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Supermarkets Purge Plastic With Shoppers’ Help

Plastic Free Zone at Thornton’s Budgens showcases organic vegetables, 2018 (Photo courtesy Thornton’s Budgens) Emailed for media use.

Plastic Free Zone at Thornton’s Budgens showcases organic vegetables, 2018 (Photo courtesy Thornton’s Budgens) Emailed for media use.

LONDON, UK, November 8, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – A London supermarket today became one of the world’s first to introduce dedicated Plastic Free Zones. The Thornton’s Budgens store in Camden’s Belsize Park has assembled more than 1,700 plastic-free products and displays them in marked zones.

The zones are stocked with everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to bread, cheese and wild game such as squirrel and wild boar, as well as packaged food and drink products.

The products showcase a wealth of innovative plastic-free materials such as beechwood nets, pulp, paper, metal, glass, cellulose and cartonboard.

Signage and shelf talkers tell shoppers about the packaging to encourage them to make plastic-free choices. The zones are identified by plastic-free branding signs created by London design studio Made Thought.

The British nonprofit A Plastic Planet, a social impact movement for change, worked in partnership with Thornton’s Budgens to create Plastic Free Zones.

Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, said, “Plastic is totally nuts. Thornton’s Budgens are disrupting the market and showing that wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as long-lasting as plastic is the definition of madness.”

“In just 10 weeks the store has removed plastic packaging from more than 1,500 products, finally giving their customers the choice they want,” said Sutherland. “While big retailers claim it will take 10 years to create real plastic-free change, Thornton’s Budgens has shown that we can start to wean ourselves off plastic in 10 weeks.”

A Plastic Planet has called for an urgent transformation of the UK’s entire approach to waste management. Their goal is to inspire everyone to turn off the flow of plastic.

Andrew Thornton, Thornton’s Budgens Founder, said, “As the community supermarket that really cares, we believe in taking a strong stance on major issues that affect our wellbeing and our planet.”

“The issue of plastic is one that can no longer be ignored so we’ve chosen to be the first mainstream supermarket in the UK to introduce Plastic Free Zones. This means our customers will be able to do a comprehensive shop without the need to use any plastic packaging.”

“Our aim is to show the big supermarkets that it is not as difficult to go plastic-free as they think,” said Thornton. “If we with our limited resources in 10 weeks can introduce more than a thousand plastic-free products just imagine what the major chains could achieve.”

A Plastic Planet is calling for the Conservative minority government of Theresa May to use the new UK plastics tax to fund a national infrastructure that mandates both recycling and composting.

On October 30, the May Government announced a tax on plastic packaging. The tax will apply to any business that produces or imports plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30 percent recycled content.

The government proposed the new tax in its autumn budget. Revenues from the tax will be used to address single-use plastics, waste and litter.

In addition, the UK announced 20 million pounds in funding to increase recycling and combat plastic waste.

The announcement follows the UK’s ban on plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds as part of a growing effort to decrease the country’s plastic pollution and protect its rivers and seas. These single-use items are only used for a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down.

The government says the ban on plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds follows its success in charging for single-use plastic bags, which has resulted in an 86 percent decrease in plastic bag distribution in supermarkets.

Plastic-free shops are popping up elsewhere too.

The world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle was unveiled in Amsterdam, Netherlands in February.

With nearly 700 plastic-free goods to select from at one of the branches of Ekoplaza, a Dutch supermarket chain, the aisle gives shoppers the opportunity to buy their groceries in “new compostable bio-materials as well as traditional materials” such as glass, metal and cardboard.

Sutherland said the aisle is “a symbol of what the future of food retailing will be.”

“We totally understand what we’re asking for is highly inconvenient – it’s difficult,” she told CNN. “However, it’s indefensible for us to continue to wrap up our perishable food and drink in this indestructible material of plastic. So everybody knows now that progress has to be made.”

Ekoplaza, which has 74 stores across the Netherlands, intends to introduce the plastic-free aisle across all its branches.

In Vancouver, the first package-free grocery store in Canada, Nada, was incorporated in 2015 after marine biologist Brianne Miller had an idea that would completely change her relationship with food.

