this issue and obtain pure plastic waste through a specially developed deposit system. In addition, the project should make it possible to give the population an incentive to collect and sort.

People who want to join are required to register as collectors, producers, or generators of waste.

The platform connects producers (end-users – GreenFire) to collectors, who are responsible for sorting items according to environmental regulations. After that, the collectors are connected with generators, which are organisations that process the waste.

Each producer must upload all the details about the items thrown away on the network. Based on this information, users get rewards in the form of cryptocurrency. Collectors and generators receive digital coins as well based on the volume of waste they gather and process.

According to local authorities, citizens can use Coins in local shops, as well as for paying taxes and municipal fees.

GreenFire wants to preserve pure plastic waste through a specially developed deposit system  as well as give people an incentive to collect and sort. In order to make the system attractive, more money is returned than was previously paid in deposit. this could be achieved from the value a sorted plastic waste possesses for further recycling process

The deposit system based on offers the following advantages:

  • The population gets a financial incentive for collecting, sorting and distributing plastic waste. More is paid back than has been paid as a deposit.

  • The application is simple. It is based on , a modern distributed ledger technology and could be used worldwide. 

  • The collector gets the deposit either on his Wallet or thanks to a cooperation also in his local currency, e.g. Euro paid out to his account.

  • The mechanical sorting of plastic waste is still complex today and also requires a lot of energy. Furthermore, a recycled plastic requires far less energy than a completely new production process. The deposit system thus helps to reduce CO2 emissions and achieve climate targets.

  • This system makes it easier for the industry to achieve its recycling targets because it eliminates the upstream step of expensive mechanical sorting.

Mostly aimed at collectors, it not only tracks how much they’ve collected, but also provides a digital wallet through which they  can park their earnings. That’s important for people who don’t qualify for bank accounts and for whom it’s dangerous to walk around with a lot of money. Also stores that sell stuff for collectors accept payments from those accounts. Also, collectors can use plastic credits to buy a phone and to power their devices through solar power stations at stores.

The takeaway

Cryptocurrency and recycling could make extremely good bedfellows. Crypto incentives have the potential to motivate people to be more careful and protect the environment. At the same time, authorities that rely on the blockchain and governments that back digital coins send an influential pro-cryptocurrency message.

These initiatives could become examples of best practices for multiple other applications of cryptocurrency in various industries – with the plus that they have the potential to improve the quality of life by protecting the environment.

We believe there will be many use cases for tokens but what we're witnessing is a dramatic shift in interest in the market towards decentralized systems. We believe at the heart of this movement is going to be Tokenization. They have the potential to distribute value in a way that is more fair, secure, and even.

TP

Where Mismanaged Plastic Waste is Generated and Possible Paths of Change

Oceanography, Research 28 January 2019

Where Mismanaged Plastic Waste is Generated and Possible Paths of Change

Laurent Lebreton

Oceanographer

As we kick off 2019, the engineering team is working towards solutions to the challenges we face with System 001, while the research team remains focused on the study of oceanic plastic pollution. We believe that it is essential to understand the problem of ocean plastic pollution if we are to effectively solve it. Fortunately, our operations in the North Pacific have provided a great opportunity to conduct additional sampling to further the mission of our research.

At present, we are busy working towards establishing a plastic mass budget in the ocean. This means understanding where ocean plastic is coming from, where it is accumulating, and what happens to it in the long term. These questions involve improving our knowledge of various processes occurring at very different timescales. These questions are also essential to optimize mitigation strategies and the future of cleanup operations. Turning the tide on ocean plastics will require a combination of both preventive and curative strategies; from controlled consumer demand and material innovation to invest in better waste management infrastructures and collection technologies.

A visual showing where plastic waste leaks into the environment

A visual showing where plastic waste leaks into the environment

GEOGRAPHY OF PLASTIC WASTE

One important aspect of establishing a plastic budget in the ocean is our understanding of plastic emissions into the ocean. Following an initial assessment of global riverine emissions published in 2017, we realized it was difficult to precisely predict where and how much plastic was entering the ocean. We understood that plastic emissions greatly depend on the geography of waste generation when associated with topography and hydrology. Thus, we first decided to investigate geographical variations of mismanaged plastic waste generation.

Today, after several revisions from peers, our global assessment of plastic waste generation was published in the humanities and social sciences journal, Nature Palgrave Communications: www.nature.com/articles/s41599-018-0212-7. The manuscript “Future Scenarios for Global Plastic Waste Generation and Disposal” presents a new and improved numerical method to predict plastic waste generation based on economic and demographic indicators. Essentially, we created a high-resolution map for plastic waste distribution using several open-access global datasets, including country-scale statistics for municipal solid waste, as well as human population and gross domestic product (GDP) distributions.

For the 2015 calendar year, we estimated that between 60 and 99 million metric tons of municipal plastic waste were improperly disposed of and released into the environment. A fraction of this waste will eventually be transported into the ocean. A nearly one-kilometer resolution distribution of where this waste was generated is presented in this interactive map.

Wealthy, industrialized economies generate the highest amount of plastic waste per capita with values as high as over 100 kilograms per year and per inhabitant. In populous countries, such as China and India, a lower use of plastic per capita coupled with a high population density can still yield large volumes of plastic waste. Particularly, in densely populated developing economies, high rates of plastic waste generation combined with inappropriate waste management infrastructures result in significant volumes of plastic waste leaking into the environment. Currently, the global geography of mismanaged plastic waste generation is disproportionally higher in Asian and African continents. Note that our model does not account for the unfair practice of waste trade between industrialized and developing economies, which may exacerbate this disproportion.

FUTURE OF PLASTIC WASTE

The benefit of using socio-economic indicators, such as population density and GDP, to predict waste generation is that this information is actively studied and projections into the future are available. We used these projections in our model and assessed the generation and disposal of plastic under three scenarios.

 

 

Our first scenario was a business-as-usual case where consumer plastic demand grows with the economy and the population, and where no further effort is made for waste management. Under uncontrolled growth in demand for plastic, with current standards of waste management, global emissions into the environment could double by mid-century.

We tested a second scenario where waste management infrastructures would improve over time as the economy of a country grows. Reported national waste data shows that levels of waste management infrastructure generally increase with GDP per capita, internationally. Thus, the more affluent the country, the more waste it generates per inhabitant, but the better it is at managing its waste. Under this scenario, global emissions could start decreasing by 2020 as investment of waste management offsets the increase in population and consumer demand. The main hotspots of mismanaged plastic waste generation would gradually move from Asia to Africa. This scenario would require major contributors like China or India to reach Western standards for waste management as their economies align with wealthier countries in the coming decades.

Finally, we introduced a third scenario where waste management improvement would be joined with efforts to reduce plastic waste globally. As of 2018, there were 27 countries that enacted policies implementing bans on (some) single-use plastics. To reflect the growing international willingness to reduce plastic waste, we established a scenario where the mass fraction of plastic in municipal waste would be capped at a global average of ~10% for all countries by 2030 and 5% by 2040. These values are achievable, as some industrialized countries already report such reduced levels. Denmark, for instance, the first country to establish a tax on single-use plastic bags, now reports less than 5% of solid waste made of plastic. In this scenario, global emissions could be reduced to a third by mid-century, even with a growing population.

 

 

Plastic continuously entering the ocean is a challenge we face on a global level. If nothing is done, the problem is expected to double in the coming decades. Fortunately, current behaviors, emerging innovations and new legislation exemplify that there is a demand to reduce the output; and this can be a significant reduction – if approached from multiple angles.

We conclude that the solution to this epidemic will likely come from a combination of reduction targets (particularly with packaging and single-use plastics), innovation in materials science and significant investments in waste management infrastructures, with more interception points for ocean-bound plastic. These preventive measures doubled down with curative solutions, such as cleanup operations for existing ocean plastic, will pave the way for cleaner oceans by 2050.

TP

Blockchain: satisfying the world’s billion-dollar appetite for sustainable consumer brands

Blockchain allows you to track the provenance of products, consumer product and retail organizations can build confidence in their brands by giving consumers sight of the provenance of a product they’re about to buy.

Consumers have a considerable appetite for brands with sustainable credentials. In fact, it’s a multi-billion-dollar appetite. A study by Nielsen put the US market for sustainable fast-moving consumer goods at $100 billion in 2018.[1] The global market for sustainable goods is estimated to be worth a trillion dollars.[2]

Communicating your credentials will be critical to winning in this burgeoning market. A Unilever study of 20,000 consumers found that one in five would actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials clearer on their packaging and marketing.[3] So how can you make your credentials clearer and increase trust?  Is there a better and more reliable way than just listing all your sustainable practices on product packages? Well, yes, there is. And it involves blockchain.

Blockchain can tackle a number of supply chain issues – and traceability is one of them. Take a traditional supply chain in the supermarket sphere. It’s not easy to trace a product from the retail store back to the farm where it was sourced. But blockchain can deliver this end-to-end traceability at the required level of granularity. For instance, in China, Walmart’s blockchain pilot enabled the company to trace a package of mangoes from the retail store to the farm in a few seconds.[4] Traditionally, this process would have taken a few days, if not weeks.

Turning traceability into a reputation for sustainability

So how can traceability help organizations demonstrate their sustainability credentials to consumers? Because blockchain allows you to track the provenance of products, consumer product and retail organizations can build confidence in their brands by giving consumers sight of the provenance of a product they’re about to buy.

The seafood industry provides an example. A London-based NGO has developed a blockchain-based system to track skipjack and yellowfin tuna. The fishing crew are provided with hand-held devices. They attach RFID tags to the fish they catch, scan the details, and upload the information the cloud. This data is then added to a blockchain ledger, creating an immutable record of each fish that’s caught. At every successive stage – from middlemen to factory processing to retailers – more details are added, delivering complete “catch-to-consumer” transparency. A consumer can then simply use their smart phone to scan the code on a package of fish and see exactly where the fish has been sourced from.

Figure: Blockchain enables end-to-end traceability

This level of transparency also offers significant value on the supply side in a seafood industry that suffers from forced labor issues. Providing a unique identifier to each fisherman means that each is visible and traceable, free from any potential abuse from middlemen. Routing all payments or wages through smart contracts could even ensure that the fishermen get paid what was agreed. In this way, blockchain brings traceability to multiple stakeholders and supports the growing market for ethical and environmentally conscious products.

Use cases across industries

There are a range of use cases drawing on blockchain’s ability to track provenance. Mining is another industry that can suffer from unsustainable practices. Take the issue of consumers wanting to know that diamonds have not been used to fund conflicts. In 2018, De Beers ran a successful proof of concept, which resulted in a working prototype for tracking diamonds from mines to retailers. It also announced an enterprise-scale blockchain initiative. With more companies – such as Alrosa and Lucara Diamond – adopting blockchain-based platforms, the number of companies relying on the technology for mine-to-market diamond tracking is on the rise.

