Microplastics in the Food Chain

This is a summary and explanation of the following research paper:

Microplastics in the Food Chain

  • Published In: Life
  • On: Dec 6, 2021

Key Takeaways:

  • Microplastic contamination occurs at various levels of the food chain, from lower trophic levels (like zooplankton and copepods) to higher trophic levels (such as fish, seabirds, and mammals). This contamination can occur either through direct consumption or trophic transfer​​.
  • The paper explores how microplastics enter the human food chain primarily from contaminated foods and can potentially impact human health. While a large fraction of consumed micro- and nanoplastics is excreted, smaller microplastics can penetrate deep into the organs, posing greater risks. The long-term health effects of microplastics are still relatively unknown but may include oxidative stress, cytotoxic effects, and disruption of energy balance and immune system functions​​.

Research Paper Summary

The research paper “Microplastics in the Food Chain” focuses on several key points regarding the impact of microplastics on the environment and human health:

Widespread Contamination of Microplastics

The paper highlights that microplastics are a widespread contaminant found in almost every part of the environment. Since the 1950s, the plastic industry has generated waste that now counts in the millions. A significant portion of plastic consumption is used for packaging materials, including those in the food industry. The contamination of the environment with microplastics and nanoplastics is emerging as a global problem, posing risks to animal life, the food chain, and public health.

Microplastics in the Human Food Chain

The main goal of the review is to summarize the occurrence of microplastics in the human food chain. It emphasizes the role of microplastics as vectors for various organic micropollutants and microorganisms and mentions the health consequences associated with the consumption of microplastics.

Toxic Additives and Microorganisms on Microplastics

The paper discusses how microplastics can serve as carriers for the spread of toxic chemicals in the marine environment. Additionally, it talks about the association of microorganisms with microplastics, highlighting the potential for plastics to act as vectors for pathogenic microorganisms that can enter the digestive tract of fish and other marine life.

Microplastic Contamination Across the Food Chain

It is reported that microplastic contamination occurs at various levels of the food chain, from lower trophic levels (like zooplankton and copepods) to higher trophic levels (such as fish, seabirds, and mammals). This contamination can occur either through direct consumption or trophic transfer.

Effects on Human Health

The paper explores how microplastics enter the human food chain primarily from contaminated foods and can potentially impact human health. While a large fraction of consumed micro- and nanoplastics is excreted, smaller microplastics can penetrate deep into the organs, posing greater risks. The long-term health effects of microplastics are still relatively unknown but may include oxidative stress, cytotoxic effects, and disruption of energy balance and immune system functions.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The paper concludes that while data on the occurrence of microplastics in the food chain are growing, they are still insufficient, and there is a lack of a uniform methodology for determining microplastic contamination in food. It recommends introducing legislation to regulate the use of primary microplastics and their release into the environment. Additionally, it suggests that more intensive research is needed on the impact of microplastics on the food chain and human health, as well as the development of new technologies for microplastic degradation and raising public awareness.

Chemicals in Plastic Packaging & Their Hazards

This is a summary and explanation of the following research paper:

Overview of known plastic packaging-associated chemicals and their hazards

  • Published In: Science of the Total Environment
  • On: Feb 15, 2019

Key Takeaways:

  • The study compiled a database called the CPPdb, which includes 4,283 substances that are likely or possibly associated with plastic packaging.
  • The analysis found that for 60% of the substances in the CPPdb, no hazard data were available. The chemicals have not been sufficiently studied.
  • The research identified 63 known chemicals associated with plastic packaging that are classified as “most hazardous” by the United Nations’ GHS (Global Harmonized System).
  • The paper also identified 906 chemicals likely associated with plastic packaging and 3,377 more chemicals associated with plastics that could possibly associated with packaging.
  • The 63 most hazardous chemicals identified in the study performed various functions in plastics, including acting as monomers, intermediates, solvents, surfactants, stabilizers, plasticizers, biocides, fire retardants, accelerators, and colorants.