Miller had seen firsthand the masses of harmful plastic swirling around in ocean gyres, much of it food packaging waste. She realized that even the most ethical, local, and organic stores were still caught in a cycle of waste. So, she created Nada – a different kind of store – with no plastic packaging at all.

The first customer to shop at waste-free NADA Cafe, East Vancouver, Canada. Founder Brianne Miller, center, in black. October 22, 2018 (Photo courtesy NADA) Posted for media use.

The first customer to shop at waste-free NADA Cafe, East Vancouver, Canada. Founder Brianne Miller, center, in black. October 22, 2018 (Photo courtesy NADA) Posted for media use.

Nada operated with just pop-up shops for the first two years, then launched its first retail store in 2017.

Customers bring their own containers to stock up on local, fresh, responsibly-sourced, and organic groceries and personal care items. They use Nada’s digital smart scales to weigh and label their purchases and automatically deduct the weight of the containers.

Not only do shoppers reduce their packaging waste, they waste less food by buying only what they need. This saves them money – an average of C$1,500 per family per year, Nada claims.

On october 22, Nada opened a waste-free cafe at the store and in the first two weeks diverted 950 single-use containers/paper bags and 740 disposable cups from the waste stream.

In Toronto, Canada’s largest city, a new package-free goods store, Bare Market opened its first pop-up shop June 27 at the Bathurst-Finch Hub’s Farmers’ Market.

“You can get basically anything you need like at a grocery store or supermarket, but all package free,” says Maya Goodwill, a Bare Market spokesperson.

Founder Dayna Stein was inspired to launch Bare Market while living in Vancouver, where she shopped at the city’s first refill shop, The Soap Dispensary.

Bare Market encourages shoppers to bring their own containers. If people forget their containers, they can purchase them from Bare Market, or borrow a reusable container for a refundable fee.

Bare Market hopes to open a permanent location in 2019. Until then, they’ll be popping up all over Toronto.

Zero-waste shops are catching on all across the United States. Celia Ristow, the co-founder of the grassroots group Zero-Waste Chicago, has started the website Litterless, which features a state-by-state directory of U.S. grocery stores featuring foods in bulk that permit shoppers to bring their own packaging.

On her blog, Ristow speaks of the joys of plastic-free living, “The most unexpected benefit of zero waste for me has been how much it has meant learning to lean on myself, my friends, and my community, and how much doing so has improved my life. So much of what is sold to us as convenience can have the effect of encouraging us to believe we can’t do things for ourselves, that the things we need can only be found in stores. Choosing to try to buy less and to waste less means taking back some of that power.”

Featured Image: Thornton’s Budgens supermarket bakes its own bread in house and packages it in paper to cut down on plastic waste. 2018 (Photo courtesy Thornton’s Budgens) Emailed for media use.


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Tennessee River Microplastic Soup Shocks Scientists

Looking north from the top of Lookout Mountain over the Tennessee Valley, the Tennessee River winds through the city of Chattanooga, March 31, 2018 (Photo by GT Photos) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Looking north from the top of Lookout Mountain over the Tennessee Valley, the Tennessee River winds through the city of Chattanooga, March 31, 2018 (Photo by GT Photos) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee, October 11, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Dr. Andreas Fath, professor of medical and life sciences at Germany’s Furtwangen University, broke a world record in 34 days this summer by swimming all 652 miles of the Tennessee River, from its headwaters in Knoxville, Tennessee, to its mouth in Paducah, Kentucky.

He was determined to perform the first comprehensive analysis of the Tennessee River’s water quality, and his swim turned out to be the most extensive interdisciplinary water quality survey ever conducted of North America’s most biologically diverse river.

Breaking world swimming records is familiar territory to Dr. Fath, who in 2014 broke the world record for speed swimming the Rhine River from the Swiss Alps through Germany to the North Sea.

In 2014, Fath and his team of scientists analyzed the Rhine for more than 600 substances and found that concentrations of persistent pollutants increased as they moved downstream.

“We found the great blockbusters in the Rhine,” Fath says, “from artificial sweeteners to residues of dishwasher tabs.” This means that many substances we use in our everyday lives survive wastewater treatment and end up in waterways.