Blockchain can help consumers track provenance, from a luxury handbag to the beans that form their daily coffee, satisfying the demand for brands with sustainable credentials. To find out more about blockchain’s use across the supply chain in Consumer Products, Retail and Manufacturing, access our full research report, “Does Blockchain hold the key to a new age in Supply Chain transparency and trust?

 

 

[1] FoodBusinessNews, “Sustainable product market could hit $150 billion in U.S. by 2021,” October 2019.
[2] Brand Purpose: Fad or Future?, Europanel, 2016.
[3] Unilever, “Report shows a third of consumers prefer sustainable brands,” May 2017.
[4] Forbes, “3 Innovative Ways Blockchain Will Build Trust In The Food Industry,” April 2018.

TP

Heartbreaking Images That Show the Impact of Plastic on Animals in the Oceans

Heartbreaking Images That Show the Impact of Plastic on Animals in the Oceans

Every year, humanity produces around 300 million tons of plastic, with about eight million tons of the material entering the world's oceans—according to the United Nations Environmental Program.

This flow of debris severely impacts the ocean environment and marine life. Plastic pieces are frequently ingested by a wide range of animals—either directly, by mistaking it for food, or indirectly through the consumption of prey.

"Plastic pollution disrupts the normal behavior of animals, and the normal functions of ecosystems," Elizabeth Mendenhall, from the University of Rhode Island's Department of Marine Affairs, told Newsweek.

Plastic animals

NOAA divers release seal from marine debris entanglement. Entanglement in derelict fishing gear can lead to injury or death in marine organisms. NOAA

"We have known about problems like ingestion and entanglement [in nets or lines] for many decades. These types of interaction with plastic can kill animals by strangling or suffocating them, or causing them to starve, but encounters with plastic can also have impacts short of death, like pain, lower survival rates, and loss of reproductive viability," she said.

Seabirds are especially vulnerable, as are filter feeders like many whales and creatures like sea turtles. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, hundreds of thousands of seabirds ingest plastic every year.

Plastic beach

Seagulls search for food near a sewage discharge area next to piles of plastic bottles and gallons washed away by the water on the seaside of Ouzai, south of Beirut on July 19, 2018. JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

"If the plastic item does not cause asphyxiation, the lack of the digestive system to break it down can cause the animal to starve as it loses the desire to feed," Charles Rolsky from Arizona State University told Newsweek. "For species such as sea turtles and whales, plastic items can share morphological similarities with prey species such as jellyfish, and the smell of plastic in the water has even been known to induce foraging behaviors in fish."

One study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicated that 60 percent of 135 species reported in the scientific literature between 1962 and 2012 had ingested plastic at some point, and on average, 29 percent of these were found to have plastic in their guts. Furthermore, the researchers predicted that by 2050, 99 percent of all seabird species will be ingesting plastic.

Plastic animals

Marine debris can entangle and harm marine organisms. For air-breathing organisms, such as the green sea turtle, entanglement in debris can prevent animals from being able to swim to the surface, causing them to drown. NOAA

Another study published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that an estimated half of all sea turtles around the world have ingested plastic.

But aside from its impact on individual animals, plastic can also have more widespread effects on ecosystems.

"Plastic debris can harm coral reefs by smothering and rubbing against corals, which weaken the immune responses of corals by over-taxing them. Plastic can also be a vector for disease among corals," Mendenhall said.

Previous research has also shown that plastic can transport invasive species across oceans. Meanwhile, plastic ingestion on a large scale could impact nutrient flows within the ocean—"for example, feces with plastic in it may be more likely to float, thereby preventing the flow of nutrients deeper," she said.

Plastic animals

A young monk seal on Laysan Island holds a plastic fragment in his mouth. Matthew Chauvin/The Ocean Cleanup

One of the major concerns surrounding plastic in the ocean is that it can absorb toxic substances from the water—such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Because larger marine predators will eat many smaller creatures—all of which have consumed plastics—these substances can accumulate as you move up the food chain, leading to higher concentrations in larger animals—including humans, Richard Alan Gross, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told Newsweek.

"Furthermore, the contamination of the food chain with plastic and associated contaminants puts fish and shellfish stocks, and their prey, at risk of lethal and sub-lethal harm that can result in a decrease in their reproductive success and growth, leading to reductions in their populations," he said.

Plastic animals

In this handout provided by SeaWorld San Diego, senior aquarist Tony Paulicano and veterinary technician Jennifer Rego treat a sick Olive Ridley sea turtle at the marine-life park's animal care center January 12, 2012 in San Diego, California. Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images

The plastics themselves can also potentially release substances called plastisizers after ingestion, according to Rolsky. These chemical additives—many of which have been linked to cancer in animals—are used in the production of plastics.

We know that smaller marine creatures, such as plankton and mussels, often consume tiny fragments of plastic—known as microplastics—which are almost undetectable, measuring less than 5 millimeters across (according to the most recognized definition.)

Plastic animals

A starfish covered with plastic pearls up on shore on Schiermonnikoog Island following the loss by the container ship MSC Zoe of 270 containers on January 5, 2019 near Lauwersoog, Netherlands. Plastic toys, shoes and wide screen televisions, as well as sacks of a poisonous chemical, are among items that have landed on Dutch beaches following the accident by the ship in a heavy storm. David Hecker/Getty Images

However, more research is needed to understand the impact of consuming microplastics on the behavior and physiology of marine animals, as well as the potential health risks further up the food chain for humans who eat seafood. Nevertheless, our lack of knowledge in this area should not imply that these substances are not harmful to humans.

"If marine organisms are consuming plastics, supporting dangerous levels of contaminants, then it is fair to say that the plastics are a threat to human health as well," Rolsky said. "Plastic fibers have been found in bivalves, such as oysters, which were designated for human consumption.

"Seafood consumption, in which the stomach is also eaten, remains a top threat—but it is entirely possible for the tissues of marine organisms to contain contaminants transported there via plastic ingestion. Long-lived species with thick layers of fat, such as turtles, can contain dangerous levels of lipid-soluble contaminants."

Plastic animals

A bird surrounded by ocean plastic on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Matthew Chauvin/The Ocean Cleanup

Rolf Halden, a colleague of Rolsky's at Arizona State, also noted that microplastics may pose other health risks.

"An unexplored aspect of microplastics is that we know that foreign, non-biodegradable objects in the human body lead to inflammation," he told Newsweek. "Inflammation is a pre-cursor of cancer. Autopsies have shown the presence of plastic particulate in cancer victims. This does not imply that the plastics caused the cancer, but it behooves us to study the impact of now unavoidable plastic pollution on both our physiology and life expectancy. Research in this area is still in its infancy."

Plastic animals

Marine debris affects more than just air-breathing marine organisms. Derelict fishing gear left in the environment can entangle and kill commercially important marine organisms, through a process known as "ghost-fishing."

There are two main sources of microplastics. Primary microplastics are those which are smaller than 5 millimeters in size when they are manufactured. These can take the form of nurdles—small pellets of raw plastic resin which form the basis of nearly all the plastic items in our lives—microfibers in clothes and microbeads used in cosmetic products.

Secondary microplastics, on the other hand, occur as larger pieces of plastic degrade in the environment—due to the effects of sunlight and physical abrasion—fragmenting into progressively smaller pieces.

Microplastics are pervasive in the marine environment. While they are hard to track due to their tiny size, one 2015 study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, suggested that the accumulated number of microplastic particles in the ocean could be anywhere between 15 and 15 trillion.

Plastic animals

A deceased Laysan Albatross lies on the ground in Midway Atoll, with an exposed stomach filled with debris it consumed around its coastal habitat. Marine animals cannot digest debris and often die due starvation. NOAA

The majority of plastic waste and microplastics in the oceans—around 80 percent—originates from land, where it is discharged into the sea via rivers. A big part of the problem is inadequate waste management, according to Gross.

"For example, litter due to unavailable waste collection gets washed down drains on streets entering rivers that carry these plastic debris to sea," he said. "Other entry routes include illegal dumping directly into or nearby waterways, blowing off landfill sites, accidental and inevitable discharges of plastics during activities such as construction, manufacturing, farming, washing our clothes and via waste-water treatment plants."

The other 20 percent of plastic debris enters marine ecosystems via nautical activities, including recreational pursuits—for example, motor boats, sailing, plastics left on beaches—fishing and aqua-farming.

Plastic animals

Sea turtle entangled in fishing line. Sea Turtle Inc./NOAA

"Although much of the plastic in the ocean comes from Southeast Asia, developed countries like the U.S. and EU members export much of our trash and 'recyclables' to these countries, and many of the products are produced by multinational corporations, so it is difficult—and maybe pointless—to assign blame," Mendenhall said.

We don't know much about what proportions of plastic are found on the sea surface (or near-surface,) in beach sediments and on the seafloor. However, what is clear is that plastic waste can be transported far and wide by currents and weather patterns, making its way to even the most remote locations on the planet, such as the bottom of the ocean and the Arctic circle. Plastic also accumulates in the Earth's major ocean gyres—huge systems of rotating ocean currents.

One of the five main subtropical gyres is now so heavily polluted it has been named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—a vast region of plastic debris located between Hawaii and California. Some estimates suggest it could be twice as big as France, or perhaps even larger. However, its size is difficult to measure, partly because much of it is thought to be made up of microplastics.

Plastic animals

This picture taken on November 19, 2018 shows a dead sperm whale that washed ashore that had nearly six kilograms (13.2 pounds) of plastic waste in its stomach, in Wakatobi National Park in Sulawesi province. The 31-foot whale was found to have ingested 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, a nylon sack, two flip-flops and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces of plastic. LA ODE M. SALEH HANAN/AFP/Getty Images

Aside from the environmental concerns, plastic waste in the ocean also has significant economic implications. It is thought that plastic pollution costs the global economy millions every year when factoring in the cost of beach clean-ups, tourism losses and damages to fishing and aquaculture industries.

"The seafood industry is a $12 billion market worldwide, many countries and communities rely solely on the export of seafood," Rolsky said. "The fact that plastic pollution threatens the integrity of such a large market represents a major economic threat, on top of the threat human health."

With global plastic production predicted to quadruple by 2050, the amount of waste in the oceans is only expected to rise. So what can be done to tackle the plastic crisis?

Plastic beach

Plastic wastes fill a beach on April 18, 2018 in Manila, Philippines. The Philippines has been ranked third on the list of the world's top-five plastic polluter into the ocean, after China and Indonesia, while reports show that almost half of the global plastic garbage come from developing countries, including Vietnam and Thailand. Jes Aznar/Getty Images

"Government regulation is needed, and in my opinion, the only solution that will work," Mendenhall said. "Current international agreements are insufficient because they are unenforced—the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which 168 countries have ratified, has a rule that members must take the actions necessary to 'prevent, reduce, and control pollution of the marine environment from land-based sources'—but this rule is being inconsistently and insufficiently followed. The plastics industry benefits from disposability, planned obsolescence, and other product characteristics that keep customers buying."

