8 Safest Plastic Bottles and Cups

Plastic bottles and cups are widely and frequently used all over the world. While they’re lightweight and convenient, many plastic bottles and cups contain dangerous materials like BPA and phthalates. These chemicals can leech into your drinks and make their way into your body, which can cause serious illness.

With all the health concerns surrounding plastic bottles and cups – not to mention misleading marketing claims – it can be difficult to determine which options are actually safe for both adults and children. Fortunately, there is now a range of plastic bottles and cups available on the market that are free from potentially harmful toxins. In this article, we will review 8 of the safest non-toxic plastic bottles and cups that are currently available, so you can make an informed decision when selecting products for you and your family.

Check out how we chose the safest plastic bottles and cups or jump directly to our product recommendations.

How We Picked the Safest Plastic Bottles and Cups

We conducted extensive research to identify the safest plastic bottles and cups to drink from. We made certain that our picks are made of plastic that is free of harmful toxins and comes from a trusted brand.

Materials

We chose products that are made of 100% non-toxic yet durable plastic types, such as:

  • Polypropylene (PP) – This plastic is considered to be the safest of all plastics and is the most recommended material for food and beverages. Polypropylene plastics are BPA-free and heat-resistant, therefore they are unlikely to release toxins and harmful chemicals when exposed to hot food or drinks.
  • Tritan – Tritan is a BPA-free plastic, which means it was not made with (BPA) or other bisphenol compounds like bisphenol S (BPS). Tritan is exceptionally durable and impact-resistant, which makes it unlikely to shatter or leech microplastic onto food or beverages.
  • Acrylic – Acrylic does not contain Bisphenol A (BPA) and does not release any toxins during hydrolysis or its degradation process. While acrylic is food safe due to its durability, it has a limited heat tolerance, therefore it should not be microwaved or heated.

Safety

We investigated the manufacturers thoroughly to make sure that they use the safest plastic types on their products. We made sure that our picks are free of toxic chemicals such as BPA, Melamine, PFAS, and Phthalates.

Quality

Aside from product safety, we also chose products that have the best quality in terms of durability, design, and usability. We want you to have not only the safest selection of plastic bottles and cups but also products that are worth every penny.

Safest Plastic Bottles and Cups

Safest Non-toxic Plastic Bottles

  • 1. GRAYL – GeoPress 24 oz Water Purifier Bottle
  • 2. Opard – Sports Water Bottles
  • 3. Hydracy – Water Bottle with Time Marker
  • 4.  Super Sparrow – Sports Water Bottle
  • 5. Epic – Nalgene OG

Safest Non-toxic Plastic Cups

  • 6. US Acrylic Optix 20 ounce Plastic Stackable Water Tumblers
  • 7. Choary – Eco-friendly Unbreakable Reusable Drinking Cup
  • 8. STRATA CUPS Skinny Tumblers

Top Picks:

Most Durable

  • Non-toxic Plastic Bottle: GRAYL
  • Non-toxic Plastic Cup: Choary

Most Affordable

  • Non-toxic Plastic Bottle: Opard
  • Non-toxic Plastic Cup: US Acrylic

Most Functional

  • Non-Toxic Plastic Bottle: GRAYL
  • Non-Toxic Plastic Cup: Strata

Safest Plastic Bottles

1. Opard – Sports Water Bottles

Opard - safest plastic bottles
Source: LoveToShop/Amazon 
  • Material: Tritan
  • Volume: 20 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $9.99
  • Get this product: Amazon

Opard Sports Water Bottles are made of 100% BPA-free tritan plastic, which makes them durable and toxic-free. This bottle’s slim body design and pop-up lid allow you to open and hold this water bottle with only one hand, so it is quite convenient when you’re jogging, walking, or driving. Furthermore, we like the retractable strainer on this water bottle because it prevents solid ingredients – like ice or sliced fruit in your water – from blocking the bottle’s mouth.

Opard Sports Water Bottles are also 100% leakproof so you can just pack them inside your bag without worrying about any spillage. The bottle’s body is marked with volume (Oz and ml), perfect for monitoring your fluid consumption throughout the day. Lastly, for every purchase of this water bottle, you will receive a fruit detox water e-book recipe through email. This bottle is perfect for anyone trying to live a healthier lifestyle!

Cons:

  • Be careful with the cap because it can break with rough handling.

Looking for a bigger version of this? Opard also sells a 30 Oz version of this water bottle.

2. Hydracy – Water Bottle with Time Marker

hydracy - safest plastic bottles
Source: Yuliana/Amazon
  • Material: Tritan
  • Volume: 32 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $24.97
  • Get this product: Amazon

Hydracy’s Water Bottle with Time Marker is made of 100% BPA- and toxic-free tritan plastic from Eastman. This water bottle is leakproof and shatterproof, perfect for outdoor activities. Because of its zero-condensation bottle sleeve, this bottle stays cool and doesn’t sweat, so you don’t have to worry about it slipping out of your hands. We like the size of this bottle’s mouth since it’s wide enough to put bigger fruits or ice cubes inside without a hassle. It is also secured with a fruit strainer to prevent them from flowing out. This water bottle comes with a detachable carrying strap, which might come in handy if your hand gets tired of holding a large bottle like this.

What we love the most about this water bottle is the timeline marker on the side. You can easily check your water consumption throughout the day and make sure you’re staying on track with your hydration goals! This feature is perfect for people who are extremely busy and often forget to drink enough water. The Hydracy Water Bottle with Time Marker comes with a 27-recipe e-book for detox fruit drinks that will be sent to your email after purchasing. 

Cons:

  • If you don’t wash this properly, the smell of fruit may linger in the bottle.

Hydracy’s Water Bottle with Time Marker is available in a variety of colors available on Amazon and the Hydracy website. If you’re looking for other sizes, Hydracy also sells 17 Oz and 64 Oz versions of this water bottle. 

3. Super Sparrow – Sports Water Bottle

  • Material: Tritan
  • Volume: 17 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $16.99
  • Get this product: Amazon

This Super Sparrow Sports bottle is designed for sports and workout activities. The BPA-free water bottle fits in your hand perfectly with a thick carrying strap for extra support. It also has a spill-free pop-up button cap, making it ideal for one-handed carrying and opening. We know sports can get rough – Luckily, this water bottle is extremely durable and will not get damaged if you drop it.

The Super Sparrow Sports bottle is also equipped with a strainer in its interior, but the one thing that made this water bottle stand out for us is the fast water flow on its nozzle. We noticed an air hole on the lid that helps the water flow smoothly and quickly, making it the ideal water bottle after doing an exhausting workout. Every purchase of a Super Sparrow Sports water bottle comes with a gift box if you’re giving this as a present.

Cons:

  • If not handled carefully, the pop-up cap is the most vulnerable to damage. However, the Super Sparrow Sports bottle comes with a 12-month guarantee, which is useful if you encounter any issues with the bottle.

Super Sparrow Sports Water Bottle comes in a variety of colors available on Amazon and on the Super Sparrow website. If you’re looking for other sizes, Super Sparrow also sells 12 Oz, 25 Oz, and 32 Oz versions of this water bottle. 

4. Epic – Nalgene OG

  • Material: Tritan
  • Volume: 48 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $48.00
  • Get this product: Amazon

The Epic Nalgene OG water bottle is made of BPA-free and BPS-free tritan plastic with a silicon nozzle lid. This Nalgene water bottle has a filtering technology from Epic Water Filters that can turn tap water into safe-to-drink water. The filter is made from organic coconut fiber and has been tested to remove harmful contaminants such as cysts like giardia, heavy metals, and toxic chemicals present in tap water. This is very useful when traveling, trekking, or camping in remote areas where there is no access to clean water.

Epic is also a member of the 1% for the planet organization, which means they dedicate 1% of their annual sales to projects that help the environment directly. 

Cons:

  • The Epic Nalgene OG water bottle can be too large, particularly for little hands, making it difficult to hold and susceptible to slipping out of your hands.
  • Water does leak slightly through the nozzle.
  • More expensive than most water bottles on our picks.