Nicknamed TenneSwim, Fath’s second swim for science revealed the high concentration of microplastics in the Tennessee River, summer 2018 (Photo courtesy Tennessee Aquarium) Posted for media use.

Nicknamed TenneSwim, Fath’s second swim for science revealed the high concentration of microplastics in the Tennessee River, summer 2018 (Photo courtesy Tennessee Aquarium) Posted for media use.

This summer, Dr. Fath was able to compare the Tennessee River’s water quality to what he found in Germany’s Rhine River four years ago.

The levels of some chemical substances, such as pharmaceuticals, were lower in the Tennessee than in the Rhine.

The Tennessee River appears cleaner than the Rhine in some ways. When Fath emerged from the Tennessee after 34 days of swimming, he was free of infections, despite swimming with open wounds. By comparison, during his 2014 swim of the Rhine, Fath became sick with nausea and diarrhea from an infection.

Fath and his team found large quantities of microplastics in the Rhine. But the high levels of microplastic pollution in the Tennessee River set all his alarm bells ringing.

Fath collected samples from the Tennessee River with microplastic concentrations 8,000 percent higher than those found in the Rhine.

The levels of microplastic on the surface of the Tennessee were also 80 percent higher than in China’s Yangtze River, which a recent study found to be the source of 55 percent of all river-borne microplastic entering the ocean.

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles less than five millimeters in diameter. They easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in rivers and eventually in the oceans, posing a potential threat to aquatic life.

Aquatic birds and animals can mistake microplastics for food. Ingesting the tiny particles can prevent some species from consuming their natural prey, leading to starvation and death. Microplastics also have been found to cause reproductive complications in oysters.

Pollutants such as pesticides and manufacturing chemicals can adhere to microplastic particles and bioaccumulate in aquatic life, according to Adventure Scientists, a nonprofit based in Bozeman, Montana that has amassed one of the largest and most diverse global microplastic pollution datasets, called the Global Microplastics Initiative.

“I did not expect such high levels of microplastics. Therefore, we triple-checked the results,” Fath says of the Tennessee River. “By looking for a reason, we rather quickly made a plausible guess.”

Despite the similar length of the Rhine and the Tennessee, he says, the dramatic difference between the levels of microplastic is likely due to differing approaches to waste management and recycling.

Analysis of Fath’s water samples from the Tennessee River suggests the primary source of microplastic pollution there is not from microbeads, minute plastic spheres found in many cosmetic products and a primary source of microplastic pollution worldwide.

Instead, Fath says the high levels are a byproduct of decomposition from large plastic waste in landfills.

“In Germany, plastic waste is collected separately, and then it’s combusted, recycled or exported to other countries like China, Vietnam, Thailand or Malaysia,” he says. “In the states bordering the Tennessee River, plastic waste is going to landfills. More than 100 million straws each day are going to landfills.”

“Once the land is filled with plastic waste, it breaks up, step by step, with the help of microorganisms, ultraviolet light and mechanical forces,” says Fath. “At the end of the day, the plastic is flushed into rivers as secondary microplastic.”

River-borne microplastic is a major contributor to microplastic in the oceans.

Overlooking the Tennessee River at Signal Mountain, October 18, 2016 (Photo by csm242000 Photography) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Overlooking the Tennessee River at Signal Mountain, October 18, 2016 (Photo by csm242000 Photography) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

“By some measures the Tennessee River appears to have fairly good water quality. The high levels of microplastic particles are the real shocker,” says Dr. Martin Knoll, professor of geology and hydrology at Sewanee: The University of the South.

“A major contributing factor must be the abundant plastic waste we all see on roadsides,” said Dr. Knoll. “This plastic can easily make its way underground through the porous limestone and quickly move into the river.”

If the rate of microplastic entering the oceans is left unchecked, scientists predict there could be more plastic particulate than fish in the oceans by 2050.

One of Fath’s many sponsors is the Tennessee Aquarium, situated on the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga, and a member of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership. This consortium of 22 aquariums was formed last year to take the lead in combating microplastic pollution by eliminating single-use plastics in their operations and encouraging similar lifestyle changes in their visitors.

