Dorset drone survey finds 123,000 bits of litter dropped in one week

What a rubbish view! Drone survey of Dorset coast finds more than 1.5 TONNES of litter including glass bottles, wet wipes and cigarette butts dropped in just ONE weekDrones found over 123,000 litter items in Bournemouth, Christchurch and PooleThe AI-powered tech scoured the skies over seven days during May bank holidayBCP Council is rolling out fun initiatives to encourage the public to bin their litterThese include glow-in-the-dark bins, ‘ballot bins’ and the world’s first ‘disco bin’By Jonathan Chadwick For Mailonline Published: 10:25 EDT, 24 June 2021 | Updated: 10:28 EDT, 24 June 2021

Groups Renewing Call For Plastics Ban In National Park System

Groups are renewing a call for the National Park Service to ban disposable plastic bottles in the park system/Kurt Repanshek fileThe change of administrations in Washington, D.C., has led to a renewed call for a ban on disposable plastic bottles in the National Park System, along with a commitment from the agency that plastic wastes in the parks be reduced by 75 percent over the next five years.While the Obama administration allowed individual parks to ban sales of the disposable bottles, the Trump administration reversed that move, with then-acting National Park Service Director Michael Reynolds saying “it should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park, particularly during hot summer visitation periods.”This week Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, GreenLatinos, and Beyond Plastics launched a campaign to prompt the Park Service to renew the ban and work toward a larger effort to reduce plastic wastes in parks. The campaign also includes a petition for the general public to sign on in support of the ban.According to the groups, plastic bottles are the single biggest component of park waste streams. Yellowstone National Park staff and others “estimate that plastic bottles constitute fully half of its entire trash load,” the groups said.”Besides the cost of hauling that trash away, the volume of plastic bottles sold in parks consumes large amounts of energy and adds to the carbon footprint of park operations,” they added. “In addition, parks are contributors to the growing plague of plastic pollution afflicting the planet.”More than 2 million pounds of microplastics, the equivalent of 123 million plastic bottles, settle on national parks and other public lands in the West each year, adding to the growing pollution loads these protected areas carry, according to a 2020 study released by Utah State University researchers. During the fall of 2019, a U.S. Geological Survey report cited microscopic plastic particles found in high-country lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. While Gregory Wetherbee was studying nitrogen pollution in the park, he found that more than 90 percent of his samples contained colorful plastic particles. Some turned up in a lake above 10,300 feet in elevation.During the Obama administration, nearly two dozen parks, including Grand Canyon and Zion, barred sales of plastic water bottles. A Park Service study released in 2017 claimed the ban prevented upwards of 2 million 16-ounce bottles from entering the waste stream on an annual basis.Using an environmental benefits tool crafted in part from peer-reviewed calculations used by the Environmental Protection Agency and data from the National Association for PET Container Resources used to “promote the use of PET and facilitate its recycling,” the Park Service concluded that the 23 parks were responsible for removing 1.32 million-2.01 million 16-ounce bottles from the waste stream. That, in turn, cut between 73,624-111,743 pounds of PET from landfills, resulted in energy savings of 2,209-3,353 million British thermal units per year, and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 93-141 metric tons, the report stated.”As parks continue to implement their (bottle bans), these numbers and the resulting environmental benefits are expected to grow,” the report said.According to PEER officials, the bans were opposed by the International Bottled Water Association, led by Coca Cola, the maker of Dasani bottled water.  “The plastics industry has been dictating park policies for too long,” said PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse. “The conservation mandate for national parks should extend through all their operations, including their concessions.”Besides implementing a system-wide ban on single-use plastic water bottles, the rule would reinstitute a goal of reducing plastic usage throughout the park system by 75 percent in the next five years. A similar goal had been draft policy for the National Park Service but had been dropped after hefty charitable donations by Coca Cola, the groups maintained. The proposed rule also requires parks to post their annual assessment of the size, composition, and costs of their waste streams. “President Biden has declared that combatting climate change and addressing environmental justice should be a government-wide priority,” said Mark Magaña, the founding president & CEO of GreenLatinos, an active comunidad of Latino/a/x environmental and conservation champions. “If the federal government hopes to go ‘green,’ a realistic first step and one of the most important places to start is with our national parks.”“I urge the Biden Administration to review the petition and direct the National Park Service to prevent the sale of single-use plastic bottles at their facilities,” said Judith Enck, former EPA Regional Administrator and President of Beyond Plastics. “Single-use plastic bottles pose an unnecessary threat to our National Parks, our environment, and our health.”