She continued: "Consumers do drive the choices made by producers, but only to an extent. It is currently impossible to shop at a typical American grocery store without buying a lot of disposable plastic, even if you wanted to. It is my opinion that government regulations with regard to product design are a critical part of the solution. But to avoid the plastics industry simply shifting their more harmful product lines to other world markets, these regulations need to serve as an international model for other countries."

Plastic animals

Entangled hawksbill sea turtle in Hawaii. NOAA

Rolsky recommends tackling single-use plastics—especially those intended for packaging—which he says are a major contributor to the plastic pollution epidemic.

"The amount of these and other plastics we are creating seems to increase year after year," he said. "We have also become less efficient at recycling plastics, it is even estimated that we have only recycled 9 percent of all the plastic ever produced. Often times recycled plastics are turned into items of lesser value—i.e. plastic water bottle into plastic fibers—so they are actually downcycled instead of recycled.

Plastic animals

Marine debris throughout the ocean puts endangered species like this Hawaiian monk seal at risk. NOAA

"The rest of the plastics are either incinerated (12 percent) or sent to a landfill (79 percent.) The landfill is not the end all be all as studies have also shown landfills to leach both macro- and microplastics into the surrounding environment," he said. "The combination of these make it integral that we transition away from plastic when possible—especially single-use—for the benefit of ecosystems and human health."

Halden added: "Given the knowledge we have, we have to change our emotional reaction to plastics, particularly packaging plastics. They are not materials of convenience and necessity, they are failed materials that we should ban from our life and from mass production in order to improve both ecological and human health."

TP

Climate Hoax — Only the Sun Causes Global Temperature Fluctuation

Climate Hoax

Our sun exerts control on the planets

Climate change has reached universal status of urgency

Bogus climate scientists

Only the Sun causes Global Temperature Fluctuation

Earth’s Geological History Tells the Truth

Source: Final Wakeup Call

Man-made Global Warming is a Fantasy

Don’t be afraid; Global Warming, currently ‘Climate Change’ is not true. It’s dressed up as science but it’s not science, it’s propaganda: “Global temperatures are rising, greenhouses gas emissions are destroying our atmosphere;” say the fear-mongers “there is more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than ever before, the migration patterns of animals are changing”, and so the list goes on and on. We are simply being told lies. There is no direct evidence that links global warming with greenhouse gases. There is no scientific proof that ‘carbon dioxide’ (CO2) drives climate, it certainly hasn’t done in the past. The CO2 theory is, simply put, ingenious propaganda, pushing the idea of man-made climate change, to create a price-inflating energy policy. While the greenhouse theses have since long been refuted. Neither the ban on light bulbs, nor the gigantic subsidies for so-called renewable energy, has proven to be of any sensible value in changing this manufactured predicament. Instead of influencing climate change with taxes, governments should have dealt with the consequences of natural climate change.

The climate change propaganda is meant to form the basis of the motive for the creation of a brand-new climate tax which the people will be forced to pay. Supposedly, it will offset the excessive use of fossil fuels and the buying of plastic, etc. As government cannot stop climate change, the billions collected will grow into multi-trillion Deep State speculative bubbles. The ridiculous argument is held; paying a climate tax will free us from environmental responsibility, rocking us back into guiltless sleep-mode, being allowed to continue with our environmentally damaging habits. To achieve this ridiculous goal, the pressure will be kept on, informing us every day that the Climate Armageddon is coming.

Understand; the whole greenhouse story is a Rockefeller-initiated, false hype, just to get people to believe that we are on the road to a climate disaster. Instead, Authorities should have directed their energy into the credit markets, that have ruined our society. There has never been a meaningful debate about the causes of climate change, as there is no solution, because the sun spots from mother nature cannot be changed. That probably is the reason there has not been any meaningful debate about the causes of climate change. Weather patterns are in truth much bigger than human influence. While it is simply stated: “The emission of greenhouse gases leads to global warming”, this is in actual fact disputable. In general, the CO2 greenhouse gas theory is just an ingenious propaganda tool, to steal more and more money from the populace, while the so-called climate change fiasco has nothing to do with us, the people and our climate.

‘Greenhouse Gases are a Swindle’, is a programme that the BBC broadcasted a couple of years ago under the supervision of a prominent scientist. It went against the establishment and was taken off the air! – The sun’s spots change continuously, resulting in the cooling of the earth. In the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, two alternating currents run for a number of years in south–north, subsequently changing into a north-south direction; called el Niño (N-S) and la Niña (S-N). In the last decennia, we experienced la Niña (hot stream) and that is changing into el Niño (cold stream) around the present period of time. Furthermore, the CO2 in the Oceans does influence the climate. Be assured, it is not caused by (tail) pipe emissions alone. Let us hope that real independent scientists will keep speaking out as an antidote to the blatant, baseless lies of climate pseudo ‘specialists.’ Bear in mind that too many (financial) interests are involved; we are dealing with a veritable climate mafia.

So, man-made global warming is a fantasy, engineered by the global-warming fanatics themselves. Climate change is occurring – as it always has – and is inevitable. The same cannot be said for the unspeakably irresponsible proposals of cabal-paid scientists, whose egos have far exceeded their knowledge. What is being wished-for is not a “carbon cap and trade,” it is an “economic cap and trade.”

Our sun exerts control on all the planets

Planet Earth is five billion years old. Our sun exerts more control on all the planets than any other factor. Our climate has never stopped changing and never will. Regardless of the impacts of carbon dioxide, because one volcanic eruption puts enough material into the atmosphere to cool the planet for a decade.

Moreover, there is about 50 times as much carbon dissolved in the oceans in the form of CO2 and carbonic acid, bicarbonate and carbonate ions as exists in the atmosphere. The oceans act as an enormous carbon sponge, having “absorbed about one-third of all human-generated CO2 emissions to date.” Besides, life on Earth, without CO2 is impossible. For vegetation, animals and human beings, CO2 is an essential element, all living beings are carbon-based.

Man-made global warming crisis crusaders are now facing a new threat. Their carbon-based, anti-fossil fuel premise for alarmism is being challenged by new scientific evidence of important solar influence on the climate that can’t be blamed on us, not even with a stretch of the imagination. Not that there wasn’t lots of good evidence of these facts before. Actually, there has always been, and it has been routinely denigrated and ignored. But the Sun itself causes global warming, says Prof Larry Bell.

Climate change has reached universal status

Climate change has reached the point where there’s universal consensus. On a hot day, the average person will tell you it’s because of climate change. Then, they might say that it’ll be 60 Celsius degrees here in 75 years if we don’t do something about the climate.

It is even purported that snow will disappear in the Alps and in Aspen 50 years from now because of climate change. And everyone agrees, saying, “I know. I heard the same thing. It’s just awful”. Remember in 2002, Al Gore said in his Global Warming Promotion; By 2012 there will be no snowfall anymore and sea levels will have risen by up to 3 metres. To this day, now eight years later, nothing of his doom-mongering has come true.

The IPCC analysis of global temperatures suffers from a glaring error — namely, failure to account for “influences of low cloud cover” and how it impacts global temperatures. Natural variations in low cloud cover, which are strongly influenced by the ability of cosmic radiation to penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere due to variations in the strength of our planet’s magnetosphere, account for nearly all changes in global temperature, other researchers explain.

Why would there be no snow in the Alps and Aspen 50 years from now? What would cause that? The average person has no clue. People have been brainwashed, simply repeating thoughtlessly what is propagated on the news by the mainstream, consensus puppets. This has created today’s hysteria around climate change. People are completely sure that humans are causing the planet to warm. They will tell you that climate change is going to be the end of us. Look at the ludicrous Greta Thunberg hype, promoted through the Rockefeller institute, even a Swedish church’s tweet named the teenage climate change activist as the “successor” to Jesus Christ. This announcement, which was both lauded and criticised on Twitter, was unearthed following Thunberg’s speech at the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit in New York City on Sept. 23 -2019.

Bogus climate scientists

It is said that 97% of climate scientists think global warming is real and largely caused by humans. This 97% figure was proclaimed by an Australian blogger named John Cook in 2013. Although it is ridiculous, it has gained much popularity, like Al Gore’s 1990s fear mongering about the end of the world in 2012.

Out of hundreds of thousands of papers that have been completed on climate change, they chose 12,000 and manipulated them and subjectively interpreted parts of their abstracts to support this a priori climate religion. Many scientists whose names were used subsequently protested. A subsequent recalculation showed that less than 2% of the papers cited the scientists actually believed that mankind is mainly responsible for any global warming.

But the usual suspects in politics, the media, and the entertainment business picked up on the terms “97%” and “Scientifics.” They were repeated as a chant, and now the public assumes – based on almost nothing but repetition, brainwashing, indoctrination – that emissions of carbon dioxide is causing global warming and is of a critical danger to life on Earth, which is not true, it is nothing short of preposterous, as all living beings are carbon-based and indeed, depend on carbon. In fact, a war on carbon, equates to a war on life itself. This is the true brainteaser. This is the true question to ask. Are they waging a war on life itself?

Truth in science isn’t determined by consensus. For what it is worth, another survey was taken in 2009 among 31,000 hard scientists – physicists and chemists, not sociologists and psychologists – including 9,000 with Ph.Ds., who all explicitly stated that they believed there was no evidence of significant Global Warming.

Since the ’80s though, the establishment has been beating the drum for Global Warming. They completely omit the fact that the Earth went through a period 11.000 years ago, when it was a giant snowball. This climate change baloney didn’t come out of nowhere. The propaganda is about 40 or 50 years in the making. But back in the ’50s and ’60s, people thought the opposite. People were worried about global cooling. They thought the world was going to turn into a giant frozen, tundra-like Siberia. That was the fear then.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, Paul Ehrlich said that all the fish in the oceans would die and wash up on shore. Then, the fear became acid rain. And after that, everyone was made to worry about a hole that was going to appear in the ozone layer.

Today, people don’t even use the phrase global warming anymore. They have altered that to climate change. It’s an ongoing public relations machine. So, this promotion keeps evolving. Expect more slogans for the sheeple to fall for, lock, stock and barrel.

Only the Sun can cause Global Temperature Fluctuation.

Climate variations are mainly caused by fluctuations in the sun’s intensity. And, also caused by the gradually changing tilt of the Earth’s axis., known as the Milankovitch cycles, implicating changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun. The solar system’s movement around the galaxy may have major, but as yet unpredictable effects on the climate. But there are other important factors too.

Volcanism is one: About 40 to 50 volcanos are spewing gigantic amounts of gas into the atmosphere at any one time – and there are many more under the oceans. As explained above with regard to ocean currents, these are vastly more important to the climate, being heat sponges, than the atmosphere. The circulation of ocean currents is critical to the climate. The atmosphere is thin and lightweight by comparison to the ocean.

The most concerning aspect about global warming is the hysteria that might discredit the very idea of science for the average man. They speak about concepts that the majority has no understanding of.

Could the planet actually start cooling soon? If so, how soon could that happen? Any geologist will explain that we’re in an interglacial period, and it’s highly likely there is going to be another genuine ice age when this interglacial period ends, just as they were predicting back in the ’70s. However, the timing is up in the air.

