Archive for Plastic Waste
www.treehugger.com 3rd January 2012
The city of Concord (pop. 18,000) in the north-eastern state of Massachusetts in the US has become the first city to ban plastic water bottles. The ban, organised over the course of three years by 84 year-old resident Jean Hill, has been signed off by the state attorney general and applies to all water sold in a plastic bottle of 1 litre or less. It kicked into place on the 1st January. The first offence comes with a warning, the second a $25 fine and any after that a fine of $50. ”I hope other towns will follow,” Hill said. “I feel bottled water is a waste of money.” According to NBC News, the bottled water industry is considering a legal challenge. ”This ban deprives residents of the option to choose their choice of beverage and visitors, who come to this birthplace of American independence, a basic freedom gifted to them by the actions in this town more than 200 years ago,” the Virginia-based International Bottled Water Association stated, noting Concord’s place in U.S. history. “It will also deprive the town of needed tax revenue and harm local businesses that rely on bottled water sales.”
www.nytimes.com 15th October 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Sometime in the next few months, a single-engine Cessna will fly from Sydney to London. Converted to be able to carry extra amounts of fuel, the small plane will take 10 days for its journey, making 10 or so stops along the way. What will make this journey special is not the route or the identity of the pilot — a 41-year-old British insurance industry executive who lives in Australia — but the fuel that the aircraft will be using: diesel processed from discarded plastic trash. “I’m not some larger-than-life character, I’m just a normal bloke,” the pilot, Jeremy Rowsell, said by phone. “It’s not about me — the story is the fuel.”
The fuel in question will come from Cynar, a British company that has developed a technology that makes diesel out of so-called end-of-life plastics — material that cannot be reused and would otherwise end up in landfills. Batches of the fuel will be prepositioned along the 17,000-kilometer, or 10,500-mile, route. “The idea is to fly the whole route on plastic fuel alone and to prove that this technology works,” Mr. Rowsell said. “I’m a kind of carrier pigeon, carrying a message.” The message of the project is twofold: to highlight the issue of plastic pollution and to publicize the possibility of using plastic trash as a valuable fuel resource. As Mr. Rowsell put it: “We have a whole bunch of waste kicking about. So instead of sending it to the landfill, let’s use it.”
www.bbc.co.uk 21st August 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Beach goers have been urged to take their rubbish home with them after 23 tonnes had to be collected off Brighton beach over the weekend. Brighton and Hove City Council said despite installing 60 extra litter bins the beachfront was left covered with rubbish. It has also employed 20 extra seasonal staff to cope with the increase in litter. Councillor Ollie Sykes said the the level of litter was “astonishing”. ”Last weekend [it] was wonderful that so many people came, but very depressing that the beaches looked so awful at the end of it,” he said. ”The beaches looked like landfill sites. They [the beach goers] wouldn’t do this to their own streets and their own back gardens.” He said the 23 tonnes figure only included litter left on the beach and not rubbish that had been placed in the bins. ”If someone leaves litter on the beach then other people do as well,” he added.’
A couple of days ago, LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke added his name to a letter sent to the editor of the Daily Telegraph by Greener Upon Thames, an environmental charity that hosted the first UK screening of Plastic Shores. The letter called for a reduction of plastic bags used during the 2012 Olympics and other signatories included Zac Goldsmith MP, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Vivienne Westwood, and Jeff Bridges. Already Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) has stated it will not use disposable plastic bags in its shops but there are many other stores that still need to follow suit.