“We hope that, through our own efforts to stem the tide of microplastics, all of our guests will look for ways they can join us in reducing the amount of plastics in our aquatic environments,” says Dr. Anna George, the Tennessee Aquarium’s vice president of conservation science and education. “The solution to plastic pollution is in our hands.”

Given the levels of microplastics and the presence of industrial chemicals that have been outlawed in Europe for years, the Tennessee River is not healthy for the aquatic species that live in the waterway and its many tributaries.

“Based on the findings, it is not a healthy river at all,” Fath says. “The microplastic concentration, together with the chemical cocktail found in the river, is not a good combination for aquatic life in the Tennessee River.”

More than 1,400 aquatic species live in waterways within a 500-mile radius of Chattanooga. The Tennessee River and its many tributaries are inhabited by more than 230 fishes. There are more than 100 freshwater mussels, and more than 70 crayfishes – 90 percent of all American mussels and crayfish species.

The watershed holds more than 150 turtle and more than 50 salamander species – 80 percent of North America’s salamander species and half its turtle species. Many communities rely on the Tennessee River for drinking water, including Chattanooga, Knoxville and Huntsville.

Fath says the ecological damage to the Tennessee River could still be curbed. He suggests implementation of a treatment step in sewage plants to reduce the release of trace substances and legislation to reduce and control release limits for industries, agriculture and hospitals.

To curb the pandemic of microplastic pollution, he suggests encouraging wider scale adoption of recycling programs and a nationwide reduction in the use of single-use plastic items like shopping bags and straws.

“Plastic is a smart and important material in industries with a lot of economic benefits,” Fath says. “We appreciate its durability, but it is madness to use this non-degradable material for packaging of articles which are only used for minutes or hours. If we do not change that, we are going to wrap up the world with plastic.”

Featured Image: The Tennessee River as it flows through Chattanooga, Tennessee, April 3, 2010 (Photo by csm242000 Photography) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Grappling With an Avalanche of Waste

 Electronic waste viewed by a delegation from Zimbabwe that visited the Rwanda Green Fund - FONERWA - to learn about the fund's structure and operations. They toured some of the fund's investments: low carbon construction materials with Zero Carbon Designs and the E-Waste Recycling Facility. June 14, 2018 (Photo by Rwanda Green Fund) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Electronic waste viewed by a delegation from Zimbabwe that visited the Rwanda Green Fund – FONERWA – to learn about the fund’s structure and operations. They toured some of the fund’s investments: low carbon construction materials with Zero Carbon Designs and the E-Waste Recycling Facility. June 14, 2018 (Photo by Rwanda Green Fund) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 9, 2018 ((Maximpact.com News) – Due to the growing volume of plastic waste now being produced and the plastic waste import ban imposed by China on December 31, 2017, plastic wastes, primarily from Europe, Japan, and North America, are now adrift on the global market. They have been arriving in the ports of countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia in alarming amounts.

The plastic scrap is often contaminated and mixed in ways that makes it difficult or impossible to recycle, so it ends up being dumped or burned openly in the recipient countries, creating toxic emissions and terrestrial and marine pollution.

In the first five months of 2018, Thailand had already seized 30,000 container loads of plastic scrap in their ports and was forced to impose an emergency import ban.

Governments worldwide are struggling with an avalanche of waste and coming up with solutions, large and small.

The most recent meeting of the world’s only international treaty on waste control ended with expressions of widespread and growing support for a proposal by Norway to add plastics to the list of wastes subject to the trade controls under the treaty, known as the Basel Convention.

The proposal, made at a September meeting in Geneva, is seen as a key mechanism to stem the tide of marine debris and plastic litter. It would add plastic waste to the list of wastes that require notification by exporting countries and consent by importing countries before export.

“Southeast Asia is already being hit hard by a tsunami of plastic waste,” said Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free from Plastic movement. “The Norwegian proposal to place plastic scrap under Basel controls will be a significant first step to protect Southeast Asia and developing countries everywhere from becoming the trash bins of the developed world.”