About This Study

The authors of this study compiled a database called the CPPdb, which includes 4,283 substances that are likely or possibly associated with plastic packaging. These substances encompass raw materials and chemicals used in plastics manufacturing, such as monomers, polymerization aids, solvents, catalysts, and various additives.

Many chemicals used in making plastics, including packaging plastics, are highly hazardous, posing significant concerns for occupational health and the environment. These chemicals can transfer into products such as food or cosmetics during use, disposal, and recycling.

The study identified the most hazardous substances by consulting harmonized CLP classifications, advisory CLP classifications by the Danish EPA, EU-accepted classifications, and the UNEP report on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs).

What are harmonized CLP classifications?

Harmonized CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) classifications refer to a system established under the CLP Regulation in the European Union. This system is designed to determine how substances and mixtures (including chemicals used in products) should be classified, labeled, and packaged safely. The key aspects of harmonized CLP classifications are:

  1. Classification: It involves identifying the hazardous properties of chemicals. This can include a range of hazards such as physical hazards (e.g., flammability), health hazards (e.g., toxicity, carcinogenicity), and environmental hazards (e.g., aquatic toxicity).
  2. Labelling: The CLP regulation requires that hazards are clearly communicated to consumers and workers handling the chemicals. This is achieved through standard labels that include hazard pictograms, signal words (like “Danger” or “Warning”), hazard statements, and precautionary statements.
  3. Packaging: Certain hazardous chemicals must be packaged in a way that minimizes the risk of exposure or accidents.

Harmonized CLP classifications are based on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), which is an internationally agreed-upon standard. The purpose of this harmonization is to ensure that the same set of rules for classifying and labeling chemicals is applied across different countries, enhancing safety and facilitating international trade.

In the context of the research paper on plastic packaging-associated chemicals, the harmonized CLP classifications would have been used to assess the hazards of the chemicals found in plastics, helping to identify those with the highest risks to human health and the environment.

How are chemicals associated with plastics classified?

There are various systems and organizations that classify chemicals by type, impact to human health, impact to the environment, and much more. There are also international systems that help to standardize these classifications.

Full Explanation: How are chemicals associated with plastics classified?

Classification of Chemicals Associated with Plastics

How Are Chemicals That Are Associated with Plastics Classified?

There are various levels of classification and different entities that assign labels to chemicals.

We often hear that a particular chemical is “classified as an endocrine disruptor” by “xyz” entity, but without proper context these statements can be misleading. This guide will provide you with context around how chemicals get their classifications.

Types of Classifications

Chemicals can be labeled or classified in various ways:

General Category – A chemical can be classified generally, such as “an environmental hazard” or “a health hazard”.

More Descriptive Category – Within the category of health hazard, a chemical can be identified in various ways such as “acute toxicity” or “carcinogenicity”.

Additional Labels – Chemicals can also be described by the specific impact they have on humans or the environment. For example, a chemical may be labeled as an “endocrine disruptor”.

Modifiers – For every description a chemical can be classified by the confidence experts have in that classification. For example, a chemical can be classified as a “known carcinogen” or “suspected carcinogen”.

Who Classifies Chemicals?

Chemicals are classified by various entities, primarily governments and NGOs.

Systems: How Chemicals Get Classified

There are various systems and organizations that classify chemicals, mostly to guide governments in regulating those chemicals.

The international standard for classifying chemicals is the Globally Harmonized System (GHS). The GHS helps various entities communicate about hazardous chemicals using a common language. Using GHS standards allows various countries and organizations to share information easier than if they all had their own systems.

Globally Harmonized System (GHS)

GHS is an international standard for classifying and labeling chemicals. It categorizes chemicals based on their health, physical, and environmental hazards. GHS provides a basis for worldwide harmonization of rules and regulations on chemicals, contributing to the protection of human health and the environment, while facilitating trade.

GHS was developed and is managed by the United Nations. The system is continually updated and revised to reflect new scientific data and changes in the regulatory landscape. The United Nations Economic and Social Council’s Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals is responsible for maintaining and updating the GHS. This committee meets regularly to review and update the GHS, ensuring it remains a relevant and effective tool for hazard communication worldwide.