The Epic Nalgene OG water bottle is available in a variety of designs available on Amazon and the Epic Water Filters website. If you’re looking for another size, Epic Water Filters also sells a 32 Oz version of this water bottle. 

5. GRAYL – GeoPress 24 oz Water Purifier Bottle

Grayl Geopress - safest plastic bottles
Source: Amazon
  • Material: Polypropylene
  • Volume: 24 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $89.95
  • Get this product: Amazon

GRAYL GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle is made of BPA-free polypropylene (pp) plastic, making it non-toxic and safe for consumers. Furthermore, the GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle can filter unsafe dirty water, like water found in streams and rivers, and make it drinkable. We love this water bottle’s replaceable purifier cartridge that filters pathogens in water such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoa. Not only that, but this purifier water bottle can remove hazardous particles that are already present in clean tap water, such as silt, microplastics, PFAS, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals that generate unpleasant flavors and odors.

GRAYL GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle is incredibly sturdy and specifically made for outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, trekking, fishing, and more. It also makes for easy traveling without fear of stomach bugs!

We are impressed with its drop resistance; a fall did not damage the bottle even after dropping 6 feet! Additionally, this water bottle is very easy to clean as you can disassemble and assemble it quickly.

Cons:

  • GRAYL GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle is a lot more expensive compared to our other picks.

You can also find this water bottle on the GRAYL website. Are you looking for a smaller version of this? GRAYL also sells a 16.9 Oz version of this water bottle.

Safest Plastic Cups

6. US Acrylic Optix Plastic Stackable Water Tumblers

  • Material: Acrylic
  • Volume: 20 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $18.99 for a set of 8 pcs ($2.37 per cup)
  • Get this product: Amazon

US Acrylic Optix Plastic Stackable Water Tumblers are made of premium acrylic plastic that is free from BPA and other toxins, making them extremely safe for consumers. These shatterproof plastic cups are also dishwasher safe.

We love how lightweight and durable this plastic cup is. Better yet, these cups come in a variety of elegant designs and colors, ideal for everything from lunch with the family to dinner parties. At first glance, you would think that these plastic cups are made of expensive glass!

Cons:

  • When placed in the dishwasher often, US Acrylic plastic cups may develop a cloudy stain. We recommend hand washing these cups as much as possible. 

Looking for a smaller size? US Acrylic also sells a 14 Oz version of this plastic cup. 

7. Choary – Eco-Friendly Unbreakable Reusable Drinking Cup

choary - safe plastic cup
Source: Mrs.Wall/Amazon
  • Material: Polypropylene, wheat fiber
  • Volume: 12 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $12.99 for a set of 5 pcs ($2.60 per cup)
  • Get this product: Amazon

Choary Eco-Friendly Unbreakable Reusable Drinking Cups are made of 100% BPA-free polypropylene plastic, wheat fiber, and vegetable starch, making them safe and free of other toxins and heavy metals. Although these cups are lightweight, they are made to last and will not break easily. We like these cups’ simple form and pastel colors that are very easy on the eyes. Not only are these cups durable and portable, but they’re also more eco-friendly than some conventional plastic cups because wheat straw plastic is 100% biodegradable.

Cons:

  • The bottom of these cups is slightly curvy, which makes them a bit wobbly.
  • Can be stacked too tight, which makes it difficult to separate each cup.  

Is a pack of 5 too much? Choary Eco-friendly Unbreakable Reusable Drinking Cups is also available in a pack of 4 cups

8. STRATA CUPS Skinny Tumblers

Strata - safe plastic cup
Source: Karla/Amazon
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Volume: 12 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $49.88 for a set of 12 pcs ($4.16 per cup)
  • Get this product: Amazon

Strata Cups Skinny Tumblers are made of BPA-free acrylic plastic, making them safe and toxin-free. These cups’ matte finish texture helps with grip security, and the skinny frame is helpful for people with smaller hands or kids. The reusable straw makes for a quick and easy sip.

These plastic cups have double-walled vacuum insulation to keep your drink at a consistent temperature for an extended period of time. Furthermore, although these cups are not leak-resistant, we noticed that the lids are tight enough to prevent major spillage, making them ideal for juice tumblers for kids during playtime. Additionally, the cup’s plain design gives plenty of room for DIY customizations; you can easily add stickers and labels to the cup’s body.

Cons:

  • Strata Cups Skinny Tumblers’ price changes frequently, which can make it confusing for customers. 

Strata Cups Skinny Tumbler comes in a variety of pastel colors available on Amazon and the Strata Cups website.

Top Picks

Still can’t make up your mind? Here are our top picks for a few different categories.

Most Durable

Non-Toxic Plastic Bottle: GRAYL

We chose GRAYL GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle as the most durable plastic water bottle on our picks due to its amazing 6-feet drop resistance.

Non-Toxic Plastic Cup: Choary

We chose Choary Eco-Friendly Unbreakable Reusable Drinking Cups as the most durable plastic cups of our picks. The thick plastic used to design these cups means they’re nearly unbreakable!

Most Affordable

Non-Toxic Plastic Bottle: Opard

At $9.99, Opard Sports Water Bottle is the most affordable non-toxic plastic bottle in our selection. 

Non-Toxic Plastic Cup: US Acrylic

At $18.99 for a set of 8 cups, the US Acrylic Optix Plastic Stackable Water Tumbler is the most affordable non-toxic plastic cup in our selection, costing only $2.37 per cup.  

Most Functional

Non-Toxic Plastic Bottle: GRAYL

GRAYL GeoPress Water Purifier Bottle is without a doubt the most functional plastic bottle on our list due to its unique technology that can turn stream water into safe and potable water. This plastic bottle can be used not only for outdoor activities but in emergency situations as well.

Non-Toxic Plastic Cup: Strata

Strata Cups Skinny Tumbler is our most functional non-toxic plastic cup recommendation due to its thermal insulation capability, which can keep beverages at a consistent temperature for a long period of time, and its reusable straw for effortless drinking.

Hawaii whale dies with fishing nets, plastic bags in stomach

HONOLULU (AP) — A whale that washed ashore in Hawaii over the weekend likely died in part because it ate large volumes of fishing traps, fishing nets, plastic bags and other marine debris, scientists said Thursday, highlighting the threat to wildlife from the millions of tons of plastic that ends up in oceans every year.

The body of the 56-foot (17-meter) long, 120,000-pound (54,431-kilogram) animal was first noticed on a reef off Kauai on Friday. High tide brought it ashore on Saturday.

Kristi West, the director of the University of Hawaii’s Health and Stranding Lab, said there were enough foreign objects in the opening of the whale’s intestinal tract to block food.

“The presence of undigested fish and squid lends further evidence of a blockage,” she said in a news release from the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The whale’s stomach contained six hagfish traps, seven types of fishing net, two types of plastic bags, a light protector, fishing line and a float from a net. Researchers also found squid beaks, fish skeleton and remains of other prey in the whale’s stomach.

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It’s the first known case of a sperm whale in Hawaii waters ingesting discarded fishing gear, West said.

The whale’s stomach was so large West’s team wasn’t able to examine it completely. They suspect there was more material they weren’t able to recover.

Researchers found nothing wrong with other organs they examined. They collected samples to screen for disease and conduct other follow-up tests.

Sperm whales travel across thousands of miles in the ocean so it’s not clear where the debris came from.

Scientists say that more than 35 million tons (31.9 million metric tons) of plastic pollution is produced around Earth each year and about a quarter of that ends up around the water.

Marine debris harms numerous species.

Seabirds can ingest as much as 8% of their body weight in plastic. Endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles can get caught in plastic nets and die. Sharks and other apex predators eat smaller fish that feed on microplastic, which can then endanger their own health.

In addition to eating plastics, large whales are harmed when they become entangled in fishing gear or other ropes in the ocean. The drag from debris can force whales to use more energy to swim and make it harder for them to eat, causing starvation.

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On Tuesday, marine mammal responders freed a humpback whale that was caught in rope, a bundle of gear and two buoys off the Big Island.

Sperm whales are an endangered species found in deep oceans across the world. A 2021 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated there were about 4,500 sperm whales in the waters around the Hawaiian Islands, from the Big Island in the south to Kure Atoll in the north.