Earth’s Geological History Tells the Truth

Global Warming alarmists never, ever, mention the Earth’s geological history. Not even its very recent history, for example since the invention of writing. There have been large fluctuations in climate, confirmed by ice-core drilling in glaciers, sediments on the ocean floor, and tree rings.

For instance, the Roman Warm Period between roughly 250 BC and 400 AD, coincided with the rise and peak of the Roman Empire. That was followed by a serious cold snap that may have been instrumental in causing the barbarian invasions from the north, followed by the Dark Ages. Then came the Medieval Warm Period from about 950-1250. Then the Little Ice Age followed, which took place between roughly 1300 and 1850.

Since then, the planet has been gradually warming up again. Of course, over a longer period of time, it’s been warming since the last major ice age ended, 11,000 years ago.

Climate change has become a pop culture drumbeat. If you watch the Oscars, somebody will come out of the woodworks saying; “We’ve got to do something about the climate.” But no one, of course, knows what to do. All they know is that we should give the government more money to do something, anything. And all that money is obviously going to come from the taxpayers in the developed world.

So it’s basically just a giant tax swindle. Last year’s carbon taxes brought in $82 billion. That’s a big catch. And no one even knows where this money went. Don’t question it, because everybody obviously has the best of intentions. Questioning anything pertaining to this fraud, makes you a first class criminal. It is just one big money fraud!

Apart from the carbon taxes, government acquires much more control over commerce. When people buy an airline ticket, they’ve got to pay extra money to a U.N. organisation to diminish the effect they have on the lower atmosphere or whatever the hoax says, when flying through it in an airplane.

The airline takes the money and buys carbon offset credits. But no one really knows where that money goes. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is saying the world will end in 12 years if we don’t do something about climate change. She’s proposing not to fly anymore, and that electric trains across the ocean should be constructed. Guess who benefits from this nonsense?

Humans can have an effect on the planet, but not even remotely as considerably as the sun, volcanism, and other natural phenomenon. The big danger isn’t climate change, it’s the hysteria. Meanwhile, government and the insider villains manipulate it, to destroy the economy.

Unfortunately, most science funding today is done directly and indirectly through the government. By design, this entire scam has been integrated into the political process.

Climate science has been turned from a legitimate branch of knowledge into a new age religion, where heretics are persecuted. It’s become a means to centralise even more power in the State. After all, the fate of the Earth is at stake!

Climate change itself poses zero threat to the economy. But the hysteria about it is a tremendous threat. That’s a major reason why global warming is popular. Most people feel morally righteous, and that God is on their side. These things appeal to emotion, not to reason. It’s all about psychology, not science. They even maintain; ‘it’s going to be the end of life on Earth’. It is basically a small, corrupt, extremely vocal minority – manipulating the majority into the belief that we’re all going to die because the oceans are going to drown us as the Earth turns into a giant steam bath.

How much warmer can it become if we consider the historical data from the end of the last ice age, 11,000 years ago? No one knows. How much longer is it going to be before we go into another ice age? Neither is known. The real argument isn’t about earth science. It’s about political science. The Deep State that is pushing this Fake Science, creating a Fake Reality counts on the sheeple to follow them. If the masses believe the illusion, the illusion becomes reality. But if the majority of us were to awaken to the deception, the illusion would be vaporized into non-existence.

Share this important climate explanation to help reach the tipping point of mass consciousness. And Remember;

Together, we can make life better for all of us.

TP

Waste Management, Casella halt plastic scrap exports

US waste management companies support environmental groups' requests to stop exporting plastic scrap.

Waste Management, Houston, and Casella Waste Systems, Rutland, Vermont, along with several smaller companies, have stated they are no longer exporting plastic scrap outside of North America. Since June 2019, Greenpeace, The Last Beach Cleanup and Plastic Pollution Coalition have communicated with more than 50 of the largest U.S.-based waste management companies, urging them to stop exporting plastic scrap due to the social and environmental harm to receiving countries.  

In response to the groups’ requests to stop exporting, John Casella, chief executive officer of Casella Waste Systems, states, “Having spent the last 40 years as a champion of sustainable waste management, innovative recycling and recovery solutions, I am supportive of your request.”

For decades, plastic waste has been exported to other countries and counted as “recycled” by industrialized countries. In 2018, the U.S. exported 1.1 billion kilograms of plastic scrap, with 78 percent landing in regions with “poor waste management systems,” including Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. These countries are named as the largest contributors to ocean plastic pollution.

A 2019 Greenpeace investigation found that U.S. plastic scrap exports significantly increased to several countries, mostly in Southeast Asia, following China’s ban on foreign scrap. Since China’s ban, countries, including Malaysia, have begun to put measures in place to halt this influx of plastic scrap, and in some cases sent it back. Container ships have already arrived in the U.S. with rejected single-use plastic from Indonesia.

Waste Management, the largest waste services company in the U.S., released a new report titled, “Position on Plastics Exports,” in which the company says, “With China’s ban on imports, plastic from across the globe began to move to a variety of countries that are not well equipped to handle the material, furthering the likelihood of more plastics entering rivers, waterways and oceans. In response to concerns about plastic in the environment, Waste Management is not shipping plastics collected on its residential recycling routes and processed in its single stream material recovery facilities to locations outside North America.”

Other waste companies that stated they do not export municipal plastic scrap include Resource Management Companies, Chicago Ridge, Illinois, Single Stream Recyclers, Sarasota, Florida, and TFC Recycling, Chesapeake, Virginia. A complete listing of company responses to the groups’ letters is posted on The Last Beach Cleanup website.

“Actions to find markets for discarded plastic materials collected in U.S. communities should not negatively impact communities in other countries,” says Jan Dell, independent engineer and founder of The Last Beach Cleanup. “The most recent export data shows U.S. plastic waste now going to Djibouti, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. These countries need our support to stop plastic pollution, not our plastic waste.”

As exports drop, the groups are also asking waste management companies for transparency around where the scrap is going instead. Incineration and landfilling plastic scrap are not solutions, the groups say.

The responsibility should not rest on waste management and recycling companies alone. The groups are also urging the plastics industry, consumer goods companies and retailers to stop producing and selling single-use plastics that are not responsibly recyclable and end up polluting communities and the environment worldwide.

TP

Children of the Dump

Children of the Dump

There is a depth of poverty most know nothing about.  A poverty impossible to imagine.  One that must be witnessed to be understood, and even then the atrocity is so intense it is surreal.

They are the Children of the Dump.  And everyday around the world they spend their lives in garbage to survive.  They have been abandoned by the world. 

Often in bare feet, they walk, climb, dig, prick and prod garbage filled with glass, metal, even hospital waste.  They have cuts and bruises.  Old enough to walk, they are old enough to be in the Dump.  Many are there alone, orphaned by parents who died of illness, some abandoned, some who had no where else to go.

Everyday in the Dumps these children search for anything of value so that their families may eat.  When the garbage trucks arrive they run and begin to pick the freshly dropped trash, the acrid smoke choking their lungs. 

They seek food to eat.  They collect plastic, metal, glass – anything that can be used or sold.  Older children can earn upward to $1 each day; the youngest much less.

It is a complex situation to save a child from such circumstances.  Although the money they earn is little it means survival to their families.  Parents are more than reluctant to lose this income in order to send their children to school.  Somehow, in order to rescue these children, their families must continue to survive.  Without education the situation will never change as these children will grow up and give birth to future Children of the Dump.

They must be salvaged.  These children are filthy and often sick.  They have little or no confidence or self-esteem.  They will not grow up to be leaders of their communities, doctors, teachers or anything other than Garbage Pickers.

These children need love and care.  They need us, working together, to bring life and love to their hopeless lives.  They need healthcare, food and most importantly education to break this dreadful chain of poverty.

They are a part of our Global Family of Children.  They belong to us just as our own children.

Click here to learn about Children of the La Chureca Dump in Nicaragua and Bless the Children's efforts to help them. 

TP

WHEN THE MERMAIDS CRY – THE PATH TO SUCCESSFUL RESOLUTION

II: THE PATH TO SUCCESSFUL RESOLUTION

This unprecedented plastic waste tide appears as vast as the ocean, as ungraspable as the unfathomable mass of microscopic plastic fragments present at sea, transported by winds and currents, yet, ultimately, the plastic tide can become as limited as our chosen relationship with plastics, which involves a dramatic behavioral change on our part. The path to successful resolution of the crisis clearly appears…as we are the problem and the solution.

THE VICTIMS AND THE AGGRESSORS

The despondent effects and too numerous casualties of the great plastic tide are visible, but more alarmingly, beyond visual, which ought to prompt the perpetrators to choose no other path than the advocacy and culture of consistent and sustained behavioral changes.

Creek in Manilla
Creek in Manilla, Philippines, March 01 2009. Photo: Francis R. Malasig

THE VICTIMS

Animals

From the whale, sea lions, and birds to the microscopic organisms called zooplankton, plastic has been, and is, greatly affecting marine life, i.e animals on shore and off shore, whether by ingestion or entanglement.

In a 2006 report, Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans, Greenpeace stated that at least 267 different species are known to have suffered from entanglement and ingestion of plastic debris. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said that plastic debris kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals annually, millions of birds and fishes.

The largest pieces of marine plastic debris, miles long discarded fishing nets and lines mostly, take an obvious toll on animals. These derelicts nets, called ghost nets, snare and drown thousands of larger sea creatures per year, such as seals, sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, dugons, crocodiles, seabirds, crabs, and other creatures. Acting as designed, these nets restrict movement causing starvation, laceration, infection, and, in animals that need to return to the surface to breathe, suffocation.

Entangled seal by derelict net
Entangled seal by derelict net, Hawaii. Photo Source: NOAA

On shores, researchers have also watched in horror as hungry turtles wolf down jellyfish-like plastic bags and seabirds mistake old lighters and toothbrushes for fish, choking when they try to regurgitate the plastic trash for their starving chicks.

Turtle eats plastic
Turtle eats plastic. Photo Source: Greenhouse Carbon Neutral Fdn

In the waters, plastic bags specifically, can be mistaken as food and consumed by a wide range of marine species, especially those that consume jellyfish or squid, which look similar when floating in the water column.

Albatross and others birds are choosing plastic pieces because of their similarity to their own food as well. Captain Moore and his Alguita team did see, above the GGP, albatrosses and tropicbirds circling above the line of trash. With little else to choose, they were obviously eating plastic. The birds seemed to be picking and choosing “the reds and pinks and browns. Anything that looks like shrimp,” Moore says. Earlier in the trip, the Alguita had visited the French Frigate Shoals, off Hawaii, home to endangered monk seals and seabird rookeries. In the birds’ gullets researchers found red plastic particles. Greenpeace reported that a staggering 80 percent of seabird populations observed worldwide have ingested plastics. Research into the stomach contents of dead Fulmars from the Netherlands, between 1982 and 2001, found that 96 percent of the birds had plastic fragments in their stomachs with an average of 23 plastic pieces per bird (Van Franeker and Meijboom, 2003).