The GHS also provides a standardized approach for hazard communication, including labels with hazard symbols (pictograms), signal words (such as “Danger” or “Warning”), hazard statements (describing the nature and degree of the hazard), and precautionary statements (measures to minimize or prevent adverse effects).

Various countries around the world have developed their own chemical classification systems, often aligned with the GHS.

Notable Classification Systems
  1. United States: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) adopted the GHS through its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). This system requires manufacturers, importers, and distributors to classify chemicals and communicate their hazards through labels and safety data sheets.
  2. Canada: Health Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) aligns with the GHS, ensuring that hazardous products are properly classified and that workers receive consistent and comprehensive information.
  3. Japan: Japan has adopted the GHS, and its classification system is administered by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW), the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), and the Ministry of the Environment (MOE).
  4. Australia: The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) is responsible for the classification of chemicals in Australia. The system, known as the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail, aligns with the GHS.
  5. China: China’s State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) has implemented a chemical classification system that aligns with the GHS. This system is used for the classification, labeling, and packaging of chemicals.
  6. European Union (EU): The EU has a GHS-aligned CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) Regulation and additional regulatory frameworks such as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals) for chemical management.
  7. South Korea: The Act on Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals (K-REACH) and the Chemical Control Act (CCA) in South Korea align with the GHS for the classification and labeling of chemicals.
  8. Brazil: Brazil has adopted the GHS under its National Chemical Safety Program, which is managed by multiple governmental bodies including the Ministry of Work and Employment.

Important Types of Classifications

The GHS includes several types of classifications designed to provide a consistent approach to identifying the intrinsic hazards of chemical substances and mixtures. The main categories of GHS classifications are:

Physical Hazards: These are hazards arising from the physical properties of a chemical. This category includes:

  • Explosives
  • Flammable Gases, Aerosols, Liquids, and Solids
  • Oxidizing Gases, Liquids, and Solids
  • Gases Under Pressure
  • Corrosive to Metals
  • Self-Reactive Substances and Mixtures
  • Pyrophoric Liquids and Solids
  • Self-Heating Substances and Mixtures
  • Substances and Mixtures which, in contact with water, emit flammable gases
  • Organic Peroxides

Health Hazards: This category addresses hazards that result in an adverse effect on health, particularly after exposure. It includes:

  • Acute Toxicity (with different routes of exposure like inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion)
  • Skin Corrosion/Irritation
  • Serious Eye Damage/Eye Irritation
  • Respiratory or Skin Sensitization
  • Germ Cell Mutagenicity
  • Carcinogenicity
  • Reproductive Toxicology
  • Target Organ Systemic Toxicity – Single and Repeated Exposure
  • Aspiration Hazard

Environmental Hazards: These are hazards that chemicals might pose to the aquatic and terrestrial environment. This includes:

  • Hazardous to the Aquatic Environment (Acute and Chronic)
  • Hazardous to the Ozone Layer (although this is not covered under GHS but is often considered under environmental hazard regulations)

Chemical Classification Outside The GHS

Regulatory bodies and scientific organizations also classify chemicals based on their attributes and/or specific effects they can have on humans or the environment.

Here are some common examples:

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs): These are chemicals that can interfere with the endocrine (hormone) system in humans and wildlife. Identification of EDCs involves specific tests and assessments.

Who classifies EDCs?
  1. Regulatory Agencies:
    • European Union (EU): The EU has established specific criteria for identifying EDCs within its regulatory frameworks, such as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals) and the Biocidal Products Regulation. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) play significant roles in assessing and identifying EDCs within the EU.
    • United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The EPA conducts assessments and regulates chemicals that may act as endocrine disruptors under various environmental laws. The EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) is a significant initiative in this area.
  2. International Organizations:
    • World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP): These organizations collaborate on research and publications regarding EDCs, contributing to global understanding and guidelines for identifying and regulating these chemicals.
  3. Scientific and Research Institutions: Various independent scientific institutions and researchers conduct studies to identify and understand the mechanisms by which chemicals may act as endocrine disruptors. Their research contributes to the body of evidence used by regulatory bodies for classification.
  4. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): Some NGOs, such as the Endocrine Society and Environmental Working Group (EWG), actively participate in research, advocacy, and education regarding EDCs, and they often collaborate with regulatory agencies and scientific communities.

Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic (PBT) and Very Persistent and Very Bioaccumulative (vPvB) Assessments: These classifications are for chemicals that persist in the environment and accumulate in living organisms, posing long-term risks to health and ecosystems.

Who classifies PBTs and vPvBs?
  1. European Chemicals Agency (ECHA): Under the European Union’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation, ECHA plays a crucial role in identifying and regulating PBT and vPvB substances. Chemicals are evaluated based on criteria outlined in REACH, and those meeting the PBT/vPvB criteria are subject to additional regulatory measures.
  2. United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): In the United States, the EPA assesses chemicals for PBT characteristics under various environmental laws, including the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA uses scientific data and risk assessment methodologies to determine whether chemicals meet the criteria for being classified as PBT or vPvB.
  3. Other National and Regional Regulatory Bodies: Various countries have their regulatory frameworks and agencies responsible for chemical classification and management. These bodies may adopt criteria similar to those of REACH or TSCA or have their unique assessment protocols.
  4. International Conventions: Global agreements like the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants aim to identify and control PBT substances. Signatory countries commit to taking measures to eliminate or restrict the production and use of chemicals listed under the convention.

The Alarming Reality of Microplastics in Bottled Beverages

The problem with microplastics in drinking water is way worse than we thought. A new study brings to light an accurate measurement of microplastics in bottled water and beverages.

The Study’s Findings

The research, utilizing advanced spectroscopy techniques, revealed that bottled water contains approximately 10,000 tiny plastic particles per liter. These particles stem from PET plastics, commonly used in beverage bottles. PET is made from natural gas and crude oil, and while it offers a lower carbon footprint and cost efficiency for transporting beverages compared to glass, its degradation into microplastics raises significant health concerns.

Health Implications of Microplastics

Though PET itself is not genotoxic or carcinogenic, recent studies have suggested that microplastics could potentially penetrate cells and cross the blood-brain barrier. This intrusion could disrupt cellular functions, triggering allergic reactions and inflammation. The concern escalates with the revelation that an average one-liter plastic bottle may contain up to 240,000 microplastic pieces, all small enough to permeate critical bodily barriers.

The Industry Perspective and Consumer Response

The adoption of plastic was driven by its affordability and versatility, making products accessible worldwide. However, the potential health risks are causing a shift in consumer behavior, with many opting for alternatives like glass containers and high-quality water filters. This change also sparks debates about environmental responsibility and the necessity of regulations to reduce plastic use, particularly in food packaging.

The discovery of microplastics in bottled beverages is a wake-up call for both consumers and the industry. It underscores the need for further research, sustainable practices, and certainly a reevaluation of our reliance on plastics.

The nurdle hunters: is combing UK beaches for tiny bits of plastic a waste of time?

Squatting in the strandline as a storm brewed on the horizon, I combed through the debris with tweezers. I spotted my first nurdle almost immediately. Covered in sand, the pale plastic pellet blended almost perfectly into the background. Next to me, a woman scraped the top layer of sand away and plopped it in a bucket of seawater. As she stirred, several nurdles drifted to the surface.

“It’s impossible to make a dent,” I thought. Despite removing more than 3,000 pieces of microplastic during our cleanup, thousands more winked at us from the sand as we left Camber Sands beach. These tiny pre-production plastic pellets, called nurdles, are littering UK beaches in such numbers that beach cleanups can’t keep up.

“I think removing all the nurdles would be an impossible task. They’re everywhere,” says Andy Dinsdale, the founder of the East Sussex-based environmental organisation Strandliners.

Nurdles are tiny plastic pellets – around the size of a lentil – made from fossil fuels, which are used to make plastic products. Huge containers of them are transported around the world by road, rail and ship before they are melted down and made into all the plastic items we use in our day-to-day lives.