Plastic Alternatives: Eco-Friendly Coffee Pods

Every month, an estimated 30,000 coffee pods are sent to landfills around the world. These little plastic cups take over 500 years to decompose and leave behind harmful residue from the synthetic materials in them.

In addition to the massive amounts of waste they generate, the plastic production process that creates these pods emits harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

Luckily, as the world becomes more environmentally conscious, new alternatives for coffee pods and “k-cups” are becoming available every day. In this blog, we explore five of the best eco-friendly alternatives to plastic coffee pods that give you the best coffee at the best price and leave behind no harmful waste. 

Read on to learn how we chose our eco-friendly k-cups, or jump to our recommendations.

Choosing the Best Alternatives

We kept several criteria in mind when searching the market for the best eco-friendly coffee pods. All of the options we’ve chosen are made with 100% compostable material and obtain their coffee from ethical, sustainable practices. And of course, as all coffee lovers need, these offer great-tasting coffee!

Alternative Materials

As plastic coffee pods fill landfills and waterways with harmful, non-biodegradable plastics, it’s important to switch to a material that will minimize waste as much as possible. All of our top picks are made with material that is biodegradable either at home or in industrial composting facilities.

Our compostable choices include options that are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), meaning they will biodegrade in a commercial facility without leaving behind harmful residue.

We chose eco-friendly coffee pods made of:

  • Plant-based papers – this material typically consists of paper pulp or sugar cane.
  • PHA polyester – PHA is a synthetic plastic that is naturally broken down by microorganisms and leaves behind no harmful chemicals.
  • PLA plastic – this non-synthetic plastic is derived from plant matter like sugar cane or corn starch.

Make sure you carefully read the packaging to know how to compost your coffee pods!

Safety

Although biodegradable, some plant-based products might contain substances that pose a risk to environmental and human health. Our selected products are free of harmful chemicals such as:

Social Responsibility

Coffee is notorious for being ethically irresponsible and environmentally detrimental. That’s why we only suggest brands that support farmers, sustainable production, and ethical treatment of their workers in every step of their supply chain.

Quality

As many coffee lovers would argue, taste is the most important part! All of our selections come with a variety of flavors and roasts to fit your taste.

Best Eco-Friendly Coffee Pods

Here are our top five picks for eco-friendly k-cups, organized by material.

Plant-based

  1. Glorybew
  2. Ethical Bean Coffee
  3. Halo

PLA

  1. Tayst Coffee Roasters

PHAs

  1. Grind

Top Picks

  • Most Affordable: Tayst Coffee Roasters
  • Most Variety: Halo
  • Best Overall: Tayst Coffee Roasters

Plant-Based Papers

Plant-based k-cups come in a variety of materials. Common bases for the pod include paper pulp, sugar cane, or even coffee bean skins! These are biodegradable materials that can be composted either in at-home composting bins or in commercial composting facilities. Make sure to check the packaging to know exactly how to dispose of these coffee pods.

1. Glorybrew – Compostable Coffee Pods

Glorybrew - eco friendly coffee pods
Source: Joselin/Amazon
  • Material: Bio-based paper
  • BPI standard certified? Yes
  • Current price: $9.99 per pack of 12 pods ($0.83 per pod)
  • Keurig compatible? Yes
  • Get this product: Amazon

Gourmesso’s Glorybrew compostable k-cups come in several different roasts and are completely compostable at industrial facilities within 12 weeks. They ensure social and environmental responsibility in their farms through the Rainforest Certification, and their USDA-certified organic coffee pods are compatible with Nespresso machines as well.

We’ve noticed that this coffee is relatively weak compared to other brands, so fans of strong coffee may want to look elsewhere.

Pros:

  • Rainforest Certified, meaning that all farms that produce this coffee meet the standards for environmental, social, and economic standards of sustainability
  • One tree is planted for every order when you purchase from Gourmesso’s website
  • Offers eco-friendly coffee pods that are Nespresso-compatible

Cons:

  • Not backyard compostable; pods must be sent to a commercial facility
  • Limited options for flavors and roast
  • No options for decaf k-cups

Looking for a different flavor of this coffee pod? Glorybrew also comes in an extra dark roast flavor.

2. Ethical Bean Coffee – Organic K-Cup Coffee Pods

Ethical Bean Coffee - eco friendly coffee pods
Source: Amazon
  • Material: Bio-based paper
  • BPI standard certified? Yes
  • Current price: $10.99 per pack of 12 pods ($0.92 per pod)
  • Keurig compatible? Yes
  • Get this product: Amazon

Just as the name implies, Ethical Bean Coffee is produced with social responsibility in mind. Their coffee is 100% certified organic and fair-trade, and they use 100% renewable energy for their head roastery and vehicle fleet.

Their Terracycling recycling program repurposes used coffee bags of any brand, which are traditionally non-recyclable. This helps minimize the plastic waste from coffee bags that are still behind in sustainability.

Pros:

  • The Trace Your Beans scanner on every box tells you exactly where your coffee came from and who roasted it
  • Subscribers to Ethical Bean Coffee can accumulate rewards points that help support a non-profit organization of your choice

Cons:

  • Coffee pods may not be compatible with coffee machines aside from Keurig
  • Coffee tends to be more bitter than other brands, which may be a deterrent for those of us who like it sweet
  • Pods come in a sealed plastic bag to keep them fresh, but the bag is unfortunately not made of sustainable material (but you can send this bag to their recycling program!)

You can also purchase Ethical Bean k-cups on their website.

3. Halo – Honduras Coffee Pods

Halo Honduras eco friendly coffee pods
Source: Halo 
  • Material: Sugar cane and paper pulp
  • BPI standard certified? No
  • Current price: £7.00 per pack of 10 pods (£0.70 per pod)
  • Keurig compatible? No
  • Get this product: Halo

Based in London, Halo seeks to reinvent compostable coffee pods by making them biodegradable at home. Unlike most of the eco-friendly pods and k-cups on this list, Halo coffee doesn’t require you to send your used pods to industrial facilities.

These are a one-of-a-kind design that we haven’t seen anywhere else, and in addition to their minimal ecological footprint, the coffee tastes great! One of the downsides is that they’re a bit more expensive than other options, especially if you’re ordering outside of the UK.

We also found that they offer a wide selection of coffee from around the world, so you’re sure to find the perfect blend for you!

Pros:

  • Compostable at home, so you can turn your coffee pods into natural fertilizer and soil in your own backyard
  • Eco-friendly packaging 
  • Global shipping available
  • Wide variety of flavors and roasts

Cons:

  • No discount for buying in bulk
  • Not Keurig compatible
  • Softer than typical coffee pods, so fitting them into your machine might require some extra effort
  • More expensive than other options, especially for international shipping

PLA

PLA (polylactic acid) is a type of biodegradable plastic made from plant sugars and resins. Unlike synthetic plastics, PLA can decompose in an industrial facility in a matter of days with no harmful residues and creates 75% less greenhouse gas emissions in its manufacturing. Here are our top picks for PLA coffee pods.

4. Tayst Coffee Roaster – Compostable Coffee Pods

Tayst Coffee Roaster - eco friendly coffee pods
Source: Amazon
  • Material: PLA Bio-resin
  • BPI standard certified? Yes
  • Current price: $35.99 per pack of 50 pods ($0.72 per pod)
  • Keurig compatible? Yes
  • Get this product: Amazon

Tayst is a coffee brand that takes their responsibility for the environment and ethics seriously. Partnering with several green organizations, Tayst coffee is fair trade and part of the Rainforest Alliance, ensuring their coffee farmers are reaching the highest standard of social and ecological responsibility.

Pros:

  • Get a free mug and a discount with subscription purchases
  • Wide range of blends and flavors
  • Sustainable packaging
  • Coffee pods are Nespresso-compatible

Cons:

  • We’ve noticed that these k-cups are not compatible with newer models of Keurig machines
  • Pods may leak coffee grounds in the machine

PHAs

PHAs (polyhydroxyalkanoates) are a type of naturally biodegrading polyesters that are broken down by microorganisms. While technically a plastic, this material can decompose in soils, oceans, landfills, or backyard composters without any harmful residue left behind.