Midway atoll
Midway atoll, bird corpse. Photo: © Chris Jordan

When plastic ingestion occurs, it blocks the digestive tract, gets lodged in animals windpipes cutting airflow causing suffocation, or fills the stomach, resulting in malnutrition, starvation and potentially death. Indeed, it is found that debris often accumulates in the animals’ gut and give a false sense of fullness, causing the animal to stop eating and slowly starve to death.

Midway atoll
Midway atoll, bird corpse. Photo: © Chris Jordan

In April 2002 a dead Minke whale washed up on the Normandy coast in France. An investigation found that its stomach contained 800 kg of plastic bags (GECC, Groupe d’Etude des Cétacés du Cotentin, 2002).

In February 2004, a Cuviers Beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) was found washed ashore on the west coast of the Isle of Mull, Scotland. Cuviers beaked whales are rarely seen in coastal waters, as they are predominantly a deep-water species. The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust took various skin and blubber samples and removed the stomach for further study by the Scottish Agricultural College. On initial removal it was found that the entrance to the stomach was completely blocked with a cylinder of tightly packed shredded black plastic bin liner bags and fishing twine. It is believed that this made it difficult for the animal to forage and feed effectively.

50 to 80 percent of sea turtles found dead are known to have ingested plastic marine debris.

The smaller the pieces of plastic get, the more dangerous they are to marine organisms. Fragmented plastic, specifically nurdles and small size mermaid tears, are found in the stomach of smaller sea creatures as well: fish, birds, marine mammal, reptile, jelly fish, select plastic pellets as they resemble fish eggs.

Whether the chemicals contained in the plastics are then desorbed to digestive fluids and transferred to tissues in quantities significant enough to harm the animals is subject to ongoing, yet still incomplete, research. However, as more and more studies on the matter are undergone, unpleasant findings are definitly uncovered.

What is proven, as we’ve seen supra, is that plastic does soak up pollutants, acting as toxic-sponge for man-made toxins present in the ocean, thus accumulating pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals at concentrations up to 1 million times higher than in ocean water (Moore et al, 2001). PCBs can lead to reproductive disorders, death, an increased risk of disease, and an alteration of hormone levels (Ryan et al., 1988;Lee et al, 2001). They have been linked to the masculinisation of female polar bears and spontaneous abortions and declines in seal populations. In 1988, Ryan et al obtained evidence that PCBs in the tissues of Great Shearwaters were derived from ingested plastic particles (from Derraik, 2002). Furthermore, DDT, a pesticide that was banned in the US in the 1960’s and labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1987 as a “probable human carcinogen,” has been found on these plastics fragments. The most recent review of all evidence concludes that exposure to DDT before puberty increases the risk of breast cancer.

Food Chain

In a September press conference, Doug Woodring from Project Kaisei, said that assessments of the impact of plastic debris on phytoplankton, zooplankton, and mesopelagic (midwater) fishes are undergoing. The samples collected from the seawater will be subject to more scientific studies for the toxicity of the plastics and how this is really affecting our food chain (in ways that are only just becoming known… and not good ways).

Plastic found in fish guts
Plastic found in Rainbow Runner fish guts. Photo Source: Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Katsuhiko Saido, Ph.D said, “We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes (…) giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future.” Furthermore, as Saido added: “We are concerned that plastic pollution is also caused by these invisible materials and that it will harm marine life.” While the potential toxicity of these tiny plastic constituents is still understudied for much of marine life, plastics are abundant in many forms. Plastics, including polystyrene, are common in the wads of accumulated, undigested matter that young black-footed albatrosses cough up before they fledge.

Whether plastics present a unanimously accepted and proven toxic challenge to marine life, and subsequently to humans, is one of the biggest challenges facing scientists right now.

Health

Saido’s latest science report last summer about the decomposition of polystyrene plastics vests a simple reality: Bisphenol A (BPA) has been shown and proven to interfere with the reproductive systems of animals. PS oligomer and BPA from plastic decomposition are toxic and can be metabolized, while styrene monomer is a suspected carcinogen. Low levels of BPA and PS oligomer have been proven to cause hormone disruption in animals.

More scientific reports are being published on the effects of Bisphenol A on animal and human health, and the news is not good.

In 2009, a professional, international medical organization in the field of endocrinology and metabolism, The Endocrine Society, reported data from new research on animals experimentally treated with BPA. Studies presented at the group’s annual meeting show BPA can affect the hearts of women, can permanently damage the DNA of mice, and appear to be entering the human body from a variety of unknown sources. A 2005 study, which analyzed BPA serum concentrations, concluded that “exposure to BPA is associated with recurrent miscarriage”.

The first major study of health effects on humans associated with bisphenol A exposure was published in September 2008 by Iain Lang and colleagues in the Journal of American Association. The cross-sectional study of almost 1,500 people assessed exposure to bisphenol A by looking at levels of the chemical in urine. The authors found that higher bisphenol A levels were significantly associated with heart diseases, diabetes, and abnormally high levels of certain liver enzymes.

A 2008 scientific review concluded that “prenatal exposure to (…) low doses of BPA alters breast development and increases breast cancer risk”. A 2009 scientific review, funded by the “Breast Cancer Fund”, has recommended “a federal ban on the manufacture, distribution and sale of consumer products containing bisphenol A”.

A 2009 study on urinary concentrations concluded that prenatal BPA exposure might be associated with externalizing behaviors in two-year old children, especially among female children.

A 2009 study on Chinese workers in BPA factories found that workers were four times more likely to report erectile dysfunction, reduced sexual desire, and overall dissatisfaction with their sex life than workers in factories that made products ranging from textiles to machinery, in which there was no heightened BPA exposure. They were also more likely to report reduced sexual function within one year of beginning employment at the factory, and the higher the exposure, the more likely they were to have sexual difficulties.

A 2009 review of available studies has concluded, “Prenatal BPA exposure acts to exert persistent effects on body weight and adiposity.”

A 2009 scientific review about environmental chemicals and thyroid function concluded, “Available evidence suggests that governing agencies need to regulate the use of thyroid-disrupting chemicals, particularly as such uses relate exposures of pregnant women, neonates and small children to the agents”. A 2009 review summarized BPA adverse effects on thyroid hormone action.

Bali Trash
Kuta beach, Bali. Photo Source: Claude Graves

All sea creatures, from the largest to the microscopic organisms are, at one point or another, swallowing the seawater soup instilled with toxic chemicals from plastic decomposition. Much of ocean’s life is in the microscopic size range and zooplankton is the base of the food chain. As environmentalists remind the world’s population, “…We are eating fish that have eaten other fish, which have eaten toxin-saturated plastics. In essence, humans are eating their own waste…” (Dixit Renee Brown, WiredPress).”

Beaches, Coast, Sea Floor, Shorelines

Blatantly visible is the plastic spill washing up on the shores and beaches. Just a walk on any beach, anywhere in the world, and plastic debris are found in one form or another. All over the world the statistics are ever growing, just staggeringly. Last year, an estimated 150,000 tons of marine plastic debris washed up onto the shores of Japan and 300 tons a day on India’s shores.

Layson Island
Layson Island, Hawaiian islands. Photo Source: NOAA

The Hawaiian Archipelago, extending from the southernmost island of Hawaii 1,500 miles northwest to Kure Atoll, is among the longest and most remote island chains in the world. The 19 islands of the archipelago, including Midway atolls, receive massive quantities of plastic debris, shot out from the Pacific gyres. Some of the plastic litter is decades old. Some beaches are buried under 5 to 10 feet of plastic trash, while other beaches are riddled with “plastic sand,” millions of grain-like pieces of plastic that are practically impossible to clean up. One of the reasons marine debris accumulates in these islands is the movement of debris within the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone (STCZ), as we have explained supra.

Two studies on several islands off Jakarta Bay and islands further to the northwest in the Java Sea, reported that debris pollution on shorelines had substantially increased between 1985 and 1995 (Uneputty and Evans 1997b, Willoughby et al. 1997). Both studies noted that results implicated Jakarta as a major source of the debris. On 23 of the islands, it was reported that the total litter at the strandline ranged from not detectable to 29.1 items/m (Willoughby et al. 1997). Plastic bags, polystyrene blocks, and discarded footwear accounted for 80 percent of the items found.

Researchers Barnes and Milner (2005) list five studies which have shown increases in accumulation rates of debris on mid to high latitude coasts of the southern hemisphere.

Surveys of shorelines around the world, reported by Greenpeace, have recorded the quantity of marine debris either as the number of items per km of shoreline or the number of items per square meter of shoreline. The highest values reported were for Indonesia (up to 29.1 items per m) and Sicily (up to 231 items per m).

Seabed Pollution
Seabed Pollution. Photo Source: Bouteilles à la mer org.

It’s been reported by Greenpeace that an estimated 70 percent of the mass of fragmented plastic present in the open oceans of the world does sink to the deep-sea bed. A limited body of literature exists, though, concerning these small to microscopic particles (micro debris) mirroring the little research addressed to marine litter on the sea floor.

Ecosystem Changes

Another effect of the plastic tide that goes beyond visual is its potentiality to change entire ecosystems.

“Plastic is not just an aesthetic problem,” says marine biologist David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey. “It can actually change entire ecosystems.” He has documented that plastic debris which floats on the oceans, acts as rafts for small sea creatures to grow and travel on. This represents a potential threat for the marine environment should an alien species become established. It is postulated that the slow speed at which plastic debris crosses oceans makes it an ideal vehicle for this. The organisms have plenty of time to adapt to different water and climatic conditions.

Coral Reefs

Derelict fishing gear can be destructive to coral reefs. Corals are in fact animals, even though they may exhibit some of the characteristics of plants and are often mistaken for rocks. In scientific classification, corals fall under the phylum Cnidaria and the class Anthozoa. They are relatives of jellyfish and anemones. (NOAA)

Nets and lines become snagged on coral and subsequent wave action causes coral heads to break off at points where the debris was attached. Once freed, debris can again snag on more coral and the whole process is repeated. This cycle continues until the debris is removed or becomes weighted down with enough broken coral to sink (NOAA 2005a). Eventually, derelict fishing gear may become incorporated into the reef structure.

Bags in Ocean
Plastic on Coral. Photo Source: EPA

Plastic bags can kill coral by covering and suffocating them, or by blocking sunlight needed by the coral to survive. During 2001, so many plastic bags were regularly seen in the Gulf of Aqaba, off the coast of Jordan, that the Board of Aqaba Special Economic Zone issued a law banning the production, distribution, and trade of plastic bags within the areas under their jurisdiction.

Economics

Marine litter cause serious economic losses to various sectors and authorities. Among the most seriously affected are coastal communities (increased expenditures for beach cleaning, public health and waste disposal), tourism (loss of income, bad publicity), shipping (costs associated with fouled propellers, damaged engines, litter removal and waste management in harbors), fishing (reduced and lost catch, damaged nets and other fishing gear, fouled propellers, contamination), fish farming and coastal agriculture.