Christy Leavitt is the plastics campaign director at the conservation group Oceana. She agrees that removing all the plastic pellets from our oceans and coastlines is “simply not possible”. Studies have shown there are more than 170tn plastic particles floating in the world’s oceans.

So, why even bother with cleanups? For Dinsdale and his team, cleanups help to gather data, to illustrate how bad the nurdle problem really is. Evidence from cleanups has led to legislation such as the plastic bag tax and a ban on single-use items such as cotton buds.

Organising them without recording the data would mean “we’ll be doing that for the rest of our lives”, says Beverley Coombs, a Strandliners volunteer. “If you just pick, bag and bin, nobody knows what the rubbish is. How on earth can you stop it coming back?”

Nurdle spills can occur when cargo ships capsize or drop containers overboard to preserve life during stormy seas – something allowed by international maritime law. Once in the ocean, these pellets can kill marine life and have catastrophic effects on the environment.

Dani Whitlock, a project officer at the Scottish charity Fidra says nurdle pollution rates are increasing despite voluntary industry measures that attempt to prevent it. She attributes these pellet spills to mismanagement, poor handling and lack of accountability.

Since the beginning of last year, there have been four major reported pellet spills across the world – with millions washing up in France, India, Dubai and Spain. And Fidra’s annual Great Nurdle Hunt reports finding pellets in 93% of all its surveys. “These voluntary measures are not working,” says Whitlock.

Leavitt says the problem needs to be dealt with at source, “and that’s at the production level”. About 15m tonnes of plastic waste is poured into our oceans each year. “That’s roughly equivalent to dumping two garbage trucks full of plastic into the ocean every minute,” she says. Once this plastic waste reaches the ocean, it is incredibly difficult to remove.

While many members of the public are doing their best to reduce their own plastic waste, governments and plastic-producing companies need to be the ones to solve nurdle pollution. Producing less plastic and regulating its discharge into waterways is much more effective than trying to clean up the mess after plastic pollution has already reached the ocean.

It’s “one of the most straightforward plastic problems we have because there is a solution”, says Whitlock. Better legislation, regulation and independent supply chain audits globally – including labelling nurdles as hazardous so they are treated with care during transport – could reduce pellet pollution by about 95%, she says.

Dinsdale doesn’t understand why plastic-producing companies aren’t interested in protecting their raw materials. “They’re losing money. It’s in their own interest not to lose it,” he says.

Whitlock agrees. “It’s just mind-boggling that we’re not working towards that solution together.”

In the meantime, Dinsdale and beachcombers like him aren’t planning on stopping their hunts. If their efforts only involved cleanups, it might be a different story: “That would be depressing because you would never end,” he says.

But gathering evidence on the state of nurdle pollution gives conservation organisations more power to lobby for change, Dinsdale says. “We might be small in the grand scheme of things but we’re helping in a proactive way rather than a reactive way.”

Reusable Cutlery for Travel

Here are some of the top-rated reusable cutlery sets:

3 Popular Reusable Cutlery Sets

Inkuleer – Simple Set

The INKULEER brand, recognized for its travel cutlery set, stands out in the market due to its blend of convenience, durability, and style. This set has garnered high customer ratings, reflecting its popularity among users who appreciate its practicality for on-the-go dining experiences, such as camping or office lunches. Crafted from high-quality stainless steel, the set promises long-lasting use. Compact in design, it is easily portable, fitting effortlessly into a backpack or lunch bag.

Netany – Most Robust Set

The NETANY brand offers a travel camping cutlery set that is a blend of functionality and style, appealing to those who are often on the move. This set has received favorable ratings from customers, emphasizing its suitability for various outdoor and travel activities like hiking, camping, and office use. It includes essential items such as a dinner spoon, knife, fork, a special sheathed steak knife, two mini spice jars, and a portable straw set, making it versatile for different dining needs. The cutlery set is praised for its compact and convenient design, allowing it to fit easily into bags, purses, or backpacks.