5. Grind – Home Compostable Coffee Pods

Grind - eco friendly coffee pods
Source: Amazon
  • Material: PHA Polyester
  • BPI standard certified? No
  • Current price: $45.00 per pack of 60 pods ($0.75 per pod)
  • Keurig compatible? No
  • Get this product: Amazon

Another London-based brand, Grind is looking to reshape the coffee industry. Grind invests in small coffee farmers around the world, enabling them to support their farms and invest in their communities.

Their coffee pods come in a reusable tin that can be refilled without wasting excess packaging on refills, and you can save on your purchases by subscribing to a monthly refill. The tins also look great!

Pros:

  • Certified organic
  • Packaging is also at-home compostable and plastic-free
  • They offer discounts to students and people under 26

Cons:

  • Grind is owned by Nestle, which has been known to have detrimental environmental and social impacts around the world
  • K-cups are not currently compatible with Keurig or other common US coffee machines
  • We’ve noticed some of their blends taste a bit watery and are weakly caffeinated

Top Picks

Still can’t make up your mind? Here are our top picks for a few different categories.

Most Affordable: Tayst Coffee Roaster

At $0.72 per pod, Tayst is the most affordable option. It also gives you the option to buy in bulk or subscription for more savings.

Most Variety: Halo

Every coffee-lover is different, which is why it’s important to have enough variety to meet everyone’s needs. Halo has the best range of options, sourcing its beans from all over the world to give you the best flavors and blends.

Best Overall: Tayst Coffee Roaster

Tayst’s eco-friendly k-cups are made with PLA bioplastic and have options that are compatible with most coffee makers. It comes in a wide variety of blends and brews to suit your tastes, all of which are sustainably and ethically sourced.

Tayst partners with multiple green organizations to ensure their coffee has a net-positive impact on the environment, farmers, and coffee drinkers, and their coffee pods are innovatively made with biodegradable plastics that won’t leave lasting impacts.

Coles and Woolworths ordered to dump more than 5,200 tonnes of recycled soft plastic in landfill

Coles and Woolworths ordered to dump more than 5,200 tonnes of recycled soft plastic in landfill

NSW environment officials alert Fire and Rescue over concerns plastic is being stored dangerously following suspension of the REDcycle scheme

File photo of a pile of recyclable plastic trash

Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths have been ordered to dump more than 5,200 tonnes of soft plastic – currently being stored at warehouses across New South Wales – into landfill.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority is concerned that huge amounts of soft plastic are being dangerously stored at 15 locations due to the suspension of botched recycling initiative REDcycle.

REDcycle announced in November that it would pause collections at Woolworths and Coles after reports it was stockpiling plastic rather than recycling it.

The NSW EPA clean-up orders, first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday, were issued on 31 January. The cost of removing the soft plastic is estimated to be $3.5m.

The NSW EPA has asked supermarkets to either dispose of the waste in landfill, reprocess it, or export it internationally. Landfill is the only viable option as other nations are unwilling to accept contaminated soft plastic and that volume of plastic cannot be reprocessed domestically.

Of the 15 locations, 11 are of such a concern that the EPA has notified Fire and Rescue NSW and has requested the operators take immediate action to mitigate risk.

The EPA chief executive, Tony Chappel, said thousands of customers had diligently collected soft plastic and dropped them at local supermarkets because “they trusted their waste would be diverted from landfill and recycled”.

“The extent of soft plastic waste sitting in warehouses across NSW is very concerning and I know customers will be disappointed,” Chappel said.

“These stockpiles are stored from the floor to the ceiling, blocking entryways and preventing adequate ventilation with the soft plastic estimated to fill about three-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

Coles and Woolworths have six days to respond to the EPA’s clean-up orders.

A Woolworths spokesperson said the company was surprised to receive the notice as REDcycle had indicated they had plans to deal with the stockpiles.

A Coles spokesperson said the company was disappointed by the notice and was determined to find “a short-term solution” to allow recycling to return.

Chappel said it was unfortunate the plastic would now be redirected to landfill but “regulatory action had to be taken to protect NSW communities”.

“Our largest retailers have an important role to play in how we continue to reduce plastic waste and we are committed to working together so we can support opportunities and minimise risk,” Chappel said.

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In a statement REDcycle said it remained committed to reinstating its plastics recycling program.

“REDcycle remains committed to continuing our important work and in reinstating our soft plastics recycling program. We have been in intensive roundtable discussions with our industry stakeholders and funding partners to explore a range of long-term and sustainable solutions following the halting of the program late last year due to supply chain disruptions,” it said.

In December, the Victorian EPA found half a billion plastic bags meant to be recycled in at least six warehouses in Victoria, posing potential fire risks.

The 3,000 tonnes of soft plastics were found during an examination of the REDcycle program in Victoria.

Later in December, the Victorian EPA said the operators behind REDcycle, RG Programs and Services, had failed to provide information about the locations of warehouses secretly stockpiling hundreds of millions of bags.

The federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, has previously called on Australia’s two biggest supermarket chains to come up with a “viable solution” after they were forced to hit pause on the recycling scheme.

Last year, REDcycle said the two companies that took the recycled material couldn’t accept any more, with a fire in a factory and “downturns in market demand” blamed.

“Due to several unforeseen challenges exacerbated by the pandemic, REDcycle’s recycling partners have temporarily stopped accepting and processing soft plastics. This combination has put untenable pressure on the REDcycle business model.”

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Swallowed fishing gear and plastic most likely cause of Hawaii whale’s death

Swallowed fishing gear and plastic most likely cause of Hawaii whale’s death

Large volumes of traps, nets and marine debris in sperm whale’s intestinal tract highlight plastic pollution’s threat to wildlife

This photo released by the Hawaii department of land and natural resources shows debris found in a dead sperm whale at Lydgate Beach in Kauai.

A sperm whale that washed ashore in Hawaii over the weekend probably died in part because it ate large volumes of fishing traps, fishing nets, plastic bags and other marine debris, scientists said on Thursday, highlighting the threat to wildlife from the millions of tons of plastic that ends up in oceans every year.

The body of the 56ft (17-meter) long, 120,000-pound (54,000kg) animal was first noticed on a reef off Kauai on Friday. High tide brought it ashore on Saturday.

Kristi West, the director of the University of Hawaii’s Health and Stranding Lab, said there were enough foreign objects in the opening of the whale’s intestinal tract to block food.

“The presence of undigested fish and squid lends further evidence of a blockage,” she said in a news release from the Hawaii department of land and natural resources.

The whale’s stomach contained six hagfish traps, seven types of fishing net, two types of plastic bags, a light protector, fishing line and a float from a net. Researchers also found squid beaks, fish skeletons and remains of other prey in the whale’s stomach.

An excavator attempts to free a whale from the shoreline and move it on to Lydgate Beach in Kauai county, Hawaii, on 28 January.

It is the first known case of a sperm whale in Hawaii waters ingesting discarded fishing gear, West said.

The whale’s stomach was so large West’s team was not able to examine it completely. They suspect there was more material they were unable to recover.

Researchers found nothing wrong with other organs they examined. They collected samples to screen for disease and conduct other follow-up tests.

Sperm whales travel across thousands of miles in the ocean so it is not clear where the debris came from.

Scientists say that more than 35m tons (31.9m tonnes) of plastic pollution is produced on Earth each year and about a quarter of that ends up in the water.

Marine debris harms numerous species.

Some of the plastic debris found in a dead sperm whale at Lydgate Beach.

Seabirds can ingest as much as 8% of their body weight in plastic. Endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles can get caught in plastic nets and die. Sharks and other apex predators eat smaller fish that feed on microplastic, which can then endanger their own health.

In addition to eating plastics, large whales are harmed when they become entangled in fishing gear or other ropes in the ocean. The drag from debris can force whales to use more energy to swim and make it harder for them to eat, causing starvation.

On Tuesday, marine mammal responders freed a humpback whale that was caught in rope, a bundle of gear and two buoys off the Big Island.

Sperm whales are an endangered species found in deep oceans across the world. A 2021 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated there were about 4,500 sperm whales in the waters around the Hawaiian Islands, from the Big Island in the south to Kure Atoll in the north.

