Plastic Waste Management Hazards: Waste-to-Energy, Chemical Recycling, and Plastic Fuels

Plastic waste has become an unprecedented pollution issue around the globe. From visible plastic litter on land and in oceans to invisible microplastics in lakes, mountains, and rain, the planet is increasingly blanketed in the petrochemical remnants of plastic production. With petrochemical companies avoiding fossil fuel carbon liabilities by massively increasing plastic production, the amount of plastic waste generated is set to climb dramatically. This report examines the current and emerging methods by which plastic waste is managed globally and questions whether any of them present a solution to the rapidly accelerating generation of plastic waste. The short answer is that recycling at the margins cannot provide a solution to plastic pollution when plastic production is set to grow exponentially. Other ‘recovery’ waste management techniques such as incineration, plastic to fossil fuel, and downcycling to incorporate plastic waste in roads, will simply generate more pollution. The only long-term answer to plastic pollution is to produce less plastic. This seems unlikely while the petrochemical industry needs plastic as a safe haven from its carbon liabilities. Increasing plastic production offsets falling demand for its fossil fuels.

Ban the bag | Surfrider Foundation Europe

Have more than one trick in your bagReuse your bags to limit their impact. Slip your reusable bags into your purse, car, gym bag so that you always have reusable bags with you. By doing this, you will contribute to a circular economy that respects the environment.Adopt your new reusable bagWicker baskets, shopping nets, tote bags, etc., many sustainable alternatives exist and are now available to everyone. Not only ecological, but use them to make a statement about your commitment to the planet.Surfrider tote bag

Study suggests bacteria in cow’s stomach can break down plastic

Plastics Study suggests bacteria in cow’s stomach can break down plastic Scientists find micro-organisms from the bovine stomach have ability to degrade polyesters in lab setting Natalie Grover @NatalieGrover Fri 2 Jul 2021 05.14 EDT Last modified on Fri 2 Jul 2021 06.00 EDT Bacteria found in one of the compartments of a cow’s stomach …

Call for global treaty to end production of ‘virgin’ plastic by 2040

A binding global treaty is needed to phase out the production of “virgin” or new plastic by 2040, scientists have said. The solution to the blight of plastic pollution in the oceans and on land would be a worldwide agreement on limits and controls, they say in a special report in the journal Science. Since …

Could plastic-eating microbes take a bite out of the recycling problem?

<!– –> Plastic trash recovered from an island in the South Pacific Ocean shows decay and bite marks from marine life. Mandy Barker By Warren CornwallJul. 1, 2021 , 2:00 PM Muhammad Reza Cordova is searching for treasure amid the water bottles, plastic bags, and plastic foam cups that choke the beaches, reefs, and mangrove …

Researchers are now using hurricane-tracking satellites to combat ocean microplastics



Have you ever wondered how scientists even begin to study things like patterns in ocean pollution and movements of microplastics? Better yet, you can probably imagine the people working the hardest to fight these problems could benefit from useful information like being able to track where a majority of microplastics come from in the first place? Surprisingly, initial methods to keep tabs on such things rely on reports from plankton trawlers, according to a new report from the University of Michigan, and those same researchers have introduced the use of some far more advanced machinery for their work: satellites.
The new tracking method employed by the UM team is taking data from a system of eight micro-satellites that were launched in 2016 to track storms. Creating measurements for what they’re calling “ocean surface roughness,” they were able to find a correlation between radar measurements used to track wind speed and the existing data from plankton trawlers and ocean current models already used to predict the movement of microplastics.
“Areas of high microplastic concentration, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, exist because they’re located in convergence zones of ocean currents and eddies. The microplastics get transported by the motion of the water and end up collecting in one place,” says Chris Ruf, the Frederick Bartman Collegiate Professor of Climate and Space Science at UM. “Surfactants behave in a similar way, and it’s very likely that they’re acting as sort of a tracer for the microplastics.”Advertisement
One of the team’s headline-making findings with this new tracking method is that concentrations of microplastics in a body of water can vary by season. For example, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch shrinks to its smallest size in January, the thick of the Northern Hemisphere winter. Six months later, microplastic concentrations are at their highest in the exact same region come summer. Meanwhile, the same cycle is flipped in the Southern Hemisphere. The researchers’ hope is that straightforward data like this can direct an organization like the Ocean Cleanup, helping them know when and where to deploy their resources. The same discovery also helped UM researchers narrow down some of the greatest sources of microplastic flow into the ocean, like China’s Yangtze River.
“It’s one thing to suspect a source of microplastic pollution, but quite another to see it happening,” Ruf said. “The microplastics data that has been available in the past has been so sparse, just brief snapshots that aren’t repeatable.”
Next up, the researchers are testing hypotheses from their findings and conducting experiments in a wave-generating tank to learn the relationship between surface roughness and the presence of microplastics. Small wins that they hope add up to big gains in fighting a gigantic environmental problem.