Many countries voiced their support for the Norwegian proposal on the floor of the meeting, including: China, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Libya, Maldives, Malaysia, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Senegal, South Africa, State of Palestine, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, and Uruguay.

While there was broad support for the proposal, Canada, Japan, Australia and the European Union are seeking to block, delay or water down the proposal.

“The severity of the plastic pollution problem and its impacts on human health and the environment are undeniable and require urgent action. We cannot let a few countries or industry sectors prevent much-needed and in fact overdue action from the global community,” says David Azoulay, senior attorney for the Center for International Environmental Law.

The meeting also recommended the creation of a multi-stakeholder global partnership on the minimization of plastic waste. Both proposals – partnership and trade control – will go to the 14th Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention for a decision in April 2019.

“The Basel Convention is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in stemming the flood tide of plastic waste now engulfing the entire planet,” said Jim Puckett, director of the Basel Action Network, based in Seattle, Washington.

“They can do this not only by controlling unwanted trade, but by promoting steps to minimize the production of single-use and other unsustainable plastic products,” said Puckett. “We are thrilled that this week’s meeting has clearly signaled a turning of the tide.”

In VTT’s PlastBug projects, microbes are being screened through a three-stage process. (Photo courtesy VTT) Posted for media use

In VTT’s PlastBug projects, microbes are being screened through a three-stage process. (Photo courtesy VTT) Posted for media use

Cleaning the Oceans of Plastic Waste

To help cleanse the world’s oceans of the tons of plastic waste that have gathered in swirling gyres, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a mobile container unit called PlastBug. The unit acts to remove plastics from the water and treat them with microbes to turn them into useable chemicals.

“Our idea is to design a mobile container where microbes degrade plastic waste to valuable products like fuels or chemicals,” says Kari Koivuranta, principal scientist at VTT.

The small, container-based factories could be placed in areas where centralized plastic waste collecting or recycling is not possible. The container factories could be located on a beach or ship.

The factory units would get most of the energy needed for the process from solar energy and wind power.

The goal is for the pilot unit to operate on the Baltic Sea in 2021, but funding still needs to be secured for the realization of this plan.

The Urban Mining chart of tungsten alloys placed on the market per country in tonnes for all collection categories is an example of the multitude of charts offered by the ProSUM consortium. 2018 (Image courtesy ProSUM) Posted for public use

The Urban Mining chart of tungsten alloys placed on the market per country in tonnes for all collection categories is an example of the multitude of charts offered by the ProSUM consortium. 2018 (Image courtesy ProSUM) Posted for public use

Building With Waste Materials

A growing scarcity of resources, along with the desire to move away from today’s throwaway mentality, means that the building sector must give more thought to the multiple use and recyclability of materials, as well as to alternative methods of construction.

A residential module fully constructed from reusable, recyclable, and compostable materials is the premise for the newest unit in NEST, the modular research and innovation building run by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Dübendorf.

On February 8, the NEST Urban Mining & Recycling unit opened its doors to house two students. At the same time, as an active lab, it is helping to advance the construction industry’s transition to a recycling economy.

The residence features structures and materials that can be fully reused, repurposed, recycled, or composted after deconstruction of the module.

The concept was designed by Werner Sobek with Dirk Hebel and Felix Heisel. Sobek is director of the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design at the University of Stuttgart.

Hebel is the director and Heisel is the head of research at the Chair of Sustainable Construction at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Center, established in 2010 by two Swiss government agencies that conduct high tech research.

“The ongoing, sustained growth of the global population as well as dwindling resources urgently require us to do some rethinking in the construction industry,” says Sobek. “In future, we must reduce our consumption of construction materials and build for many more people.”

So, the concept of cycles must play a central role on the path to more sustainable construction. “The materials that we utilize will not just be used and then disposed of; instead they will be extracted from their cycle and later returned to it,” Hebel explains.

Database for Urban Waste Miners

In one of the more sweeping solutions to the world’s waste problems, European organizations have united to create the world’s first database of valuable materials available for urban mining from scrap vehicles, spent batteries, waste electronic and electrical equipment, and mining wastes.