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Reusable Boba Cups: 6 Best Alternatives to Plastic Waste

As plastic waste fills our oceans and landfills, many of us are looking for eco-friendly alternatives in every aspect of our day-to-day lives. Environmentally-conscious boba tea lovers are likely aware of the non-recyclable plastic their favorite drink comes in.

The plastic from boba cups sits in landfills for hundreds of years – in the best-case scenario. The straws, plastic wraps, and cups from these drinks can also end up in oceans and waterways, where they breakdown into microplastics that pollute our waterways and harm wildlife.

Switching to reusable boba cups may not seem like it will have a big impact, but our small steps toward plastic-free lifestyles add up quickly. In this article, we’ll look at six alternatives to single-use boba cups that are eco-friendly, long-lasting, and affordable.

Read on to learn how we chose our eco-friendly alternatives, or jump to our recommendations.

Choosing the Best Reusable Boba Cups

While reducing single-use plastic consumption is already a step in the right direction, it’s important to choose alternatives that are sustainable and socially responsible. We kept these factors in mind when selecting our top picks for reusable boba cups.

Alternative Materials

Many reusable boba cups are still made of plastic, which will eventually end up in landfills after the life of the product. Unfortunately, options for reusable boba cups that are entirely plastic-free are currently limited. While many of our choices contain plastic material, these alternatives minimize plastic usage and use long-lasting materials, including:

  • Glass – Glass products can be recycled at the end of a product’s life, and produce far less greenhouse gas emissions in the production process, making it a cleaner alternative to single-use plastic cups.
  • Recyclable plastics – Many reusable cups still use plastics, so our choices are made from material that’s recyclable, made from recycled material, and durable enough to last years.
  • Silicone – While not biodegradable, this durable material is made from sand, minimizing crude oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Cork – Cork is biodegradable and renewable, making it an environmentally-friendly material in reusable cups.
  • Stainless steel – Often used for reusable straws, stainless steel is 100% recyclable and is often sourced from scrap metal. It also produces no toxic runoff in the production process and can be used indefinitely.

These criteria for sustainable materials extend to the lid and the straw of each of our reusable boba cups, which often go overlooked in choosing plastic alternatives.

Safety

Whether single-use or recycled, some plastics contain substances that pose a risk to environmental and human health. Our chosen products are free of chemicals such as:

Social Responsibility

Ethical consumerism is just as important as sustainability. We thoroughly investigated all of our products’ manufacturers to ensure that ethical and sustainable performances were upheld throughout the supply chain.

Quality

The products featured here are not only a standard for sustainability, but quality as well. A key aspect of living sustainably is reducing consumption, and in order to do that you have to choose alternatives that are durable and usable. All of these products are of high-quality design, easy to clean, and long-lasting.

Best Eco-Friendly Boba Tea Cups

Here are our top picks for reusable boba tea cups, organized by material.

Glass Cups

  • 1. Xeiwagoo
  • 2. Hirozaku
  • 3. Retea
  • 4. BobaGO

Tritan Recycled Plastic

  • 5. Dodoko
  • 6. BobaMate

Top Picks

  • Most durable: Dodoko
  • Most affordable: Xeiwagoo
  • Best boba-centric design: Retea
  • Best overall: Retea

Glass Boba Cups

Glass is one of the most sustainable materials available. Made from sand, glass production causes far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than plastic production and can be recycled indefinitely.

1. Xeiwagoo Boba Mason Jar

Xeiwagoo boba mason jar - reusable boba cups
Source: Amazon
  • Materials:
    • Glass jar
    • Stainless steel straw and storage lids
    • Bamboo lid with silicone leak-proof seal
    • Cork sleeve and coaster
  • Volume: 22 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $18.99 for a set of 2 jars
  • Extras: Wooden mixing spoon, straw cleaner, storage lids, absorbent coasters
  • Get this product: Amazon

Xeiwagoo’s glass mason jar-style boba cups are great for both hot and cold drinks, with reusable and easy-to-clean stainless steel straws and bamboo lids. This purchase also comes with storage lids and a wooden spoon for homemade recipes.

The cork sleeve and bamboo lid are both made from sustainable plant-based materials, while the glass jar and stainless steel straws are 100% recyclable.

Pros:

  • Every purchase includes two sets of reusable glass jars, lids, straws, sleeves, and coasters
  • Included are a straw cleaner (great for getting any boba residue out of the straw) and a wooden spoon for mixing homemade boba drinks
  • Glass jars are durable and dishwasher safe

Cons:

  • We noticed that the stainless steel straws are not angled at the ends, making it difficult to pick up boba pearls at the bottom of the container
  • These jars may not be 100% leak-proof, as the lid’s straw opening leaves room for spillage

2. Hirozaku Boba Cup

Hirozaku reusable boba cups
Source: Melissa/Amazon
  • Materials:
    • Borosilicate glass jar
    • Stainless steel straw
    • Bamboo lid with silicone leak-proof seal
    • Neoprene sleeve
  • Volume: 24 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $25.99
  • Extras: Neoprene sleeve and straw cleaner
  • Get this product: Amazon

The sleek design of the Hirozaku boba cup makes this product easy to transport and store. While the neoprene sleeve is made of synthetic material that’s not 100% eco-friendly, it helps maintain temperature control of both hot and cold drinks. 

The borosilicate glass is designed to be durable in the case of dropping the container, and also against temperature changes. Traditional glass can be susceptible to breakage from thermal shock, making them unsafe for dishwashers, hot drinks, or freezer storage, while borosilicate glass can withstand extreme temperature changes.

We love that this glass is tall and thin, making it easy to carry with one hand or pop into a car’s cup holder while you’re on the go.

Pros:

  • Highly durable material that can withstand being dropped and can hold hot and cold drinks
  • The neoprene sleeve is designed to keep drinks chilled and comes with a carrying strap for easy transportation

Cons:

  • The stainless steel straw may be too narrow for larger boba pearls and is not angled, making it difficult to pick up pearls
  • Slightly more expensive than other options

3. Retea Reusable Boba Tea Cup

Retea reusable boba cups
Source: Etsy
  • Materials:
    • Glass jar
    • Stainless steel straw
    • Plastic lid with silicone seal
  • Volume: 23 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $17 USD
  • Extras: Straw cleaner and travel pouch ($4 USD add-on purchase)
  • Get this product: Retea

Retea is a women-owned company that has made it their mission to make boba tea drinks more accessible, affordable, and sustainable. In an effort to minimize their environmental and social impacts, Retea has close communication with their suppliers, asking them to minimize plastic packaging and reuse materials as much as possible. They also sell imperfect materials at a discounted price, instead of sending faulty products to the landfill.

They’ve also partnered with several environmental organizations to offset their carbon emissions, minimize plastic waste, and clean up oceanic plastic.

Want to start making boba drinks at home? Retea also offers a wide selection of at-home bubble tea, coffee, and smoothie kits, with vegan options!

Pros:

  • These cups are dishwasher safe!
  • Every order removes 1 lb of trash from the oceans in Retea’s partnership with TeamSeas
  • Sustainable packaging made with 100% recyclable material and minimized plastic
  • The supply chain is localized in Toronto in partnerships with small local businesses, resulting in more efficient shipping and fewer emissions
  • Retea partakes in carbon emission offsets by donating to Tri-City Forest, which captures 100,000 metric tons of carbon each year and protects 6,500 acres of forest in Canada
  • Straws are angled to pick up boba pearls, and come in a variety of colors. The straws also come with a carrying pouch and a brush to keep them clean

Cons:

  • Lid is made of plastic instead of sustainable or biodegradable material
  • Products ship only to Canada and US
  • We noticed that without a carrying sleeve on the outside, the glass cup can get quite hot with hot drinks, and can get slippery with condensation for cold ones

4. BobaGO Glass Boba Cup

BobaGO glass boba cup - reusable boba cups
Source: Kate/Amazon
  • Materials:
    • Glass jar
    • Stainless steel straw and lid
    • Silicone sleeve and portable plug
  • Volume: 17 Oz
  • Current price: Not currently available
  • Extras: Straw cleaner with travel pouch and at-home recipe book
  • Get this product: Amazon

BobaGO’s reusable glass boba cups come with a recipe book for homemade boba tea, giving you the option for at-home boba drinks. The glass jars come with a sticker of their boba mascot, and the lids come in black and pink options.