Seabird eggs contaminated with plastic additives – study

Herring gull eggs have been found to be contaminated with chemical additives used in plastic production, researchers said.A study looked for evidence of phthalates – a group of chemicals added to plastics to keep them flexible – in newly laid herring gull eggs.The research by the universities of Exeter and Queensland found up to six types of phthalate per egg.The chemicals function as pro-oxidants – potentially causing oxidative stress that can damage cells.Unfortunately, our findings suggest that mothers are inadvertently passing on phthalates and products of lipid damageREAD MOREProfessor Jon Blount, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall said: “Herring gull mothers pass on vital nutrients to their offspring via their eggs.“This includes lipids that nourish developing embryos, and vitamin E, which helps to protect chicks from oxidative stress that can occur during development and at hatching.“Unfortunately, our findings suggest that mothers are inadvertently passing on phthalates and products of lipid damage – and eggs with higher phthalate contamination also contained greater amounts of lipid damage and less vitamin E.”The researchers say the impact of their findings on developing chicks is not yet known, and further research is needed.They collected 13 herring gulls eggs from sites in Cornwall and all 13 were found to contain phthalates.Phthalates – which are used in most plastic products and readily leech out – can build up in living organisms by becoming concentrated in fatty tissues.While the study does not show where the gulls acquired the phthalates, they have been previously found in species preyed on by herring gulls, and the birds are known to swallow plastic.More research is now needed to discover how developing offspring are affected by being exposed to phthalates before they have even emerged as a hatchlingProf Blount said: “Research on the impact of plastic on animals has largely focused on entanglement and ingestion of plastic fragments.“Far less is known about the impacts of plastic additives on the body.“By testing eggs, our study gives us a snapshot of the mother’s health – and it appears phthalate contamination could be associated with increased oxidative stress, and mothers transfer this cost to their offspring via the egg.“More research is now needed to discover how developing offspring are affected by being exposed to phthalates before they have even emerged as a hatchling.”The study received an initiator grant from QUEX, and is published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Cape Cod, New Bedford salt marshes contain microplastics, study finds

NEW BEDFORD — Walk by a salt marsh and you’ll see tall grasses, a glassy water surface and perhaps a few local bird species. By sight alone, the marsh may appear to be in its natural state.According to a new study, though, some marshes — built up for years and years by layers of sediment — contain countless plastic fragments and fibers under their surfaces, some so tiny they’re only visible through a microscope. Javier Lloret, a research scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole and a lead author, said the study is the first step in considering what implications microplastics have for salt marshes. “Humans are the ones producing these plastics that ultimately will break up into little tiny pieces, become microplastics and contaminate our environment,” Lloret said. “So one of the hypotheses that we started with was the idea of, if you have more people living in an area, if the area is more densely urbanized, the salt marshes in that area are going to have more microplastics in the sediment. It makes total sense from a common sense point of view, but it had not been tested yet.”And that’s what they found: the more urbanized the surrounding land was, the more microplastic fragments they found in the salt marsh sediment.For the study, researchers took sediment cores from salt marshes in Cape Cod and New Bedford. Each marsh had a different level of watershed development and population density, with the New Bedford site being the most urbanized. Keeping the environment clean:Volunteers collect trash in Fairhaven. Next, they’ll mail some back to the companies.While they found microplastic fragments and fibers in all sampling sites, they found a link between the number of fragments and level of urbanization. Specifically, the abundance of microplastic fragments in sediment samples increased as the degree of urban development on adjoining land increased.What was consistent across sites, though, was the amount of microplastic fibers — the material released from synthetic clothing or fishing gear. Regardless of the level of urbanization, fibers were equally abundant in the samples, Lloret said.Due to this distinction, Lloret believes fragments have a local source, whereas fibers may be sourced from the region as they can be transported more easily by wind or water. Reconstructing the history of microplasticsAt two of the Cape Cod sites, the scientists took deeper sediment cores to trace when plastic started appearing in the salt marsh. About 30 centimeters deep took them to the early 1940s, Lloret said, when plastic was rare and not widely used. While studying the cores, they found the number of microplastics increased dramatically closer to the surface.Salt marsh restoration:Climate change creates stress for homeowners battling erosion on Cape Cod”In the last 25 years, the number of [plastic] particles you find in the sediments was doubled,” he said. “If we continue these trends, in just a matter of another decade we can have a lot more microplastics, and the impacts that we’re still trying to figure out can be even worse.” What does this mean for salt marshes?Salt marshes are important ecosystems. They provide habitats for numerous species (including shellfish some people enjoy eating), protect coastlines against storm surges and sea level rise, and sequester carbon, Lloret said. They also act as effective “sinks,” with the grasses capturing materials — be it plant matter, dirt or plastic — and depositing it on the base of the marsh.’Drowning in place’: Mass Audubon begins work to protect Dartmouth salt marshLloret said this study was just the first step. It confirmed salt marshes contain microplastics and that levels are linked to human activity. However, the “million dollar question” that remains is what the presence of microplastics means for the health and functionality of the ecosystem. Filter feeders like mussels and clams don’t differentiate between a particle of food or a microplastic, Lloret said. If they consume plastic, it can affect their health as well as that of human consumers. “I’m very interested in the effects that it’s going to have in the food web, because those food webs are responsible for the functioning of the entire ecosystem,” he said. “That’s the kind of direction that I would like to go with this.” Until he and other researchers untangle those big questions, Lloret said municipalities and the state can consider actions, such as educating residents on recycling or establishing regulations that bar certain synthetic materials. The bottom line, though, is trying to use less things that are made of plastic, he said. Standard-Times reporter Anastasia E. Lennon can be reached at alennon@s-t.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @aelennon1. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.