The Urban Mine Platform <urbanmineplatform.eu>, created by 17 partners in project ProSUM (Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes), presents the flows of precious and base metals and critical raw materials in products in use and throughout their journey to end of life.

The database reveals the amount of valuable materials recovered or lost in the EU’s scrap vehicles, batteries, computers, phones, devices, appliances and other high tech products discarded annually – roughly 18 million tonnes in all.

The ProSUM consortium says urban mining to recover valuable critical raw materials from wastes is vital for securing ongoing supplies for manufacturing and to limit dependence on non-EU suppliers.

This platform displays all readily available data on products put on the market, stocks, composition and waste flows for electrical and electronic equipment, vehicles and batteries for all EU 28 Member States plus Switzerland and Norway. Iceland is also included for vehicles.

The EU, Norway and Switzerland generated some 10.5 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment in 2016 – about 23 percent of the world total. In addition, two million tonnes of batteries and some seven to eight million tonnes of EU vehicles reach their end-of-life each year.

All represent a rich source of secondary critical raw materials.

The recently published Global e-Waste Monitor reported that the world’s 44.7 metric tonnes of e-waste alone in 2016 contained €55 billion worth of precious metals and other high value materials.

The Urban Mine Platform contains data for elements and materials in high abundance in these waste products, mainly base metals, precious metals, and critical raw materials.

Dynamic charts on the Urban Mine Platform offer detailed data and market intelligence on The number and type of products placed on the market, in-stock, and generated as waste. The compositions of key components, materials and elements, such as aluminum, copper, gold or neodymium are given, in batteries, electronic and electrical equipment (EEE), and vehicles.

Pascal Leroy, secretary general of the WEEE Forum, a Brussels-based not-for-profit association and ProSUM project coordinator says, “Three years in the making, this consolidated database is the world’s first ‘one stop shop’ knowledge data platform on CRMs in waste products – easy to access, structured, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, up-to-date, impartial, broad in scope, standardized and harmonized, and verifiable.”

Featured Image: Plastic bottles in Findon, Adelaide, South Australia, April 17, 2018 (Photo by Michael Coghlan) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ Motivates World Environment Day

 Monkey investigates plastic trash on the roof of a hut near the Taj Mahal, Agra, India, February 18, 2017 (Photo by Malcolm Payne) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Monkey investigates plastic trash on the roof of a hut near the Taj Mahal, Agra, India, February 18, 2017 (Photo by Malcolm Payne) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW DELHI, India, June 5, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “Greetings on World Environment Day,” said India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi today. “Together, let us ensure that our future generations live in a clean and green planet, in harmony with nature.”

As global host of World Environment Day 2018, India today launched an historic slate of activities from nationwide clean-ups, to single-use plastic bans across states, universities and national parks.

For World Environment Day, the government of India says it will be cleaning up 100 of its historic monuments, including the world-famous Taj Mahal.

Each World Environment Day is organized around a theme that focuses attention on a pressing environmental concern. The theme for 2018, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” is a call to action, and it invites everyone to consider how we can make changes in our lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our oceans, our wildlife, and our own health.

While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over-reliant on single-use or disposable plastic, with severe environmental consequences, says UN Sectretary-General António Guterres.

“Our world is swamped by harmful plastic waste,” Guterres said. “Every year, more than eight million tonnes end up in the oceans. Microplastics in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy. From remote islands to the Arctic, nowhere is untouched. If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish.”

“On World Environment Day, the message is simple: reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use,” the secretary-general said. “Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world.”

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (Photo by British High Commission) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (Photo by British High Commission) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Urging all stakeholders at both national and international levels to work towards betterment of the environment, India’s Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that to India “Beat Plastic Pollution” is more than a slogan – India means business about it.

Delivering the inaugural address of the State Environment Ministers Conference Monday in the run-up to World Environment Day, Dr. Vardhan said that environmental protection is not merely a technical, but a moral issue.

He pointed out that India generates 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day. In India, 70 percent of total plastic consumption is discarded as waste.

Humans have created 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastics since large-scale production of the synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, and most of it now resides in landfills or the natural environment, according to a 2017 study by scientists at American universities led by the University of Georgia.