Zoku – Most Compact

Zoku is the most compact cutlery set and is a top-rated choice on Amazon. Its sleek and minimalist design is ideal for those seeking a space-saving solution without compromising on quality or functionality. This set, often praised for its ultra-portable nature, includes essential utensils cleverly designed to fit into a small, convenient carrying case. Made from durable materials, Zoku’s cutlery set is not only lightweight but also sturdy, making it perfect for daily use in various settings like office lunches, outdoor picnics, or travel. Customers appreciate its ease of cleaning and the fact that it’s dishwasher safe, adding to its practicality. With its high ratings, Zoku stands out as a reliable choice for anyone looking for a compact, yet fully functional, travel-friendly cutlery set.

Australia news live: EU-style plastic tax could raise $1.5bn; Queensland braces for more storms

AAP is reporting that homes remain under threat from rising floodwaters despite no rain and warm weather predicted for Victoria.

Watch and act alerts remain active for the Goulburn River from Seymour to Shepparton, as well as Bendigo and Bullock creeks downstream of Minto.

Temperatures are predicted to reach the mid-to-high 30s across the state on Friday, with the Bureau of Meteorology tipping Shepparton to hit 36C, Bendigo 35C and Seymour 34C.

Authorities believe about a dozen houses could be flooded when waters peak at Shepparton on Friday, prompting the SES to doorknock about 300 homes.

Moderate flooding is expected at McCoys Bridge over the weekend and into next week, according to the Vic Emergency website.

Flash flooding hit parts of the state on Sunday and Monday, while more than 180mm of rain was recorded in the central Victorian town of Heathcote, amounting to three months’ worth in 24 hours.

Redesdale’s more than 117mm in 24 hours was a daily record for any month, from 120 years of data. The 92mm recorded in Bendigo broke 90-year records.

Towns in central Victoria endured an intense 24 hours as the region faced its fourth major rain event since Christmas.

The Goulburn River is not expected to have any significant rainfall over the coming days, offering some relief to communities impacted by the emergency.

Floodwater is seen in the centre of Seymour on Monday 8 January 2024

Queensland tertiary admissions says delaying university offers was ‘not a move made lightly’

The Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) says the decision to delay its largest release of university offers was “not a move we made lightly”, apologising for any impact it may have on applicants and families.

The four-day delay in releasing the first January offer round was announced by QTAC, the body responsible for course applications for the state, on Wednesday – hours before it was due to land.

QTAC’s chief executive officer Dr John Griffiths said delay to Monday would allow the body to “deliver the best offers and opportunities to the maximum number of applicants”.

The method of finalising offers for applicants this year has included new processes that have played out across a tight timeframe, one that draws on complex factors.

When it became clear that we needed more time to do this for the maximum number of applicants, we made the decision to delay the offer round. It’s certainly not a move we made lightly.

Griffiths said QTAC understood applicants and their families had planned around the original date – whether it be relocation practicalities or celebrations.

As a team we share in the emotions and excitement around offer rounds, so we sincerely appreciate the understanding and feedback we’ve been shown as we work to best support applicants with their move into tertiary study.

A new deadline has been made for Friday 19 January for applicants to respond to their offers.

NSW to host first road safety forum

Road safety experts from around the world will join with local reform advocates and policymakers as part of the first road safety forum to be held in New South Wales next month.

The stakeholders will meet on 22 February to discuss what can be done to reduce the number of people dying on roads across the state.

Last year, 351 people died on roads in NSW.

The forum will hear from Scandinavian experts about how their countries have been able to reduce road fatalities over the past two decades.

State roads minister John Graham said:

The road toll has increased across Australia and many parts of the world after Covid. This forum is an opportunity to hear from experts who have had some success in reducing the road toll and identify new measures and actions from the road safety plan that could be accelerated.

Good morning, Mostafa Rachwani with you to take you through the day’s news.

We begin in Queensland, where residents are being urged to prepare for even more wild weather, as another potential cyclone looms. While deputy premier Cameron Dick has said Queenslanders are “battle-hardened,” residents are still being urged to be wary of flash flooding and heavy rain.

It comes as people in parts of Western Australia brace for a heatwave, with the Bureau of Meteorology issuing a warning of temperatures as high as the mid 40s for the Kimberley, Pilbara and Goldfield regions. A low intensity heatwave is expected in Perth, with much of the state expected to swelter today.