African coasts
Haina, Dominican Republic. Photo Source: Eduardo Munoz

In a 2007 Fortune Magazine article about India, it was written that the costs of river pollution to the economy are enormous. Waterborne diseases are India’s leading cause of childhood mortality. Shreekant Gupta, a professor at the Delhi School of Economics who specializes in the environment, estimates that lost productivity from death and disease resulting from river pollution and other environmental damage is equivalent to about 4 percent of gross domestic product.

The bill for cleaning the beaches in Bohuslän, on the west coast of Sweden, in just one year was reportedly at least 10 million SEK or $1,550,200. In Britain, Shetland fishermen reported that 92 per cent of them had recurring problems with debris in nets, with each boat losing between $10,500 and $53,300 per year as a result of marine litter. The cost to the local industry could be as high as $4,300,000. The municipality of Ventanillas in Peru has calculated that it would have to invest around $400,000 a year in order to clean its coastline, while its annual budget for cleaning all public areas is only half that amount. (Unep)

Our Oceans and coastlines are under unprecedented plastics waste attack. It’s coming back at us in many ways. It’s a dire problem that only received serious scientific and public attention in the early 90’s, as we know, but all along the perpetrators have simply and clearly been identified.

THE AGGRESSORS

The obvious and simple answer is: us…

Behind each and every piece of littered plastic debris there is a human face. At a critical decision point, someone, somewhere, mishandled it, either thoughtlessly or deliberately. Cigarette filters and cigar tips, fishing line, rope and gear, baby diapers and nappies, six-pack rings, beverage bottles and cans, disposable syringes, tires, the litany of plastic litter is as varied as the products available in the global marketplace, but it all shares a common origin.

Sources

260 million tons per year is our estimated plastic consumption, 6 789 billion, is the estimated world population (United States Census Bureau, as of October 2009). Our voracious appetite for plastics, coupled with a culture of discarding products that we have chosen for their inherent longevity, is a combination of lethal nature for our environment.

Plastic ocean
Plastic Sea. Photo Source: Coastal wiki

The ultimate symbol of our throwaway lifestyle is the plastic bag: 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags is the number consumed annually, which is about a million a minute. The production of plastic bags creates enough solid waste per year to fill the Empire State Building two and a half times. The petroleum used to make only 14 plastic bags could drive a car 1 mile.

Plastic bags are commonly found in waterways, on beaches, and in other unofficial dumping sites across China, for instance. Litter caused by the notorious bags has been referred to as “white pollution.”

In the United States, however, measures to ban or curtail the use of plastic bags have met with official resistance. With its powerful lobby, the plastics industry argues that jobs will disappear. The industry employs some two million workers. Americans alone throw out at least 100 billion bags a year, the equivalent of throwing away 12 million gallons of oil, which seems an intolerable waste. Until the U.S. follows the lead of San Francisco, China, Ireland, Uganda, South Africa, Russia, and Hong Kong and targets the reduction of plastic bags using legislature, we each need to make a conscious choice and refuse to use it.

The core of the plastic waste instillation in world’s oceans is primarily rooted in poor practices of solid waste management, a lack of infrastructure, various human activities, an inadequate understanding on the part of the public of the potential consequences of their actions, the lack of adequate legal and enforcement systems nationally and internationally, and a lack of financial resources affected to the cause. Mainly a consensus needs to happen, as a culture of behavioral changes needs to be promoted.

The four main land-sources of plastics debris have been identified as:

  • Shoreline And Recreational Activities Related Litter

    This includes: bags, balloons, beverages bottles, cans, caps, lids, shoes, cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons, food wrappers/containers, six-pack holders, pull tabs, shotgun shells/wadding, straws, stirrers, toys, medical hygiene (condom, syringe), drug and smoking paraphernalia (The filters are made of cellulose acetate, a synthetic polymer (fiber) that can last for many years in the environment), and 55 gallons drums. All this land-based debris blows, washes, or is discharged into the water from land areas after people engaged in beach-going activities have discarded it.

    Branscombe
    Branscombe, United Kingdom, Photo: Matt Cardy

    About 80 percent of all tourist flock to coastal areas. Massive influxes of tourists, often to a relatively small area, have a huge impact, adding to the pollution of the local population, putting local infrastructure and habitats under enormous pressure. For example, 85 percent of the 1.8 million people who visit Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are concentrated in two small areas, Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands, which together have a human population of just 130,000 or so, WWF reported.

    Shoreline activities account for 58 percent of the marine litter in the Baltic Sea region and almost half in Japan and the Republic of Korea. In Jordan, recreational activities contribute up to 67 percent of the total discharge of marine litter. This is a particularly big problem in the East Asian Seas region – home to 1.8 billion people, 60 percent of whom live in coastal areas – with its fast growing shipping and industrial development. Other emerging hotspots include the oil-boom coasts of the Caspian and the littoral states of Iran and Azerbaijan.

    In South Asia, the growing ship-breaking industry has become a major source of marine debris. In Gujarat, India – one of the largest and busiest ship-breaking yards in the world – operations are carried out on a 10-kilometer stretch on the beaches of Alang, generating peeled-off paint chips and other types of non-degradable solid waste making its way into the sea.

  • Sewage (Waste Waters Containing Plastic Type Products, Rivers, Waterways)

    Under normal, dry weather conditions, most wastes are screened out of sewage in countries that do apply strict sewage treatment. However, materials can bypass treatment systems and enter waterways when rain levels exceed sewage treatment facilities’ handling capacity. During these times, sewage overflows occur.

    The Yamuna River, which flows 855 miles from the Himalayas into the Ganges, is one of India’s most, but not only, polluted river. The Centre for Science and Environment says that nearly 80 percent of the river’s pollution is the result of sewage. Combined with industrial runoff, that comes to more than three billion liters of waste per day, a quantity well beyond the river’s assimilative capacity. Many Indian rivers are so polluted they exceed permissible levels for safe bathing.

    Yamuna River in New Delhi
    Yamuna River in New Delhi. Photo: Manan Vastsyayana

    It has been reported that the lack of adequate solid waste management facilities results in hazardous wastes entering the waters of the Western Indian Ocean, South Asian Seas, and southern Black Sea, among others.

  • Fishing Related Debris

    marine debris net

     

    Photo: ©© Jan Vozenilek-05-0924 / The Midway Journey

    Dumping, wastes from ships, boats platforms (20%). Derraik (2002) stated that ships are estimated to dump 6.5 million tons of plastic a year. An estimated fourth fifths of the oceanic debris is litter blown seaward from landfills and urban runoff washed down storm drains. (Unep). Clean up on land where 80 percent of the plastic debris originates is thus the primarily obvious answer.

Manual Clean Up

The simplest, yet highly effective, action is the manual clean up of the beaches, coasts, rivers, lands and estuaries.

National and international manual clean-up operations of shorelines and sea floor are in existence.

For instance, the past 20 years, the Japan Environmental Action Network (JEAN) has been organizing a yearly beach cleanup and survey.

On an international level, the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) was installed. The International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) engages the public to remove trash and debris from the world’s beaches and waterways, to identify the sources of debris, and to change the behaviors that cause pollution. The origins of the ICC began in 1985 with research conducted by The Ocean Conservancy (then known as the Center for Marine Conservation – CMC) on plastics in the marine environment. Contracted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Toxic Substances, the CMC produced the report Plastics in the Ocean: More Than a Litter Problem, which was the first study to identify plastics as a significant marine debris hazard. The data collected and analyzed from the annual ICC Cleanup is used locally, nationally and internationally to influence policy decisions, spawn campaigns for recycling programs, support public education programs, launch adopt-a-beach programs, and even storm water system overhaul and legislative reform.

The Clean Up the World program is run in conjunction with UNEP. It engages more than 40 million people from 120 different countries in clean up operations.

Hawaiin shores
Hawaiin shores. Photo Source: epa.gov

As part of its Rise Above Plastics campaign, Surfrider foundation is hosting frequent beach clean-ups; it is an example of an encouraging trend towards collective awareness and action to solve the problem at its source.

Worldwide private groups and associations are more and more aware that clean-up does need to happen, one day at a time, one person at a time.

Cleaning Up Of The Oceans Debris In The Open Seas

NOAA has also been contacted regarding cleanup of the debris directly in the garbage patch and other areas of the North Pacific; however, cleanup is likely to be more difficult than it may seem. “If only things were that simple. We could just go out there and scoop up an island,” says Holly Bamford, director of NOAA’s marine debris program. “If it was one big mass, it would make our jobs a whole lot easier.” It’s like a galaxy of garbage, populated by billions of smaller trash islands that may be hidden underwater or spread out over many miles.

Furthermore, in some areas where marine debris concentrates so does marine life, such as in the STCZ. This makes simple scooping up of the material risky, more harm than good may be caused. Straining ocean waters for plastics would capture the plankton that is the base of the marine food web and responsible for 50 percent of the photosynthesis on Earth. (NOAA).

As Captain Charles Moore once said: the cleaning up effort of the oceanic garbage patches “would bankrupt any country and kill wildlife in the nets as it went.”

However, confident in the future and investigating new horizons, Doug Woodring, from Project Kaisei, will be producing a documentary for National Geographic testing catch techniques for the plastic waste (“we know not all can be caught, but some can for sure”), at least for the largest debris that we know do decompose over time and actually more rapidly than previously thought.

Marine debris accumulation
Marine debris accumulation, on seafloor. Photo Source: NOAA

The clean up operation is the most immediate, highly effective, and simplest, action/plan that we, the problem, can undertake right now to contribute to the solution. It is a great starting point for a fundamental cultural change that need to occur, which is part of a major consensus.

TP

WHEN THE MERMAIDS CRY – FACTS ABOUT PLASTIC

FACTS ABOUT PLASTIC

What Is Plastic?

A simple definition could be: any of a group of synthetic or natural organic materials that may be shaped when soft and then hardened, including many types of resins, resinoids, polymers, cellulose derivatives, casein materials, and proteins: used in place of other materials, as glass, wood, and metals, in construction and decoration, for making many articles, as coatings, and, drawn into filaments, for weaving. They are often known by trademark names, as Bakelite, Vinylite, or Lucite.

In chemistry, plastics are large molecules, called polymers, composed of repeated segments, called monomers, with carbon backbones. A polymer is simply a very large molecule made up of many smaller units joined together, generally end to end, to create a long chain. The smallest building block of a polymer is called a monomer. Polymers are divided into two distinct groups: thermoplastics (moldable) and thermosets (not). The word “plastics” generally applies to the synthetic products of chemistry.

Alexander Parkes created the first man-made plastic and publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material, called parkesine, was an organic material derived from cellulose that, once heated, could be molded and retained its shape when cooled.
Many, but not all, plastic products have a number – the resin identification code – molded, formed or imprinted in or on the container, often on the bottom. This system of coding was developed in 1988 by the U.S.-based Society of the Plastics Industry to facilitate the recycling of post-consumer plastics. It is indeed, quite interesting to go through the fine lines.