We love this cup’s fun and colorful straw, and we noticed that the silicone plug does a pretty good job of avoiding leaks. Just be careful when you put the cup into the dishwasher, as the silicone washer that protects the hole for the straw can come off and get lost.

Pros:

  • Materials of the cup are plastic-free
  • Angled straw with wide diameter for picking up boba pearls
  • Lid screws on for a tight seal

Cons:

  • Glass is not durable enough for hot or boiling drinks.
  • Excessive packaging that uses more plastic than necessary
  • Sticker accessory is likely to come off in the dishwasher
  • Comparatively smaller than other options at 17 OZ

Tritan (Recycled Plastic) Boba Cups

Tritan is a type of recyclable plastic made from 50% recycled plastics and is certified BPA-free. It has the look and feel of glass, but is far more resistant to shattering and heat damage than traditional glassware.

While Tritan is still a non-biodegradable plastic, it does not release microplastics or harmful chemicals as typical plastic bottles do.

5. Dodoko Shatterproof Tritan Boba Cup

Dodoko Shatterproof Tritan Boba Cup -reusable boba cups
Source: Luma/Amazon
  • Materials:
    • Tritan cup
    • Stainless steel collapsable straw 
    • Polypropylene plastic lid
    • Silicone plug
    • Cork sleeve
  • Volume: 24 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $21.98
  • Extras: Straw cleaner and travel pouch
  • Get this product: Amazon

Dodoko’s Shatterproof Boba Cup is made of Tritan plastic, giving it the look and feel of glass while being far more durable. The Tritan cup and Polypropylene lid are both BPA-free, though still made of non-biodegradable plastic.

The silicone plug makes it transportable, and the lid is specifically designed to be completely spill-proof. We noticed that even though these straws aren’t angled at the bottom, it’s still fairly easy to get the boba pearls from the bottom of the cup. 

Pros:

  • Dodoko offers options for carbon offsets through tree plantings
  • Lids come in a variety of colors
  • Collapsible straw for easy storage
  • Far more leak-proof than other options

Cons:

  • Minimal information is given on tree plantings and carbon offsets
  • Materials are durable and recyclable, but still result in high carbon emissions from plastic production

This cup is also available on the Dodoko website. You can also find a stainless steel version, which is slightly more eco-friendly, but harder to use because it’s not see-through.

6. BobaMate Bottle

BobaMate Bottle - reusable boba cups
Source: Kimberly/Amazon
  • Materials:
    • Tritan cup
    • Plastic straw and cap
  • Volume: 25 Oz
  • BPA Free? Yes
  • Current price: $39.99
  • Extras: Straw cleaner
  • Get this product: Amazon

The BobaMate is a versatile boba cup that is designed to fit any number of drinks, both hot and iced. The carrying strap and cap lock make it easy to transport, and the Tritan plastic bottle makes it shatter-resistant and long-lasting. We noticed that this is easily the most leak-proof bottle on our top picks, although the top is a bit more difficult to drink from than others. 

Unlike our other picks, BobaMate uses a plastic straw. While still reusable and easy to clean, this material might not be as long-lasting as other stainless steel options, and is far less sustainable.

Pros:

  • Ships with recyclable and biodegradable packaging
  • Comes in a variety of colors and styles
  • The bottle is versatile and can be used for hot and cold drinks

Cons:

  • The plastic straw is removable but cannot move, making it difficult to pick up boba pearls
  • The mouthpiece is built into the cap and may be difficult to clean as a result
  • The cup is durable and recyclable, but still produces high carbon emissions from plastic production
  • More expensive than other options

You can also buy this reusable boba cup on the BobaMate website.

Top Picks

With so many options for reusable boba cups, it can be hard to decide which is right for you. Here are our top choices for a few different categories.

Most Durable: Dodoko Shatterproof Tritan Cup

While several of our picks use Tritan plastic, Dodoko’s Shatterproof cup is specifically designed to withstand breakage from being dropped or exposed to high temperatures. These cups use polypropylene lids for extra durability and use a tough stainless steel straw.

Most Affordable: Xeiwagoo Boba Mason Jars

Coming at two for the price of one, Xeiwagoo’s Boba Mason Jars are far less expensive than any other option and give you more bang for your buck, with a wooden mixing spoon, absorbent coasters, and two sets of boba cups.

Best Boba-Centric Design: Retea Reusable Boba Tea Cup

Retea is specifically designed with boba in mind, with an angled straw that allows for 360° movement to pick up every last pearl.

Best Overall: Retea Reusable Boba Tea Cup

The Retea Reusable Boba Tea Cup is durable, affordable, and made with sustainable efforts. This company has partnered with multiple environmentally-focused organizations in an effort to curb their carbon emissions, reduce plastic waste, and boost local businesses. As an added bonus, Retea offers a wide variety of boba tea recipes for at-home drinks!

Microplastics are filling the skies. Will they affect the climate?

Recent studies reveal that tiny pieces of plastic are constantly lofted into the atmosphere. These particles can travel thousands of miles and affect the formation of clouds, which means they have the potential to impact temperature, rainfall, and even climate change.

Plastic has become an obvious pollutant over recent decades, choking turtles and seabirds, clogging up our landfills and waterways. But in just the past few years, a less-obvious problem has emerged. Researchers are starting to get concerned about how tiny bits of plastic in the air, lofted into the skies from seafoam bubbles or spinning tires on the highway, might potentially change our future climate.

“Here’s something that people just didn’t think about — another aspect of plastic pollution,” says environmental analytical chemist Denise Mitrano of ETH Zürich University, in Switzerland, who co-wrote an article last November highlighting what researchers know — and don’t yet know — about how plastics can change clouds, potentially altering temperature and rainfall patterns.

Clouds form when water or ice condenses on “seeds” in the air: usually tiny particles of dust, salt, sand, soot, or other material thrown up by burning fossil fuels, forest fires, cooking, or volcanoes. There are plenty of these fine particles, or aerosols, in the skies — a lot more since the Industrial Revolution — and they affect everything from the quality of the air we breath, to the color of sunsets, to the number and type of clouds in our skies.

In 2019, researchers found microplastics in the Pyrenees that had arrived via rain or snowfall.

Until recently, when chemists thought of the gunk in our air, plastics did not leap to mind. Concentrations were low, they thought, and plastic is often designed to be water repellent for applications like bags or clothing, which presumably made them unlikely to seed cloud droplets. But in recent years, studies have confirmed not only that microscopic pieces of plastic can seed clouds — sometimes powerfully — but they also travel thousands of miles from their source. And there are a lot more particles in the air than scientists originally thought. All this has opened researchers’ eyes to their potential contribution to atmospheric murk — and, possibly, to future climate change.

“The people who invented plastics all those decades ago, who were very proud of inventions that transformed society in many ways — I doubt they envisaged that plastics were going to end up floating around in the atmosphere and potentially influencing the global climate system,” says Laura Revell, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. “We are still learning what the impacts are for humans, ecosystems, and climate. But certainly, from what we know so far, it doesn’t look good.”


Global annual production of plastics has skyrocketed from 2 million tons in 1950 to more than 450 million tons today. And despite growing concerns about this waste accumulating in the environment, production is ramping up rather than slowing down — some oil companies are building up their plastic production capacity as the demand for fossil fuel declines. To date, more than 9 billion tons of plastic has been produced, and about half of it has gone to landfills or been otherwise discarded. Some project that by 2025, 11 billion tons of plastic will have accumulated in the environment.

Plastic has been found in soils, water, crops, and on the ocean floor. And in recent years, several studies have suggested that microplastics (pieces less than 5 millimeters in length) and nanoplastics (smaller than approximately 100 nanometers) were being transported long distances through the air. In 2019, for example, researchers found microplastics in the Pyrenees that had arrived via rain or snowfall. In 2020, Janice Brahney of Utah State University and four coauthors published a high-profile Science paper revealing high amounts of plastic in federally protected areas of the United States. Brahney had found the plastic by accident; she had been looking for phosphorus, but was surprised by all the colorful bits of gunk in her ground-based filters. Her study led to a slew of headlines warning, “It’s raining plastic.”