www.tgdaily.com 16th July 2012
Quoted from source:
“Drones have been a hot topic in the media lately. Whether they’re for surveillance or combat, the idea of drones patrolling our airspace is one that’s not taken lightly by the public. As we struggle to work out the ethics and legalities of military drones, it’s important to remember that not all autonomous robots are designed for violence or espionage. Many of us enjoy the work of drones in our daily lives, like the Roomba vacuum, BUFO pool cleaner, or Bosch Indego autonomous lawn mower…The Marine Drone concept created by Elie Ahovi and his team of collaborators is a perfect example of a way drone technology can have a positive impact on our world. Unlike the drones that have been causing so much controversy, this robot is designed to operate underwater, and instead of seeking out enemy targets, it will search for and destroy something equally sinister–ocean garbage. Horrified by the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and its identical twins forming in oceans all over the world, Ahovi and his classmates from the French International School of Design decided to come up with a simple-yet-sophisticated solution. As this review points out, the Marine Drone would patrol the oceans autonomously, sucking plastic bottles and garbage into its maw like a butterfly net. Powered by water-proof batteries, the Drone would employ an electric motor to move silently through the water. Like these pollution-seeking robot fish, the Drone’s sonic emitter would send out an irritating signal to deter aquatic life, ensuring that only trash goes into the net. When it’s collection area is full of junk, the Drone would dock with a nearby mothership, where a crew would crane the garbage up for disposal.”
e360.yale.edu 11th April 2012
Quoted from source:
‘NASA has developed a system capable of growing large amounts of algae for biofuel production within a network of floating plastic bags, an innovation its developers say could ultimately produce a new fuel source. By pumping wastewater and carbon dioxide into four nine-meter plastic bags at a demonstration plant in California, researchers have shown that the system can grow enough algae to produce nearly 2,000 gallons of fuel per year under ideal conditions, according to a report in MIT’s Technology Review. If built near wastewater plants, the technology would overcome two of the challenges associated with large-scale algae biofarms — access to huge amounts of fertilizer and large areas of land. One significant challenge, however, is that the technology currently would require an enormous amount of plastic. For instance, a scenario capable of producing 2.4 million gallons of algae per year would also require five square kilometers of plastic bags, which would likely have to be replaced annually.’
You would think that documentary film makers would be in constant competition with each other. However, here at LMV we believe that as we are all working towards the same goal (in our case to raise awareness about the problems of marine debris in our world’s oceans) we should all work together and help each other out as much as possible. During our Richmond preview, we bumped into a colleague of Gloop’s producer Joe Churchman, who recommended the film. After watching the trailer (above) we understand why it did so well on the international film festival circuit. It is great to see so many people championing this issue. We’re looking forward to seeing the final product!
A great new short on the problems of marine debris in the world’s oceans. To find out more visit Katrin Peter’s website SOS Plastic.
According to the ideas website psfk.com, students and professors from Yale University in the eastern US have discovered a type of fungi in the Amazon rainforest that can break down polyurethane (PUR), a common plastic used extensively in construction, transport, and furniture manufacture. The discovery was made as part of the university’s Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory Educational Program, which promotes discovery-based research among undergraduates. Surprisingly, the two types of Pestalotiopsis microspora fungi can survive on the polymer alone and in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment.
Research into this kind of thing is not new. Mark Osborn, Professor of Microbial Ecology at the University of Hull, has been studying how micro-organisms adapt in natural and polluted environments. Featured in the BBC’s Costing the Earth, Prof. Osborn and a PhD student of his Jesse Harrison explained how they go to various beaches in the UK and bury plastic in the sand, recording over time the microbes that would attach themselves to it. They collected evidence that some of these micro-organisms actually degrade the plastic, or the chemicals associated with it such as PCBs, DDT, BPA, etc. However, due to the scale of the bacteria compared to the plastic waste, the length of time it would take for a piece of plastic to completely break down is not exactly fast.
Unsurprisingly, the plastics industry is not particularly happy with this line of research. Although the idea of growing plastic-eating bacteria or fungi in an anaerobic environment may sound like a controlled method of waste disposal, uncomfortable scenarios arise if these micro-organisms escape into the environment. Particularly if they have been genetically engineered so that they degrade plastic at a higher rate than they would naturally. For obvious reasons, plastic manufacturers have expressed concern about a super-bacteria that survives on a diet of plastic loose in the world.