Finally, new research from the Australia Institute shows that an EU-style tax on plastic in Australia could raise up to $1.5bn each year. Their research found that the government could raise $1,300 per tonne of “virgin” or un-recycled plastic through a levy on businesses that import or manufacture plastic packaging. Voters polled by the institute showed strong support for the measure, with 85% saying they support legislated waste reduction targets.

We’ll bring you the latest updates and more as the day unfolds.

Northern Spain on alert as plastic pellets from cargo spill wash up on beaches

Officials in northern Spain have issued alerts after millions of tiny plastic pellets spilled by a cargo ship off Portugal last month washed up on beaches, raising fears of environmental damage and triggering a political row.

Spanish state prosecutors have also launched an investigation after receiving information suggesting the non-biodegradable pellets could be toxic.

The emergency began on 8 December after the Toconao, a Liberia-registered vessel chartered by the shipping firm Maersk, lost six containers while sailing about 50 miles (80km) off the coast of northern Portugal. One container held 1,000 25kg sacks of the tiny balls, which are used in the manufacture of plastic products.

In the weeks since the spill, millions of the pellets have washed up on beaches in north-west Spain, prompting a clean-up operation by regional workers and volunteers.

On Tuesday, the regional governments of Galicia and neighbouring Asturias issued level 2 alerts, which will allow more personnel and resources to be assigned to the task as well as logistical assistance from the Spanish government’s environment and transport ministries.

Alfonso Rueda, the regional president of Galicia, said there was still time to stop more pellets washing up on the shoreline. “There are hundreds of sacks right now that have not reached the coast,” he said on Tuesday. “The time to collect them, or at least to try, is now that they are at sea. It seems there will be currents these days that will make it a little easier.”

Debris full of tiny plastic pellets

The regional government of Asturias said it has raised the alert level after detecting “a significant increase in the strip of coast affected and an increase in the number of spots identified”.

The incident has led to a political row between Galicia’s conservative regional government and the socialist-led central government. Rueda said the central government had known about the spillage for two weeks before it informed his administration on 4 January. The Galician government has also said it is satisfied that the pellets are not toxic.

Asked why he had waited so long to secure central government help by declaring the level 2 alert, Rueda said his team had found out about the situation only “a few days ago”, while the national government “has known the details for a month”.

Spain’s environment minister, Teresa Ribera, had previously said the government was ready to help as soon as its assistance was sought.

People in high vis jackets carrying buckets on beach

“The pellets have reached beaches in Asturias,” she said in a tweet on X on Monday. “I’ve called the regional president and told him – just as I told Alfonso Rueda yesterday – that the government is available to help. Our teams are ready to respond as soon as they’re called on.”

Voters in Galicia go to the polls next month in a regional election. As the political squabbling continued, ecological groups called for a quick and coordinated response, saying the situation was already reminiscent of the confused reaction to the disastrous Prestige oil spill in Galicia two decades ago.

In a joint letter, Friends of the Earth, Ecologists in Action, Greenpeace, SEO/Birdlife and the WWF said there could be “no repeat of the nightmare management of an environmental crisis”.

“Environmental organisations are monitoring the Galician regional government’s reaction to the spill with concern as it serves as a bitter reminder of the black tide of the Prestige in 2002 and 2003 and the lack of coordination with the central government,” the letter said.

“We ask that no partisan use is made of the catastrophe and that joint efforts are made to tackle the long-term impact of the spill, to determine responsibilities, and to reinforce the rules on the production, transport and use of plastics.”

The European Commission warned of the dangers posed by plastic pellets three months ago.

“Once in the environment, these small particles of plastics do not biodegrade and cannot be removed,” it said in October. “They accumulate in animals, including fish and shellfish, and are consequently also consumed by humans in food. They contribute to the pollution with microplastics, which have been found in marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems as well as in food and drinking water.”