Brahney’s extensive U.S. dataset also opened the door for modelers to figure out where, exactly, all this plastic was coming from. “It’s a really beautiful data set,” says Cornell University’s Natalie Mahowald, who did the modeling work.

Mahowald took the plastic concentrations Brahney had cataloged and mapped them against atmospheric patterns and known sources of plastics, including roads, agricultural dust, and oceans. On roadways, tires and brakes hurl microplastics into the air. Plastic winds up in agricultural dust, notes Mahowald, in part from plastics used on farm fields and in part because people toss fleece clothing into washing machines: the wastewater flows to treatment plants that separate solids from liquids, and about half the resulting biosolids get sent to farms for use as fertilizer. As for the ocean, Mahowald says, big globs of plastic in places like the Pacific Gyre degrade into microscopic pieces, which then float to the surface and are whipped up into the air by chopping waters and bursting air bubbles.

Plastic bits are now found in human lungs. “We’re definitely breathing them right now,” says a scientist.

Mahowald’s model concluded that over the western U.S., 84 percent of microplastics were coming from roads, 5 percent from agricultural dust, and 11 percent from the oceans. Plastic is so lightweight that even chunks tens of micrometers across — the width of a human hair — can be lofted and blown great distances. The model revealed that some of this plastic was found thousands of miles from its presumed source. The smaller the pieces, the longer they can stay aloft.

While individual bits of plastic may stay in the air for only hours, days, or weeks, there’s so much being kicked up so consistently that there’s always some in the air: enough that plastic bits are now also found in human lungs. “We’re definitely breathing them right now,” says Mahowald.

Working out exactly how much plastic is in our skies is extremely difficult. Most of these studies are done by painstakingly teasing bits of plastic out of filters and examining them under a microscope to get an estimate of shape and color, then using spectroscopic techniques to confirm their source material. The smaller the pieces, the harder they are to identify. Studies can also be plagued by contamination: walking into a lab wearing a fleece sweater, for example, can skew results with shedding plastic microfibers.

Nearly a dozen studies have shown airborne microplastic concentrations ranging from between 0.01 particles per cubic meter over the western Pacific Ocean to several thousand particles per cubic meter in London and Beijing. The cities showing higher levels are probably genuinely more polluted, says Revell, but it’s also true that those studies used a more-sensitive technique that could identify smaller bits of plastic (under 10 micrometers in size). The other studies would have missed such smaller pieces, which made up about half the plastic found in the London and Beijing studies.

Microplastic particles.

Microplastic particles.
a-ts / Alamy Stock Photo

Concentrations of airborne nanoplastics are understood even less. The numbers floating around today, says atmospheric chemist Zamin Kanji, Mitrano’s colleague at ETH Zürich, are likely to be “significantly underestimated.”

For now, the proportion of plastics to total airborne aerosols is tiny, so plastics aren’t contributing much to aerosol climate impacts, says Mahowald. Even in London and Beijing, plastic may account for only a millionth of the total aerosols. But plastic production, and the accumulation of plastic in the environment, keeps going up. Says Mahowald, “It’s only going to get worse.”

That’s especially true in less polluted regions — like over the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, Kanji says. Since plastic can likely travel farther than other, denser aerosols, it could become a dominant airborne pollutant in more pristine areas. Brahney and Mahowald’s paper concludes that plastic currently makes up less than 1 percent of anthropogenic aerosols landing on the ground but they could, “alarmingly,” make up more than 50 percent of the aerosols landing on some parts of the ocean downwind from plastic sources.

Exactly how aerosols affect climate has been a critical sticking point in climate models, and many of the details are still unknown. Different aerosols can change the climate by either reflecting or absorbing sunlight, which can depend, in part, on their color. Black soot, for example, tends to have a warming effect, while salt reflects and cools. Aerosols can land on the ground and change the albedo, or reflectivity, of ice and snow.

In the lab, preliminary tests show that battered plastic pieces can be potent cloudmakers.

Aerosols also affect cloud formation: different bits and pieces can seed more and smaller droplets of water or ice, making for different types of clouds at different elevations that last for different amounts of time. High-altitude, thin, icy clouds tend to warm the Earth’s surface like a blanket, while low-altitude, bright and fluffy clouds tend to reflect sunlight and cool the Earth.

Though tiny, aerosols have an oversized influence on climate. The murk of anthropogenic aerosols in the sky has, overall, had a dramatic cooling effect since the Industrial Revolution (without them, global warming would be 30 to 50 percent greater than it is today). And they have more sway on extreme weather than greenhouse gases do: a world warmed by removing aerosols would have more floods and droughts, for example, than a world warmed the same amount by CO2.

Revell and her colleagues took a stab at trying to model how microplastics might affect temperature by either reflecting or absorbing sunlight, a calculation of what’s known as “radiative forcing.” For simplicity’s sake, they assumed that plastic is always clear, even though that’s not true (and darker material tends to absorb more sunlight), and that the global concentration is uniformly one particle per cubic meter, which is on the order of 1,000 times lower than concentrations measured in, say, London.

With those assumptions, Revell found that plastic’s direct impact on radiative forcing is “so small as to be insignificant.” But, importantly, if concentrations reach 100 particles per cubic meter (which they already have in many spots), plastics could have about the same magnitude of radiative forcing as some aerosols already included in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments. In other words, plastics become noteworthy. But whether they would warm, or cool, the Earth is unknown.

Sources of airborne microplastics in the western U.S.

Sources of airborne microplastics in the western U.S.
Brahney et al.

Aerosols often have a greater impact on the climate through their influence on clouds. Pristine plastic beads, Kanji notes, repel water and so are unlikely to affect clouds. But plastic can “age” in a matter of hours, says Kanji, during its transit to the sky: it can be abraded, or it can accumulate salt from the ocean and other chemicals from the atmosphere, all of which can make the particles more water-loving. Plastic pieces can also contain nooks and crannies, which aid in the formation of ice.

In the lab, Kanji’s student Omar Girlanda has run preliminary tests showing that under such battered conditions, plastic pieces can be potent cloudmakers. “Some of them are as good as mineral dust particles,” says Kanji, “which is the most well-known, effective ice nucleus out there.”

Kanji says skies heavily polluted with plastic will probably make both more high-altitude ice clouds, which tend to warm the Earth’s surface, and more low-altitude water clouds, which tend to cool the Earth. Which effect will dominate is unknown. “It doesn’t make sense to model it at the moment, given the poor estimates we have of [atmospheric] plastic,” says Kanji. Plastic could also affect precipitation patterns: in general, Kanji says, clouds that are more polluted tend to last longer before bursting into rain than do less polluted clouds, and then they rain more heavily.

Revell and her colleagues are now whittling down the assumptions in their paper, working out more detailed calculations for more realistic estimates of plastic concentrations, colors, and sizes. “All we know is that the problem is not going to go away anytime soon,” she says. “These plastics are incredibly long lived. They’re breaking down, and they’re going to be forming new microplastics for centuries. We just don’t know how big the problem is that we’ve committed ourselves to.”

Nets, plastic, underwater crime

We’ve all seen them. Images of countless turtles, whales, dolphins, sharks, and seals, dead and entangled in abandoned fish nets. The ocean is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for its inhabitants. And not because of the ‘eat or be eaten’ laws of nature – but because just by nature of being a creature that swims, you’re likely to eat plastic that may kill or maim you, or end up trapped and entangled in a net, left to struggle in an unnatural death until you starve, suffocate, or become prey.

It’s one thing to talk about statistics and science, but the violence, pain and suffering our throwaway plastic culture has caused is something that can’t be measured in numbers.

The ocean has become a crime scene. Currently, there are an estimated 50-75 trillion pieces of plastic and microplastics in the ocean. The plastic either ends up forming giant garbage patches, or breaking down into microplastics.

Plastic waste makes up 80% of all marine pollution and an estimated 8-10 million metric tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year. If current trends continue, by 2050, plastic is expected to outweigh all fish in the sea.