And yet, with global annual plastic production hitting 260 million tonnes, the problem of our plastic waste is only going to get worse. Reducing, reusing, and recycling are all very well to cut back on any more plastics escaping to the environment but we do need to think about solutions that tackle those items already there. Could plastic-consuming bacteria and fungi be the answer?
During a conference held by Zero Waste Scotland in Edinburgh, LMV’s director Ed Scott-Clarke got chatting to the key-note speaker Professor Richard Thompson, who is an interviewee in Plastic Shores. Richard talked about alternative solutions for end-use plastics instead of landfill, and on this subject he mentioned a company based in Swansea called Affresol who used plastic waste to make concrete. The company piqued LMV’s interest and we got in touch with them and organised filming for today.
Tucked away in an anonymous business park on the edge of Swansea off the M4, the large warehouse of Affresol is not the most beautiful construction in the world. However, what is produced within its walls could potentially reshape our attitudes towards waste disposal and construction materials. Affresol’s Managing Director Ian McPherson explained to LMV how the process works. Plastic waste that would otherwise be ear-marked for landfill is diverted to Affresol where it is ground to a granular sand. It is then mixed with a type of resin, as well as certain thermo set polymers, to create a substance that is poured like concrete, but is stronger, more insulated, waterproof, shatterproof, and fire-retardant. In short, it is an awful lot better than conventional concrete and its scope of application could be huge.
The ‘synthetic concrete’ as the call TPR3 is especially fascinating as a material because it does not require a particular type of plastic to be made. Any mixed plastics that are useless to the recycling industry can be utilised and therefore, potentially, a huge amount of plastic waste could be diverted from landfill. One of Affresol’s biggest waste streams comes from the well-known boiler manufacturer Worcester Bosch. Although Worcester Bosch has traditionally done its best to recycle old boilers, before their work with Affresol it was only really the metal such as copper and steel that could be recovered. Plastic parts went to landfill. Now though, Affresol takes all of the boiler company’s plastic waste in a programme so successful that Worcester Bosch now take on all of British Gas’ old boilers too.
Currently however, archaic British laws are hindering the mass use of TPR3 as they state any residential building has to have a cavity wall so that the build has adequate heat efficiency. The plastic concrete manufactured on the outskirts of Swansea is so well insulated that it doesn’t need extra insulation, and yet can be used to build a house of code 5 specifications. This law does not apply to mainland Europe so this a market Affresol may think about in the future. Also, the elastic properties of the plastic in the concrete mean it is shatterproof making it an interesting alternative to regular concrete in earthquake prone areas. The accreditation process TPR3 has to go through before it is used on a wider scale is nearing an end so be sure to look out for this innovative, and completely closed-loop life cycle, material soon.
www.bbc.co.uk 9th November 2011
Plastic bottles have found a new use in the west African country of Nigeria. In the village of Yelwa, north-western Nigeria, a project is underway that will see 25 houses built from recycled plastic bottles filled with dry soil or construction waste. The resulting buildings will not only be bullet and earthquake-proof but also cost as little as a third of similar houses being built from conventional mortar and bricks, as well as being more durable. The land was donated to the project by a Greek businessman and environmentalist and the homes will consist of one bedroom, living room, bathroom, toilet and kitchen. Around 7,800 empty plastic bottles are used per structure and are mostly sourced from hotels, embassies, and restaurants. Bottled water currently amounts to between 20-25% of water sales in the country, the equivalent of 500 million litres a year. Most of these bottles end up either in landfill or in the environment. The project is part of an initiative led by the Development Association for Renewable Energies, who plan to build a three-storey school on the same site as the houses. The plastic bottle architecture is useful for another reason. The sand in the bottles act as an insulator, which brings temperatures within the home down in the hot climate of Nigeria.
This is not the first time plastic bottles have been used in architecture and design. In Guatemala for example, recycled plastic bottles have been used to build a local school.