5 Things To Consider When Transitioning Away from Packaged Foods

After traveling to a few countries outside the US I quickly realized how unhealthy my diet had been up to that point. While I was raised on 90% processed and 10% fresh foods, I found that most other cultures were the opposite.

It also didn’t take me long to realize how much better I felt when eating less packaged and processed food. The amount of plastic waste avoided was not lost on me either.

If you’re in the US and want to make a transition to eating more fresh food and less processed or packaged food, here are some things that might help:

  1. Gradual Integration: Start by slightly altering the balance of fresh to packaged foods in your grocery cart. Instead of a complete overhaul, try replacing 10% of your packaged food items with fresh alternatives every couple of weeks. This gradual shift allows your taste preferences and shopping habits to adapt comfortably.
  2. The Economics: A common concern I get when switching purchasing decisions is controlling cost. If you want to get analytical you could calculate the cost per meal based on processed ingredients vs natural. What you’re going to find is that unprocessed ingredients are less expensive but require more of your time. If you’re willing to boil your own beans, create your own taco seasoning, and maybe even make your own tortillas… it will take you longer to cook dinner but you’ll quickly realize how pre-made and processed foods are actually much more expensive.
  3. Increased Shopping Frequency: Embrace the routine of shopping more frequently to account for having produce be a larger percentage of your shopping cart. There are some simple tips to help produce last longer, which I will let you Google on your own.
  4. Track Your Energy: Keep a journal or log to monitor changes in your diet and how they correlate with your overall well-being. I notice a clear shift in energy when I’m on a processed-food-free diet vs the standard American diet (like over the holidays). Knowing how my energy level are affected keeps me from slipping back to the easy-but-deadly processed foods.
  5. Awareness of Waste Reduction: You may also want to track how much your plastic and paper waste is cut down… and consider starting a compost. I realized how less frequently I had to take the garbage out since most of my refuse was green waste. This awareness can serve as an additional motivator, reinforcing the positive impact your dietary choices have beyond just your health.

Top Glass & Ceramic Food Storage Containers

Here are the top brands to check out if you’re considering replacing plastic with glass or ceramic containers for food storage.

Glass vs Ceramic: What’s better for the environment?

Short Answer: These two materials don’t differ much when it comes to environmental impact. Glass is recyclable while ceramic is not.

More Detail: The primary difference between glass and ceramic lies in their manufacturing processes, durability, and end-of-life recyclability.

Glass bowls are made from materials like sand and soda ash, melted at high temperatures, and are highly recyclable, allowing for repeated reuse without loss of quality, thereby reducing their environmental impact. On the other hand, ceramics are produced from natural clay and minerals, requiring energy-intensive kiln firing, and are generally not recyclable due to their unique composition and processing requirements.

While both materials have environmental impacts in production, glass’s recyclability gives it an edge in sustainability, but only if the glass is actually recycled.


Pyrex: Simple – Affordable – Trusted

Pyrex has their Simply Store and Freshlock options. I’ve found that the Simply Store tops can get warped over time making it harder to get a good seal. This can reduce freshness of food and makes freezing less effective. The Freshlock-type containers are airtight and all-around more preferable in my opinion. The only downside is that the joints of the lids tend to break after a few years of use, especially if you’re freezing, defrosting, and dishwashing.

Bayco – Glassware with Compartments

Bayco sells glass food storage containers with compartments which is particularly nice for meal prep. It’s also great if you have small amounts of leftovers that you don’t want to waste but feel a little sheepish placing in 3-4 separate containers.

Other Brands – Small Variations – Same Functionality

Other small variations include bamboo tops, silicone casing for protection, and ceramic-coated glass. All of these are great alternatives to plastic. Our only advice is to find one that fits your particular needs and taste. The difference in environmental impact between most glass storage containers is negligible.


There are fewer brands that sell ceramic food storage, but more stylish options to choose from.

Adewnest – Highest rated brand, but just by a hair.

Chubacoo – Trending as Amazon’s Choice (Jan 2024).

Kook – Highest price for set of 4.

Since there isn’t much of an environmental difference between glass and ceramic, either one that helps you reduce single-use plastic use will be a good decision.