Drones are helping to clean up the world's plastic pollution

The problem is so far-reaching it’s hard to know where to start cleaning it up. But UK-based startup Ellipsis Earth believes it can help. Using drones fitted with cameras, Ellipsis maps the location of plastic pollution. Through computer software and image recognition, it’s then able to identify the type of plastic, its size, and in some cases, even the brand or origin of the trash. This data can be used to inform solutions.Ellipsis uses image recognition software to map trash. (courtesy Ellipsis Earth Ltd)”We would be able to find out that ‘Beach X’ has a ton of fishing nets and discarded lobster traps, whereas ‘Beach Y’ has a ton of hygiene and sanitation wet wipes,” says Ellie Mackay, Ellipsis founder and CEO. For the Beach X scenario, “we need to speak to the fishing industry and get some regulation around dumping of ghost nets,” she tells CNN. Whereas for Beach Y, “it’s about educating people not to flush things down the toilet and speaking to local sewage outlets.”The technology allows Ellipsis to carry out a survey in a matter of minutes — much faster than the typical method on foot. Mapping the worldThe startup, which was officially founded in 2019 following several years of research and development, has undertaken projects all over the world — from the UK coastline to the banks of the Ganges river in India. The project that hit home most for Mackay was in the Galapagos Islands, roughly 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador. “There are coastlines there that have not changed since [Charles] Darwin set foot on those beaches, all those years ago,” she says. “The only difference — the only evidence that man exists — is in the plastic all over the beaches.”Data gathered by Ellipsis in 2017 and 2018 found that on one of the most remote beaches in the area, you are never more than 43 centimeters (17 inches) away from a piece of trash, says Mackay. But such shocking data has led to action. Since the Ellipsis baseline survey, Mackay says that Galapagos authorities have introduced a ban on single-use plastics, including Styrofoam takeaway containers and plastic bags, across the archipelago. While the majority of plastic that washes up on the islands’ shores comes from elsewhere (most of the islands are uninhabited and the population is only around 25,000), the ban extends to tourists and service providers. Another Ellipsis project based in Sorrento, Italy, surveyed cigarette butt littering, leading to an education campaign and more strategic placement of bins and ashtrays across the town. According to Ellipsis, the campaign has resulted in a 70% reduction in cigarette littering.Meanwhile, the startup’s ongoing project in Bournemouth, UK, will inform the local council of trash hotspots, so that it can provide extra bins or alter street cleaning schedules. Richard Thompson, professor of marine biology and director of the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth in the UK, says that this solution-based approach to gathering data is vital.While there is plenty of evidence to prove that plastic pollution exists worldwide, there is still a lack of targeted data that can be used to inform effective solutions, he says.Tech evolutionThe use of aerial imagery to map plastic pollution is not new. Thompson recalls a time before drones, when scientists experimented with sending up balloons with cameras attached to take aerial photos of beaches. More recently, the European Space Agency used satellites to identify plastic pollution. “But what’s happening here is that the technology for drones and also the image resolution has improved quite substantially over time, making it much more viable,” says Thompson.Mackay agrees. “Drones are a game changer for environmental monitoring. They allow us to survey an entire stretch of coastline … in a few minutes,” she says, adding that Ellipsis technology can automatically detect 47 categories of trash items with more than 95% accuracy.However, there are limits to what the Ellipsis technology can detect. Microplastics — plastic particles smaller than five millimeters, of which at least 14 million metric tons are estimated to be sitting on the ocean floor alone — cannot be identified.But Mackay argues that by focusing on tracking and mapping larger plastic items they are helping to solve the problem at its root. “If you collect one plastic bottle, that’s 25,000 potential microplastic pieces in the future,” she says. Thompson believes this is the right approach. He says the majority of plastic entering the ocean is in the form of bigger waste items that later break down. “That’s really the place where you want to intervene and the place where you want the data. It’s far simpler to count and identify the microplastics of the future,” he says, adding that different techniques will be required to quantify plastic particles — such as microbeads from cosmetics — that are already small when they enter the environment.Ultimately, Mackay’s goal is not to stop the use of plastic altogether — she recognizes what an “amazing” and useful material it is — but rather to improve management of it. “By mapping trash around the world, we’ll be able to target our solutions effectively,” she says, creating a “lasting impact through behavior change and education, (so) that we’ll be able to minimize the amount of mismanaged waste.”#video_1606835203041{margin:20px 0;}#video_1606835203041 video,#video_1606835203041 img{margin: 0; position: relative; width: 100%;}.cap_1606835203041{-webkit-font-smoothing:antialiased;padding:0 0 5px 5px; font-size:16px; color:#595959;}.cap_1606835203041:before{content:””;display: block;height: 1px;margin-top: 10px;margin-bottom: 10px;width: 80px;background-color: #C5C5C5;}.cap_1606835203041 >span{color:#C5C5C5;}@media(orientation:landscape){.video_1606835203041{display:block;}.Mvideo_1606835203041{display:none;}}@media(orientation:portrait){.Mvideo_1606835203041{display:block;}.video_1606835203041{display:none;}}