Last week was a busy week for LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke. On Friday, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) were kind enough to allow Ed to film a cleanup they were organising along the mangrove coast of northwest Cayman. PWC have a progressive community volunteering programme that encourages its employees to help out in a selection of locally orientated projects. Barkers, as the area is known, is not the worst place on the island for beach debris, but it is still affected and there are little to no government organised initiatives to clear it. This, sadly, is the case for most of the islands outside the normal tourist route. About ten employees, headed by Tim O’Sullivan, attended the cleanup that ran on for three hours. By the time Ed left after an hour, four large bin-bags worth of trash had been recovered and a long stretch of beach covered. It was great to see a company based on the island taking it upon themselves to help out in this area. As we have written about before on this blog, governmental attitudes towards marine debris do not reflect the importance of Cayman’s beaches to its economy. Several tourists that LMV has interviewed since being over here have expressed their dismay about how polluted the beaches are on island as soon as you walk beyond the manicured shores of the hotels and restaurants.
Because of this, Ed, with the help of the Department of the Environment’s Ollie Dubock, his film-maker brother Chris, and local bar-girl Jen Roy went up to Grand Cayman’s North Shore to collect shoes for a mass pin-up on the Cayman Island Shoe Tree. Within 20 minutes, the four had found close to 200 flip-flops and documented just how bad the Caribbean marine debris problem was (see pictures). Yesterday (Sunday 13th), with the help of the Cayman Island Brewery and local journalists, these 200 flip-flops were pinned to the tree. Messages were written on several shoes gave statistics about marine pollution in the hope that tourists passing by will stop and think properly about our use of disposable plastics.
Having been on Grand Cayman for almost a month, LMV has had plenty of time to study the problems of marine debris on the Caribbean island. Fortunately, the Cayman Island government, through the Film Commission, was kind enough to allow director Ed Scott-Clarke to stay filming on the islands for 6 months after a mix up at immigration resulted in his passport being seized. The Cayman Islands are a typical case study when it comes to the problems of disposable plastics and their effects on the environment. Whereas many Cayman beaches are regularly cleaned to give the impression of pristine shorelines to visiting tourists, it is not hard to travel somewhere away from the normal tourist route and find a very different story.
In the last update we spoke of John Marotta from the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme who showed Ed a beach tucked away on the north shore of Grand Cayman. This beach was covered in debris ranging from flip-flops to deodorant sticks, plastic and glass bottles to plastic garden chairs. Just as with the Cayman Shoe Tree on the south shore, other visitors had hung washed-up shoes on a bush in an artistic statement about the state of the beach (pictured below). Much of the waste would have come from cruise ships such as the one pictured above. However, a lot would have come from other Caribbean islands too, as well as the North American mainland. Another beach on the western side of Grand Cayman held a large amount of medicinal waste including hypodermic needles.
Not all waste would come from off-shore sources. Recycling is almost non-existent (particularly for plastic) and the country’s landfill is the tallest point on the islands. There has been talk about shipping the waste to the USA but so far nothing has come from it. Over the coming weeks LMV hopes to secure interviews with the Minister for Health and the Environment Mark Scotland and various NGO leaders to discuss the topic of marine debris and what is being done to solve the problem. Ed is also helping with the filming of a local documentary on shark fishing, which is being put together by the Department of the Environment shark specialist Ollie Dubock and his filmographer brother Chris Dubock. Chris has also kindly taken on the role of stand-in DP for Plastic Shores’ Caribbean filming over the next two weeks.
Although having been in the Cayman Islands for a week, LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke is still not sure whether he can stay to complete filming of Plastic Shores. Upon arrival on Tuesday (20th), his passport was seized by immigration and he has yet to have it returned. The main bone of contention seems to be what and who LMV will be filming and the amount of time LMV proposes to stay on the islands. The latter point is understandable, considering the financial status of the islands and the eagerness of many to gain citizenship here.