  1. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) – Used in soft drink, juice, water, beer, mouthwash, peanut butter, salad dressing, detergent, and cleaner containers. Leaches antimony trioxide and (2ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP).
  2. DEHP is an endocrine disruptor that mimics the female hormone estrogen. It has been strongly linked to asthma and allergies in children. It may cause certain types of cancer and it has been linked to negative effects on the liver, kidney, spleen, bone formation, and body weight. In Europe, DEHP has been banned since 1999 from use in plastic toys for children under the age of three.
  3. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) – Used in opaque milk, water, and juice containers, bleach, detergent and shampoo bottles, garbage bags, yogurt and margarine tubs, and cereal box liners. Considered a safer plastic. Research on risks associated with this type of plastic is ongoing.
  4. Polyvinyl chloride (V or Vinyl or PVC) – Used in toys, clear food and non-food packaging (e.g., cling wrap), some squeeze bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil and peanut butter jars, detergent and window cleaner bottles, shower curtains, medical tubing, and numerous construction products (e.g., pipes, siding). PVC has been described as one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. Leaches di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) or butyl benzyl phthalate (BBzP), depending on which is used as the plasticizer or softener (usually DEHP). DEHP and BBzP are endocrine disruptors mimicking the female hormone estrogen; have been strongly linked to asthma and allergic symptoms in children; may cause certain types of cancer; and linked to negative effects on the liver, kidney, spleen, bone formation, and body weight. In Europe, DEHP, BBzP, and other dangerous phthalates have been banned from use in plastic toys for children under three since 1999. Not so elsewhere, including Canada and the United States.
    Dioxins are unintentionally, but unavoidably, produced during the manufacture of materials containing chlorine, including PVC and other chlorinated plastic feedstocks. Dioxin is a known human carcinogen and the most potent synthetic carcinogen ever tested in laboratory animals. A characterization by the National Institute of Standards and Technology of cancer causing potential evaluated dioxin as over 10,000 times more potent than the next highest chemical (diethanol amine), half a million times more than arsenic, and a million or more times greater than all others.
  5. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) – Used in grocery store, dry cleaning, bread and frozen food bags, most plastic wraps, and squeezable bottles (honey, mustard). Considered a safer plastic. Research on risks associated with this type of plastic is ongoing.
  6. Polypropylene (PP) – Used in ketchup bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs, medicine and syrup bottles, straws, and Rubbermaid and other opaque plastic containers, including baby bottles. Considered a safer plastic. Research on risks associated with this type of plastic is ongoing.
  7. Polystyrene (PS) – Used in Styrofoam containers, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, take-out food containers, plastic cutlery, and compact disc cases. Leaches styrene, an endocrine disruptor mimicking the female hormone estrogen, and thus has the potential to cause reproductive and developmental problems. Long-term exposure by workers has shown brain and nervous system effects and adverse effects on red blood cells, liver, kidneys, and stomach in animal studies. Also present in secondhand cigarette smoke, off gassing of building materials, car exhaust, and possibly drinking water. Styrene migrates significantly from polystyrene containers into the container’s contents when oily foods are heated in such containers.
  8. Other – This is a catchall category that includes anything that does not come within the other six categories. As such, one must be careful in interpreting this category because it includes polycarbonate – a dangerous plastic – but it also includes the new, safer, biodegradable bio-based plastics made from renewable resources such as corn and potato starch and sugar cane. Polycarbonate is used in many plastic baby bottles, clear plastic sippy cups, sports water bottles, three and five gallon large water storage containers, metal food can liners, some juice and ketchup containers, compact discs, cell phones, computers. Polycarbonate leaches Bisphenol A (some effects described above) and numerous studies have indicated a wide array of possible adverse effects from low-level exposure to Bisphenol A: chromosome damage in female ovaries, decreased sperm production in males, early onset of puberty, various behavioral changes, altered immune function, and sex reversal in frogs.

Rob Krebs of the American Plastics Council notes that people value plastics for exactly what creates the most problems at sea and on lands: their durability.

Plastic debris, of all sizes and shapes, is a transboundary pollution problem with a powerful vehicle, the ocean.


Vacha Dam near town of Krichim, April 25, 2009. Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff

BUOYANCY

Plastics travel long distances. Their distribution in the oceans isn’t uniform, yet they are omnipresent from the Polar Regions to the Equator. Scientists are still refining methods to detect and analyze the materials. A good example of plastic debris’ buoyancy is as follows. In 1992, twenty containers full of rubber ducks were lost overboard from a ship traveling from China to Seattle. By 1994, some had been tracked to Alaska, while others reached Iceland in 2000. The ducks (with a distinctive logo on their base) have been sighted in the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (Ebbesmeyer, 2003).

PHOTODEGRADATION VS. BIODEGRADATION

Plastic is generally a durable material. Its durability has made the culprit of the problem since it is considered resistant to natural biodegradation processes, i.e. the microbes that break down other substances do not recognize plastic as food. Yet plastic can be fragmented with the effects of UV, being broken down by light in smaller and smaller debris over time.

Biodegradation, the breaking down of organic substances by natural means, happens all the time in nature. All plant-based, animal-based, or natural mineral-based substances will over time biodegrade. In its natural state raw crude oil will biodegrade, but man-made petrochemical compounds made from oil, such as plastic, will not. Why not? Because plastic is a combination of elements extracted from crude oil then re-mixed up by men in white coats. Because these combinations are man made they are unknown to nature. Consequently, it has been thought that there is no natural system to break them down. The enzymes and the micro organisms responsible for breaking down organic materials that occur naturally such as plants, dead animals, rocks and minerals, don’t recognize them. This means that plastic products are said indestructible, in a biodegradable sense at least.


Indian Beach, Nariman Point, Mumbai. Photo source: ©© Shreyans Bhansali

In sum, as time passes, we know that plastic will eventually photo-degrade, i.e. break down into smaller and smaller fragments by exposure to the sun. The photo-degradation process continues down to the molecular level, yet photo-degraded plastic remains a polymer. No matter how small the pieces, they are still and always will be plastic, i.e. they are not absorbed into or changed by natural processes. At sea, the plastic fragmentation process occurs as well, due to wave, sand action, and oxidation. Estimates for plastic degradation at sea has been ranged from 450 to 1,000 years.

Of particular concern are the floating small plastic fragments often referred in the media to as mermaids’ tears, which are tiny nurdles of raw plastic resin that form the building material of every manufactured plastic product, or are granules of domestic waste that have fragmented over the years. Dr Richard Thompson of the University of Plymouth, UK has identified plastic particles thinner than the diameter of a human hair. But while they cannot be seen, those pieces are still there and are still plastic. Not absorbed into the natural system, they just float around within it. He estimates that there are 100,000 particles of plastic per sq km of seabed and 300,000 items of plastic per sq km of sea surface.

Either way, mermaid tears, or fragmented plastic debris, reaching microscopic size over time, remain everywhere and are almost impossible to clean up. They are light enough to float in the wind, landing in the earth’s oceans. Mermaid’s tears are often found in filter feeders like mussels, barnacle, lugworm and amphipods.

Thus, the photo degradation of plastic debris makes the matter worse. Plastic becomes microscopic, invisible, yet ever polluting waters, beaches, coasts, seafloor, being eaten by even tinier marine organisms, therefore entering the food chain insidiously and ineluctably.

TOXIC SPONGE

Corroborating reports and findings worldwide demonstrated that fragmented plastics debris’ increase and massive presence on and off shores does constitute reason for raised worries and awareness.

Studies on small plastic pellet by Dr Richard Thompson and by Hideshige Takada, Yukie Mato professor of organic geochemistry at Tokyo University, have shown that plastic debris meeting other pollutants in the oceans absorbs harmful chemicals from the sea water they float in, acting like a pollution sponges.

These studies have been conducted on plastic nurdles not just because of their uniform size and shape, thus easier to study and compare by scientifics, but also because of their wide spread presence on the world’s beaches.

In UK, mermaid tears are the second common plastic litter found on the beaches according to the Marine Conservation Society’s 2007 data and a Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) report.

According to Charles Moore, these resin pellets account for around 8 percent of annual oil production and are the raw material for the 260 million tons of plastic consumed yearly worldwide. Lightweight and small, they escape in untold volumes during transport and manufacture and wash in the ocean.

Even though these researches have been conducted on nurdles, it is crucial to keep in mind, as Dr. Takada team confirmed, that other types of plastic debris (from fishing gear, shopping bags, to small fragments) displays the exact same propensity as the nurdles of raw plastic resin to absorb toxins.


Nurdles covered beach. Photo Source: Algalita Foundation

Plastic resin pellets are round, shiny and tiny, mostly less than 5mm in diameter. The very structure of the plastic material is oily and greasy (basically plastics are solid oil) therefore promoting the accumulation of hydrophobic contaminants (ones that tend to repel and not absorb water) from the surrounding seawater. Chemicals like PCB’s and DDE are very hydrophobic. It was shown that plastic pellets suck up these dangerous persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and toxins with a concentration factor that’s almost 1 million times greater compared to the overall concentration of the chemicals in seawater. In other words, waterborne hydrophobic pollutants do collect and magnify on the surface of plastic debris, thus making plastic far more deadly in the ocean than it would be on land.

These findings, published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, were based on samples gathered from 30 beaches in 17 countries. PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyls) pollutant concentrations on plastic pellet were highest on US coasts, followed by Western Europe and Japan. The highest concentrations of DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), the most toxic of all pesticides, were found on the US west coast and Vietnam.

Plastic marine debris, thought to be “indestructible”, “lasting forever”, has been shown to decompose faster than previously thought, under unexpected conditions (in the water and at sea temperature) and, most importantly, releasing toxic substances not found in the natural element: seawater.

DECOMPOSE

Since plastics belong to a chemical family of high polymers, they are essentially made up of a long chain of molecules containing repeated units of carbon atoms. Because of this inherent molecular stability (high molecular weight), plastics do not easily breakdown into simpler components.


North America, touched landscape. Photo Source: photobucket

Plastics do decompose, though not fully, over a very long period of time (in average 100 to 500 years). Commercially available plastics (polyolefins like polyethylene, polypropylene, etc.) have been further made resistant to decomposition by means of additional stabilizers like antioxidants. Thus, unless the plastic is specially designed to decompose in the soil, such materials can last a very long time because the chemical bonds that hold the molecules together are often stronger than nature’s power to take them apart. This means that soil microorganisms that can easily attack and decompose things like wood and other formerly living materials cannot break the various kinds of strong bonds that are common to most plastics. This depends upon the plastic (polymer) and the environment to which it is exposed.

The Marine Conservancy has published that the estimated decomposition rates of most plastic debris found on coasts are:

  • Foamed plastic cups: 50 years
  • Plastic beverage holder: 400 years
  • Disposable diapers: 450 year
  • Plastic bottle: 450
  • Fishing line: 600 years.