Imagine going for a seaside holiday and swimming in an ocean of plastic? Imagine a sea devoid of life – the magnificent underwater world destroyed because we treated the ocean like a giant garbage dump?

In just the last decade, humanity produced more plastic than it did in the last century. In most supermarkets, fruit and vegetables are wrapped in single-use plastic packaging, but every piece of single-use plastic takes between 500 -1,000 years to degrade. And when it degrades, it does not decompose, it becomes microplastics which are poisonous to animals and humans.

The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that 100% of all plastics human beings have created still exist.

One of the most harmful types of marine plastic debris is abandoned, lost, discarded fishing gear. About 640 thousand tons of fishing equipment get dumped into the ocean each year, not only entrapping marine life, according to researchers from the WUN Global Research Group, “there is chemical contamination with disruptive effects on marine species. As a result, human health is also impacted, with marine litter serving as a vehicle for diseases that contaminate the food chain.

“The problem is more visible in Asian countries like Taiwan, which has one of the world’s largest fishing fleets. In Taiwan, an average of 12.7 m3 of marine litter accumulates per kilometer along the coastline, 70% of which is caused by fishing gear.”

Each year, an estimated 100,000 sea animals are killed by plastic, around 90% of seabirds have eaten plastic, and one in every three sea turtles.

In a study that examined how to stop fishing gears from turning into ocean waste, scientists recommend not only better monitoring and managing of data on fishing gear waste streams by governments, but also regular meetings between stakeholders including the fishery sector, government agencies and non-governmental organisations to share knowledge and work towards implementing solutions for more sustainable fisheries.

Ocean plastic removal initiatives range from The Ocean Clean up, which aims to remove 90% of the plastic in the ocean both by scaling solutions to remove debris from the ocean and to intercept plastic in rivers before it reaches the ocean.

1% of the world’s rivers – 1,000 rivers – are responsible for 80% of the plastic that flows into the oceans, so stopping plastic trash has to start with cleaning up rivers.

Ocean plastic removal initiatives like non-profit organisation The Ocean Clean up have developed a range of interceptor solutions to tackle the plastic trash in rivers, from building a simple ‘trash fence’ across a river to high-tech, solar powered filtration systems. The Ocean Clean up has removed an impressive 2 million kilos of trash so far.

A sailor and surfer led Dutch startup created a low-cost, low-tech solution for stopping plastic trash from entering the oceans. The Great Bubble Barrier’s (GBB) beauty is in its simplicity: a perforated tube is embedded on riverbeds, creating a curtain of bubbles which gently nudges waste to the riverbank where it can be collected.

Ichthion was first developed at London’s Imperial College. The company has developed three types of technologies to remove plastics from rivers and oceans: a barrier for plastic capture in rivers, a plastic extraction system for marine environments, and a technology which can be retrofitted to large ships for plastic removal.

River Cleaning designed a diagonal line of floating rotating cog-type devices that pass the waste along the chain until it reaches a storage area by the river bank. This ingenious technique uses the flow of water in the river to spin the cogs – so no power is required.

And while upscaling ocean clean up solutions is urgently needed in coming years, the challenge remains to tackle the problem at its root cause.

Searious Business helps companies adapt their plastic packaging towards more sustainable supply chains and business models, while innovative startups like Apeel and Geno are bringing plant-based alternatives to plastic to disrupt plastic packaging and the plastic-based fast fashion industries.

The movement to include rescuing the ocean as part of our global efforts to tackle climate action is growing. Leaders from Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal have joined forces to form the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy to accelerate ocean protection in policy, governance and finance. The ocean as we know it is a ticking time bomb – an accumulating trap of debris and toxins that are being carried into and poisoning the food chain. But hope stems from the growing awareness and accountability for how human survival depends on our ability to care for and protect the natural world.

Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia do little to solve waste problem

PRIBOJ, Serbia (AP) — In southwest Serbia, construction machines are being repurposed to clear tons of waste clogging the Potpec lake.

Year after year during the winter months, the lake near the southwest Serbian town of Priboj fills with tons of garbage such as plastic bottles, rusty barrels, dead animals and even furniture or home appliances.

That’s because the Lim river feeding into the lake swells during the winter months and sweeps up trash from dozens of illegal landfills along its banks, as it flows from Montenegro to Serbia.

It’s much the same in neighboring Bosnia’s Drina river into which the Lim eventually flows. The problem spans decades and stems from poor waste management and a general lack of environmental protection safeguards across the Balkans.

Workers clearing the garbage with small cranes at the Potpec lake this week said the machines often break down because there is simply too much trash. Moreover, the cranes just weren’t designed to pick up large chunks of wood or heavy washing machines from the water.

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“You would not believe the things people throw into the river,” said Milan Visic, a tugboat pilot. “It is in fact much better now than it was before because we cleaned up a lot.”

The workers say they have collected some 10,000 cubic meters (more than 353,000 cubic feet) of waste since early December. But their job is far from over as much more garbage remains piled up in the lake. .

Officials from Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro have on several occasions pledged to work together to solve the problem affecting their shared rivers but little has been done in reality.

All three countries are aspiring to join the European Union and are expected to do more for to protect their environment if their accession bids are to move forward. Another pressing issue is the extremely high level of air pollution affecting a number of cities in the region.

The garbage problem is evident everywhere – piles of waste dot hills and valleys, trash lines roads and plastic bags twist from tree branches. Compounding the problem is that collected trash is simply dumped in a landfill and recyclables are hardly ever seperated.

Environmental activists say tough action is needed now.

“For a start, heavy fines should be slapped,” for throwing waste around, said Sinisa Lakovic of the local Jastreb group.

Michigan announces first settlement of 2020 PFAS litigation

Michigan has reached its first settlement in a series of lawsuits over PFAS contamination.

PFAS are a group of chemicals known for the long time they take to break down. Some kinds have been linked to certain cancers.

Under the agreement announced Monday, the plastics company Asahi Kasei Plastics North America (APNA) will have to pay for the full cost of cleanup in Livingston County. Those could total in the millions.

It will also have to pay for the state’s legal fees.

During a media briefing, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said she hopes this settlement will lead other companies to follow suit.

“It’s a really simple policy. You made the mess, you clean it up. The end. That’s what we’re looking for,” Nessel said.

Two of the state’s PFAS litigation cases remain pending in state court while others, including lawsuits against 3M and DuPont have been wrapped up in multi-district litigation.

Nessel told reporters Asahi Kasei’s case became separate because the company wanted to settle.

When asked for a comment, an APNA spokesperson pointed to the company’s partnership with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy outlined in the consent degree.

“Our President and Chief Operating Officer, Todd Glogovsky, would like to stress that APNA is a proud Michigan employer with deep ties to the local community. We are committed to protecting and preserving our State’s environment and acting as a responsible corporation and member of the community,” the spokesperson said in an email.

The extent of possible contamination within Livingston County is unknown. It will be Asahi Kasei’s responsibility under the settlement to pay for the costs of investigation.

Michigan Assistant Attorney General Polly Synk said she’s not sure how long it will take the state resolve the issue. She estimated it probably will take longer than “a couple months,” but she doesn’t anticipate it stretching endless years.”

“This is an area where EGLE knows the groundwater, they know the depth of groundwater, they know the flow, so there’s a lot known. But once you find it, these are forever chemicals so sometimes treatment can take a long time, even when once you have a handle on the situation,” Synk said.

Some environmental groups are celebrating the agreement as a milestone in the fight against PFAS contamination.

Tony Spaniola co-chairs the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network. He said he’s most encouraged by the state’s commitment to bring PFAS cases to trial if need be.

“It’s like saying, ‘You know what? We have a police force that’s actually going to enforce the law.’ And so, we ought to all be feeling a little safer because of that. That doesn’t mean that we’re all set and we’re out of the woods because there’s a whole bunch of other lawsuits going on,” Spaniola said.

He said another main piece of the settlement he believes should get more attention is that affected community members get to weigh in on Asahi Kasei’s remediation action plan.

Spaniola stressed Michigan needs to address statute-of-limitations laws that prevent some affected communities from pursuing polluters in court. He also said the state should strengthen its polluter-pay laws as well.