Lego develops first bricks made from recycled plastic bottles

Lego has unveiled its first bricks made from recycled plastic bottles and revealed that it hopes to include the pieces in sets within two years. The Danish company, which takes its name from the Danish words for “leg godt”, meaning “play well”, makes billions of bricks a year, most of them from a plastic called …

The plastics you throw away are poisoning the world's eggs

Eggs eaten by some of the world’s poorest people are being poisoned by plastic waste from rich countries like Canada and the U.S., new research has found. A suite of harmful chemicals are added to plastic and food packaging to give them desirable traits, like grease resistance or flexibility. When they burn or break down, these chemicals contaminate the surrounding environment and animals living or feeding nearby.Chickens can absorb the chemicals by drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated worms and insects. Eggs are particularly sensitive to containing toxic chemicals and are commonly consumed by people, according to the report produced by the International Pollutant Elimination Network (IPEN), a global coalition of environmental organizations. Get top stories in your inbox.Our award-winning journalists bring you the news that impacts you, Canada, and the world. Don’t miss out.The problem is most acute for people in low- and middle-income countries at the receiving end of the multibillion-dollar global trade in plastic and electronic waste. According to the recent study, which was not peer-reviewed, people eating free-range eggs raised near 25 plastic waste dumps and recycling centres in 14 low- and middle-income countries are exposed to levels of toxic chemicals far beyond safe limits to human health. “I’m really impressed,” said Max Liboiron, a professor of geography at Memorial University who specializes in plastic pollution. (Liboiron was not involved in the research.) “These folk are looking at the mixing of plastic and e-waste in the actual conditions that the waste occurs, they’re looking at the way people actually eat eggs … and they’re looking at a range of chemicals (that) exist in the real world.” What people are reading It’s a “really, really rare” approach, Liboiron explained, as most research into the toxicity of plastics only looks at a select few chemicals in a laboratory setting. That can make it difficult to assess the full impact plastic waste disposal and recycling have on human health and the environment. The problem is exacerbated by the chemicals’ tendency to change — and often become more toxic — when exposed to heat, light and other chemicals and metals. “The chemical that goes into plastic isn’t necessarily the same chemical that comes out. It can change when you expose it to air, water, different pH, different salinities,” explained Imari Karega Walker, a PhD candidate at Duke University studying the environmental impact of plastic additives. Those factors can create a suite of chemicals that fly under industry and government safety checks on new plastic products, yet pose a danger to the environment and human health, she said. The IPEN study looked at some of those compounds in its broad assessment of persistent organic pollutants, like carcinogenic dioxins and biphynols produced from burning plastic waste, for instance.The study’s choice to assess recycling sites as well as open landfills is also important, Liboiron noted. For years, the global plastics industry has promoted recycling as a sustainable and safe way to dispose of harmful plastics. The findings point out that those promises may not be accurate. Furthermore, they highlight the ongoing problems arising from rich countries’ waste exports to the developing world. Eggs eaten by some of the world’s poorest people are being poisoned by plastic waste from rich countries like Canada and the U.S., new research by @ToxicsFree has found. #PlasticWaste “A lot of our waste management systems rely on exports … the U.S., U.K., Europe (and Canada) don’t have a functional waste infrastructure,” Liboiron explained. “(We’re) implicated, because it’s quite literally our waste.”Earlier this year, Canada officially entered into the Basel Convention’s plastic agreement, a global treaty restricting the international trade in plastic waste. However, critics have noted that in fall 2020, the federal government quietly signed an agreement with the U.S. to allow the free flow of plastic waste between the two countries. Roughly 93 per cent of Canada’s plastic waste exports go to the U.S., according to data by the Basel Action Network (BAN), an environmental organization. Because the U.S. isn’t a signatory to the treaty, it can export Canadian plastic garbage to poorer countries.Each month, about 25.7 million kilograms of plastic waste — mainly low-quality, unrecyclable plastic of uncertain origin — leaves U.S. shores for countries like Malaysia, Mexico and Vietnam, BAN reports. While countries have in recent years tried to stem some of the flow, which is technically illegal, many have had trouble stopping the import of trash from overseas.In theory, if the receiving country has signed the Basel Convention — as 188 countries have — it can’t accept the waste without a bilateral agreement with the U.S. However, economic pressure and a lack of enforcement can make it nearly impossible to stem the flow, according to a December investigation into the issue. “The whole thing can be understood as waste colonialism,” Liboiron said. “It’s our export of waste to other places, but the reason they import our waste is because of existing colonial legacies where we’ve taken out anything else of value already, and now their most viable choice is to import our (trash).”

Nick Dormon: How can we redesign pill packaging to be accessible and sustainable?

Blister packs were a major innovation when they debuted, but it’s time to acknowledge that they’re hard for some people to open and that they create enormous amounts of waste. There has to be a better way.
[Photos: Anastasiia_Guseva/iStock, khuntapol/iStock]
By Nick Dormon 5 minute