The Cayman Islands are well-known for diving and sailing holidays, as well as beautiful beaches and smart restaurants. Grand Cayman, the largest of the three islands (the others being Cayman Brac and Little Cayman), also hosts the world’s only population of Blue Iguanas. LMV visited the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and met up with its head warden John Marotta. The Recovery Programme has been a spectacular success story for conservation, bringing the Blue Iguana back from functional extinction in 2004 to a population nearing 700 today.
John took LMV to a beach set away from the more popular tourist spots where he normally collects vegetation to feed the captive lizards in the programme (the programme makes sure that all food fed to the Blue Iguanas is representative of their natural diet and comes from the Cayman Islands). Whereas all the other beaches LMV has seen on the islands are made up of pristine white sand, this shoreline was more like something from Big Island, Hawai’i on the edge of the Pacific Garbage Patch. The beach was covered in plastic bottles and, according to John, it was comparatively clean due to a recent storm that had cleared most of the debris. 90% of the waste had come from cruise ships, which habitually dump trash as soon as they are out of national waters. Because of the way currents work, most of this washes back up on the Cayman Islands.
The CI government, fortunately (and unlike in the UK), seem to have a comprehensive cleanup strategy for this waste. Of course, as a large part of their economy is based on tourism, this would make sense. This hasn’t stopped some people trying to highlight the problem though. On South Sound Road that loops around the bottom of Grand Cayman, there is a tree covered in shoes and flip-flops. Called the Cayman Shoe Tree, it was started by Canadian electrician Wolfgang Brocklebank and his Swiss girlfriend Giovanna Inselmini to raise awareness for the amount of shoes washed up on the Cayman coastline. People are encouraged to add more shoes they find on the CI shoreline to the living sculpture.
La Mode Verte (LMV) director Ed Scott-Clarke is set to travel to the Cayman Islands, a British protectorate in the Caribbean, to investigate and film the effects of marine debris on the island chain. With the kind support of several charities, the research trip should provide interesting and educational footage of one of the biggest problems affecting our oceans today.
The Cayman Islands are well known for its turtles. Unfortunately, these marine creatures are very susceptible to plastic waste, particularly plastic bags which look and move very much like jellyfish when underwater. As such a large part of the Islands’ economy is based on tourism, it will be interesting to see whether marine debris is having any kind of impact. All footage gathered in this trip will be used in LMV’s documentary ‘Plastic Shores’ due to be released in early 2012. The trailer and website will be released in the near future.
LMV’s director Ed Scott-Clarke has just written a new short editorial on the effects of plastic waste on the marine environment. The article closely follows the theme to LMV’s film (working title: ‘The Plastic Tide’), which should be finished in the beginning of 2012. ‘Our Plastic Seas’ will be published in the Focus Magazine (based out of Wiltshire) next month.
www.sciencedaily.com 1st July 2011
A research trip put together by two students at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has found that over 9% of fish sampled in the area of the North Pacific called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have ingested plastic. The Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX) travelled across the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which stretches between the North East Asian coast and western North America and sampled a total of 141 fish from 27 species. Based on the figure of 9.2% of sampled fish had plastic in their stomachs, the authors of the study, Peter Davidson and Rebecca Asch, went on to calculate that fish in the “intermediate levels of the North Pacific ingest plastic at a rate of roughly 12,000- to 24,000 tons per year.” Most of the plastic pieces were smaller than a human fingernail and many were too small for their original purpose to be determined. Furthermore, the study’s authors believe that the 9.2% is an underestimate as some fish may regurgitate plastic pieces, they may pass through the body, or a fish may die from eating it. It is impossible to measure these exceptions. SEAPLEX put down 132 net tows (130 came up with plastic) across a distance of 1,700 miles of the North Pacific. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not, as is commonly thought, an island of human waste but rather it is ‘highly dispersed’ and therefore impossible to map from satellite or plane. For this reason, research on the matter is still relatively young.