Until Dr. Saido’s report, no studies had been conducted on plastic decomposition at low temperature in the marine environment, owing to the mistaken conception that plastic does practically not decompose in such condition. In the first study to look at what happens over the years to the billions of pounds of plastic waste drifting in the world’s oceans, researchers, lead by Katsuhiko Saido, PhD, reported that plastic does “decompose with surprising speed (as little as a year) and release potentially toxic substances into the water.”

These findings were reported on August 19, 2009, at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). The scientists there termed the discovery “surprising.”

Dr. Saido described a new method to simulate the breakdown of plastic products at low temperatures (30º Celsius, 86º F), such as those found in some oceans. David Barnes, marine ecologist from the British Antarctic Survey, expressed that the Japanese’s team lab results cannot be applied uniformly across the ocean. However, even though the decomposition process would not occur in much cooler seawater as Barnes mentioned, the oceans are vast, currents are constant and permanent, nothing stays static and furthermore, it seems that garbage patches where plastics accumulate, are to be found in even greater dimension in the South Gyres, in the tropical and sub tropical zones with very warm waters. One of the researchers stated: “Even at 30 degrees Celsius, the plastic decomposes. In natural conditions, the tide comes in and sunlight heats the plastics [which increases decomposition].”

The type of plastic studied by Saido’s team was polystyrene, a white foamed plastic, commonly known by the trademark Styrofoam.

The process involved modeling plastic decomposition at room temperature, removing heat from the plastic and then using a liquid to extract the BPA and PS Oligomer that are not found naturally, thus must have been created through the decomposition of the plastic. Once degraded, the plastic was shown to release three new compounds not found in nature: styrene monomer (SM), styrene dimer (SD) and styrene trimer (ST). While SM is already a known carcinogen, SD and ST are suspected to be as well.

Plastics are not metabolized subsequent to ingestion since they are polymers. On the other hand, low molecular compounds such as PS oligomer or BPA from plastic decomposition are toxic and can be metabolized!

Samples of sea sand and seawater collected from Europe, India, Japan and the Pacific Ocean were found to be contaminated, with up to 150 parts per million of some of these components of plastic decomposition.
“Plastics in daily use are generally assumed to be quite stable,” said study lead researcher Katsuhiko Saido, Ph.D. “We found that plastic in the ocean actually decomposes as it is exposed to the rain and sun and other environmental conditions, giving rise to yet another source of global contamination that will continue into the future.”

This latest study clearly shows new micro-pollution by compounds generated by plastic decomposition to be taking place out of sight in the ocean, leaching toxic chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA) and derivatives of polystyrene.

Even though present in seawater and sands, the pollutants are found in highest concentration in areas heavily littered with plastic debris, such as ocean vortices, which bring us to define more specifically the notion of gyres and “garbage patches”.

TP

WHEN THE MERMAIDS CRY – MAGNITUDE, SCOPE, EXTENT

I: THE GREAT PLASTIC TIDE: MAGNITUDE, SCOPE, EXTENT

A full understanding of the magnitude and scope of this plastic pollution starts with clear definitions as to what and why it is happening. Thus, we will define the notions of marine debris, gyres, and oceanic garbage patches, or giant floating marine debris field, as first discovered in the North Pacific by Captain Charles Moore’s, since referred to as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GGP).

MARINE DEBRIS AND PLASTIC


Krichim, Boat in plastic, April 25, 2009. Photo: Dimitar Dilkoff

Marine Debris

The term marine debris has been used for at least 25 years to refer to man-made materials that have been discarded or lost into the ocean. The earliest references come from the 1984 Workshop on the Impacts and Fate of Marine Debris (Shomura and Yoshida 1985). This workshop came out of a 1982 request from the Marine Mammal Commission to the National Marine Fisheries Service to examine the impacts of marine debris. At that time, the focus of research was primarily on derelict fishing gear. Keep in mind that this was prior to the implementation of both the high-seas driftnet ban and MARPOL Annex V.

Other terms used prior to 1984 include the following: man-made debris (Feder et all 1978), synthetic debris (Balazs 1979), plastic litter (Merrell 1980), floating plastic debris (Morris 1980), man-made objects (Shaughnessy 1980, Venrick et al 1973), and debris (Scordino and Fisher 1983).

It would appear that the term debris was being used in these articles by academics as something discarded: litter.

 

Mouth of the Los Angeles River, Long Beach, California. Photo source: ©© Bill McDonald, Algalita Foundation / Heal The Bay

The term marine debris encompasses more than plastic, including metals (derelict vessels, dumped vehicles, beverage containers), glass (light bulbs, beverage containers, older fishing floats), and other materials (rubber, textiles, lumber). Plastic certainly makes up the majority of floating litter, but in some areas the debris on the ocean floor may contain sizeable amounts of those other denser types.

Scientists have similarly and more simply defined marine debris as, any manufactured or processed solid waste material that enters the ocean environment from any source (Coe & Rogers, 1997). Marine debris is definitely characterized as human-created waste that has deliberately or accidentally become afloat. They tend to accumulate at the centre of gyres and on coastlines, frequently washing aground where it is known as beach litter.

The US Congress passed a bill in 2006, The Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act, to create a program to address the marine debris pollution. One of the requirements in the bill was for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the U.S. Coast Guard, to promulgate a definition of marine debris for the purposes of the Act. Thus, USCG and NOAA drafted and published a definition of marine debris in September 2009. The definition is this: “Any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes.” Marine debris can come in many forms, from a plastic soda bottle to a derelict vessel. Types and components of marine debris include plastics, glass, metal, Styrofoam, rubber, derelict fishing gear, and derelict vessels.

UNEP has defined marine debris, or marine litter, as “any persistent, manufactured, processed, or solid material discarded, disposed of, or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment.” This is an even more global and comprehensive definition, as it does include the marine and correlated coastal impact of the aforementioned litter.

 

Plastic pollution covering the shore, Morocco.Photo: © SAF — Coastal Care

As we mentioned supra, land-based sources of debris account for up to 80 percent of the world’s marine pollution. Such debris is unquestionably one of the world’s most pervasive pollution problems affecting our beaches, coasts, oceans, seafloors, inland waterways and lands. It affects the economies and inhabitants of coastal and waterside communities worldwide. The effect of coastal littering is obviously compounded by vectors, such as rivers and storm drains, discharging litter from inland urban areas. Obviously, ocean current patterns, climate and tides, and proximity to urban centers, industrial and recreational areas, shipping lanes, and commercial fishing grounds influence the types and amount of debris that is found in the open ocean or collected along beaches, coasts and waterways, above and below the water’s edge.

The other 20 percent of this debris is from dumping activities on the water, including vessels (from small power and sailboats to large transport ships carrying people and goods), offshore drilling rigs and platforms, and fishing piers.

Over the past 60 years, organic materials, once the most common form of debris, have yielded to synthetic elements as the most abundant material in solid waste. Marine litter is now 60 to 80 percent plastic, reaching 95 percent in some areas, according to a report by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (created by Charles Moore), published in October 2008 in Environmental Research.


Citarum River, flowing to the Sea, is the main source of houselhold water for Jakarta.(14million people). Photo source: photobucket

Around and around, worldwide, at distant seas, or merely bobbing among the waves before washing up ultimately on shore, a daily and ever too common plastic spectacle is unveiled: bottles, plastic bags, fishnets, clothing, lighters, tires, polystyrene, containers, plastics shoes, just a myriad of man-made items, all sharing a common origin: us.

Yearly data adds to the despondent reality of how extensively the plastic tide is increasingly affecting world’s beaches and coasts. Launched in 1986 by the Ocean Conservancy, the Center for Marine Conservation’s annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) has grown into the world’s largest volunteer effort to collect data on the marine environment. Held the third Saturday of each September, the International Coastal Cleanup engages the public to remove trash and debris from the coasts, beaches, waterways, underwater, and on lands to identify the sources of debris. It is a compelling global snapshot of marine debris collected on one day at thousands of sites all over the world. The 2008, 23rd ICC reported that 104 countries and locations, from Bahrain to Bangladesh, and in 42 US States, from southern California to the rocky coast of Maine, had participated. The overwhelming percentage of debris collected was plastics and smoking paraphernalia. The 2008 report states that plastic litter has increased by 126 percent since ICC first survey in 1994. The top 3 items found in 2008 were cigarettes butts, plastic bags, and food wrappers/containers.

Durable and slow to degrade, plastic materials that are used in the production of so many products, from containers for beverage bottles, packing straps and tarps, and synthetic nylon materials used in fishing line, all become debris with staying power. Plastics debris accumulates because it does not biodegrade as many other substances do; although it will photo degrade on exposure to sunlight and does decompose, more rapidly than previously thought. (We will explain these processes as we study the nature and properties of plastic itself infra.).

In addition, most of these plastic waste items are highly buoyant, allowing them to travel in currents for thousands of miles, endangering marine ecosystems and wildlife along the way. Marine debris is a global transboundary pollution problem.


Icelandic shore. The marine area around Iceland is considered as one of the cleanest of the world. Photo Source: Clean up the Coastline, Veraldarvinir

The instillation of plastic in an oceanic world vests a terrible reality. Because of the properties of plastic as a synthetic material and because of the absence of boundary, vastness, currents and winds at seas, this resilient polluting material is being spread worldwide by an even more powerful vehicle, the seas. It appears then daunting, impossible, a priori, to control, efficiently clean-up, remedy effectively, even sufficiently study the plastic pollution. This unwilling confrontation of titans, one plastic the other oceanic, has become ineluctably a crisis of massive proportion.

Plastic

The paucity of concerted and definitive scientific data/research in this matter is staggering compared to the extent of the problem.
Only in 1997, with Captain Charles Moore’s discovery, was the plastic waste pollution in the ocean widely brought to media light and finally began to receive more serious attention from the public and the scientific world, stepping the way to more exhaustive research about plastic and its consequences and effects when entering marine life.

Of the 260 million tons of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the Ocean, according to a Greenpeace report (Plastic Debris in the World’s Oceans, 2006). Seventy percent of the mass eventually sinks, damaging life on the seabed. The rest floats in open seas, often ending up in gyres, circular motion of currents, forming conglomerations of swirling plastic trash called garbage patches, or ultimately ending up washed ashore on someone’s beach.

But the washed up or floating plastic pollution is a lot more than an eyesore or a choking/entanglement hazard for marine animals or birds. Once plastic debris enters the water, it becomes one of the most pervasive problems because of plastic’s inherent properties: buoyancy, durability (slow photo degradation), propensity to absorb waterborne pollutants, its ability to get fragmented in microscopic pieces, and more importantly, its proven possibility to decompose, leaching toxic Bisphenol A (BPA) and other toxins in the seawater.

“Plastics are a contaminant that goes beyond the visual”, says Bill Henry of the Long Marine Laboratory, UCSC.

 

Seal trapped in plastic pollution. Photo: ©© Tedxgp2

But before we develop further the realities and consequences of the plastic-covered beaches, seafloor and plastic-instilled seawater, it is necessary to present simple facts about plastic itself.

TP

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