Global production of plastics increased from two million metric tons in 1950 to over 400 million metric tons in 2015, according to the study, “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made,” outgrowing most other human-made materials.

By 2015, human beings had generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics, 6.3 billion tons of which had already become waste. Of that, only nine percent was recycled, 12 percent was incinerated and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.

If current trends continue, roughly 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050, the scientists estimate.

Speaking to the state environment mininsters, Vardhan asserted that there is no waste which cannot be transformed into wealth. He gave the example of a plant in the city of Kashipur, where 10 tonnes of biomass has been converted into 3,000 liters of ethanol.

The environment minister called on the developed world to provide technology, funds and research results to solve this environmental problem.

He asked the state environment mininsters to inspire people to take up Green Good Deeds and build small, social movements.

“If every Indian adopts one Green Good Deed per day, a revolutionary change can be brought about in the nation,” Vardhan urged.

In his address, Minister of State Dr. Mahesh Sharma recalled the Gandhian thought “Cleanliness is Godliness,” and identified this as the spirit behind the theme of “Beat Plastic Pollution.”

Minister Sharma advocated implementation of Prime Minister Modi’s mantra of Six Rs: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Retrieve, Recover, Redesign and remanufacture to eliminate single use plastic,

Addressing the gathering, Erik Solheim, executive director of United Nations Environment (UNEP) pointed out that in India efforts are needed not only from the government side, but also from the people.

“We need to make environment a citizen’s issue,” Solheim said.  The senior UN representative felt that universities should form rules and regulations for students to follow environmental norms. He said that UN leadership will help take Indian practices to the world.

“India has demonstrated the magnitude of what is possible when leaders, individuals and businesses come together to tackle a challenge – even one as great as plastic pollution,” said Solheim.

“The momentum for World Environment Day on June 5 is picking up,” he said, “and all across India we are witnessing exactly the kind of global leadership we need to save our planet from the rising tide of plastic pollution.”

Solheim is hopeful that humans can reverse the plastic disaster. Released today, a new report from his agency, UN Environment, finds a “surging momentum in global efforts to address plastic pollution.”

The first-of-its-kind accounting finds governments are increasing the pace of implementation and the scope of action to curb the use of single-use plastics.

Single-use Plastics: A roadmap for Sustainability,” is a global outlook, developed in cooperation with the Indian Government and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It presents case studies from more than 60 countries.

Among the recommendations are specific actions policy makers can take to improve waste management, promote eco-friendly alternatives, educate consumers, enable voluntary reduction strategies and successfully implement bans or levies on the use and sale of single-use plastics.

The report was launched in New Delhi today by Prime Minister Modi and Solheim on the occasion of World Environment Day.

“The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable, with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution,” said Solheim. In the report’s foreword he writes, “Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it.”

Featured Image: Wild boars and a dog root through the plastic garbage on a street in Bundi, Rajasthan, India, November 8, 2012 (Photo by Oliver Laumann) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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First Flight ‘On Wings of Waste’

WingsofWastePlane

Pilot Jeremy Rowsell with the On Wings of Waste aircraft. Rowsell was born in London into a family of military pilots. He first flew solo at age 14, flew during university, then travelled and flew extensively in Africa. Working as a broker at Lloyds of London led to a job in Australia. He currently lives Sydney and works for multinational insurer Jardine Lloyd Thompson, who supported his flight On Wings of Waste. (Photo courtesy On Wings of Waste) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, January 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Pilot Jeremy Rowsell made history this week by flying a light plane across Australia from Sydney to Melbourne, using blended fuel  – 10 percent derived from plastic waste blended with 90 percent conventional fuel.

After years of preparation and many ups and downs we’ve finally shown that the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped into the oceans each year can be put to good use,” said Rowsell as he arrived in Melbourne today.

The flight from Sydney to Melbourne covered 500 miles. The Vans aircraft RV9a traveled at 100 nautical miles an hour over a period of 20 hours.

With the unique ‘On Wings of Waste‘ flight, Rowsell, co-pilot Chris Clark and their team set out to prove that plastic waste can be transformed from a pollutant into an alternative fuel to be blended with Jet A1 fuel.

We blended 10 percent of fuel manufactured by Plastic Energy with conventional fuel and the flight was a dream,” Rowsell enthused upon landing in Melbourne.

The team’s campaign to inspire people to recycle plastic waste has taken four years to lift off. The four-stage proposition is:

re-cycle – public support for a recycling campaign

re-use – plastic waste is transformed into fuel to be blended with Jet A1 fuel

re-fuel – airlines adopt a 10 percent blend of fuel derived from plastic waste

rescue – pollution of the world’s oceans is slowed down and eventually halted

The unique project came about after Rowsell observed from the air the danger posed by ever-increasing amounts of plastic waste found in the ocean.

Marine debris comes in all shapes and sizes, from large trawl nets, discarded or lost at sea, to plastic pieces smaller than a grain of rice that float throughout the water column.

The equivalent of a garbage truck full of waste plastic is dumped into the sea every minute, says Rowsell, the equivalent of eight million tons of plastic that enters the oceans every year.

He was inspired to test out a solution.

For the fuel that made up the 10 percent derived from plastic, Plastic Energy used end-of-life plastic, normally found in garbage patches in the ocean and in landfill sites, where it takes hundreds of years to degrade.

The waste can be turned into recyclable material; 95 percent is usable for diesel fuel and the other five percent, known as Char is a solid that can be used for fuel additives and pigments. 

Plastic Energy uses a process called thermal anaerobic conversion. Plastics are heated in an oxygen-free environment to prevent them from burning, and then broken into their component hydrocarbons to create the equivalent of a petroleum distillate. This can then be separated into different fuels.

As there is no burning of the plastics, but rather a melting process, no toxic emissions are released into the environment.

Carlos Monreal, president and CEO, Plastic Energy, said, “Jeremy’s flight is a tremendous opportunity to showcase how plastic waste can be put to productive use instead of thrown away to pollute the oceans or despoil the land. We are delighted to be supporting this adventure.”

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A seal approaches discarded fishing nets that cover a coral reef in Hawaiian waters. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program) Public domain.

Plastic breaks up into small particles, mixing with the plankton at the ocean surface. Plankton is at the heart of the food chain and provides us with more than half the oxygen we breathe – our oceans keep us alive,” explains Jo Ruxton, part of the On Wings of Waste team and one of the producers of “A Plastic Ocean,” a film on plastic pollution to be released January 20. 

We can’t yet safely remove plastic particles from plankton that lives in the ocean, so we must stop dumping plastic waste in the ocean,” Ruxton said.

There are estimated to be 5.25 trillion particles of plastic floating – mainly at the bottom – of the world’s seas,” she says.

Besides using waste plastic that otherwise could be dumped in the ocean, Jeremy’s flight could have a major effect on the aviation industry.

Rowsell points out that 33 percent of airlines’ operating costs are spent on fuel.

A 747 aircraft on a 10,000 mile flight burns 36,000 gallons of fuel. If 10 percent of fuel burned on that flight were sourced from plastic waste, 3,600 (UK) gallons, it would be the equivalent of 18 tonnes of waste plastic, utilized, not dumped.

Calculate in the 1,200 flights a day that are made from Heathrow alone, and it is possible that more than 21,000 tonnes of waste plastic could be transformed from pollutant to fuel – every day.

The On Wings of Waste team is looking for support from the general public and other investors to build a recycling plant in Australia that could lead to a change in culture and attitude about how we dispose of single use plastic.

World renowned naturalist and filmmaker Sir David Attenborough has backed the project saying, “The Wings of Waste flight, I hope, will bring the attention of the world to this great solution that is there waiting to be taken if only we can get the support of people to do so.” 

Rowsell and survival trainer Tony Loughran from Zerorisk International have started to roll out an educational campaign in Australia, building a groundswell of support for On Wings of Waste.


Featured Image: This photo, taken after a marine debris removal effort by NOAA’s Pacific Island Fisheries Service Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, shows 4,781 bottle caps collected from Midway Atoll’s shoreline. Most plastic bottle caps are made from polypropylene, a hard, durable plastic that can be tough to recycle. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program) Public domain.

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