A new material that’s part plastic and part rock is forming on this Portuguese island

A new material that’s part plastic and part rock is forming on this Portuguese island

SOURCE: MNN and Science of the Total Environment DATE: June 25, 2019 SNIP: You know we have a problem when our plastic pollution starts becoming a permanent fixture of the planet’s geology. And that seems to be exactly what’s happening on the Portugeuese island of Madeira—a place famed for wine, mountain peaks and, perhaps soon, its plastic-encrusted shoreline. Back in 2016, marine biologist Ignacio Gestoso first spotted the unusual patterns on rocks scattered along the island’s shore, as Gizmodo reports. It seemed that plastic was no longer content to wash ashore in its manufactured state, as bottles and wrappers and caps. Instead, it had formed a kind of hybrid material with the rock that would become known as “plasticrust.” At the time, Gestoso wrote off the strange new material as an unhappy coincidence. Surely, this union of plastic and rocks couldn’t last. But when he and his team returned to the island a year later, they found the marriage had not only lasted, but thrived. In a new study, published in Science of The Total Environment, Gestoso and his colleagues describe “plasticrust” as a synthetic moss covering huge swathes of the island’s stony shoreline — and even sporting bright, new and terrible colors. In fact, the researchers estimate plasticrust taints nearly 10 percent of rocky surfaces on the Madeira shoreline. At this rate, plasticrust is poised to become a part of our geological record. “The dimension of the problem is so large that it is possible our current era will generate an anthropogenic marker horizon of plastic in earth’s sedimentary record,” the authors note in the study...
As the world grapples with plastic, the U.S. makes more of it — a lot more

As the world grapples with plastic, the U.S. makes more of it — a lot more

SOURCE: Center for Public Integrity DATE: June 13, 2019 SNIP: Jace Tunnell shuffled forward near the water’s edge, head bent. He was hunting for something that shouldn’t be on this beach near Corpus Christi, and he kept finding it. Hidden in the sand — white, tan, nearly translucent — were tiny plastic pellets. They’re about the size of a lentil, most of them, so insubstantial that several blew out of his hand as soon as he picked them up. Some were tan from baking in the sun. It wasn’t hard to see why a bird looking for seeds would snap these imposters up. These are the products of plastics producers, intended to be turned into bottles, bags and countless other items. As much as anything one-tenth of an inch across could sum up the modern world, they do. A marvel of chemical engineering. A convenient material that will long outlast us. A global waste predicament of daunting scope. Microscopic plastic particles are in our oceans, the fish we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink. Plastic waste is piling up, increasing amounts of it going to landfills as U.S. recycling programs — dependent on Asian countries that no longer want our scrap — struggle to adjust. In March the United Nations, “alarmed” by the environmental and public health consequences of plastic items intended to be used once and thrown away, urged countries to “take comprehensive action.” Against this backdrop, the United States is about to make a whole lot more of the stuff. Production of the most common plastic, polyethylene, is on track to jump more than...
What’s Worrying the Plastics Industry? Your Reaction to All That Waste, for One

What’s Worrying the Plastics Industry? Your Reaction to All That Waste, for One

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: June 7, 2019 SNIP: One by one, they stepped to a clear plastic lectern at the Global Plastics Summit here and talked about what their companies were doing in response to the world’s crisis in plastics waste. Representing businesses all along the supply and packaging chain, the speakers suggested solutions ranging from new technology that would take plastic back to its molecular building blocks for repeated recycling to redesigning plastic bottles with caps that stay connected to the bottle. But none of that is happening fast enough to keep pace with the global production of plastics, an analyst from IHS Markit told some 270 people attending the 2019 Global Plastics Summit. IHS Market, a co-host of the conference, expects plastics production to grow on average 3.5 to 4 percent per year through at least 2035. With recycling programs largely underfunded and ineffective, there’s potential for billions more tons of plastic waste to be headed to landfills or out into the environment, said Dewey Johnson, an IHS Markit vice president. And new recycling technology is a decade or more away, he said. In the hallways and meeting rooms of a glitzy hotel that boasts a Rolls-Royce dealership, people from chemical manufacturers listened to presentations and talked business with representatives of plastic product makers, consumer products companies and recyclers. Government officials were also there for a meeting that was dominated by sessions on sustainability. Industry has been taking a beating in the public’s eye—and cities, states and some countries have begun to restrict, ban or regulate certain plastics. Analysts described all this as one of many...
Treated like trash: south-east Asia vows to return mountains of rubbish from west

Treated like trash: south-east Asia vows to return mountains of rubbish from west

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: May 28, 2019 SNIP: For the past year, the waste of the world has been gathering on the shores of south-east Asia. Crates of unwanted rubbish from the west have accumulated in the ports of the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam while vast toxic wastelands of plastics imported from Europe and the US have built up across Malaysia. But not for much longer it seems. A pushback is beginning, as nations across south-east Asia vow to send the garbage back to where it came from. Last week the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, threatened to sever diplomatic ties with Canada if the government did not agree to take back 69 containers containing 1,500 tonnes of waste that had been exported to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014. On 23 April a Malaysian government investigation revealed that waste from the UK, Australia, United States and Germany was pouring into the country illegally, falsely declared as other imports. Enough was enough, said Yeo Bee Yin, the environment minister. “Malaysia will not be the dumping ground of the world. We will send back [the waste] to the original countries.” She has been as good as her word. Five containers of illegal rubbish from Spain discovered at a Malaysian port have just been sent back and on Tuesday Yeo announced that 3,000 tonnes of illegally imported plastic waste from the UK, the US, Australia, Japan, France and Canada would be returned imminently. Many believe this is the only way that countries, mainly in the west, will finally be forced to confront their own waste problems, rather than burdening developing...
‘It’s Raining Plastic’: Researchers Find Microscopic Fibers in Colorado Rain Samples

‘It’s Raining Plastic’: Researchers Find Microscopic Fibers in Colorado Rain Samples

SOURCE: EcoWatch and USGS Report DATE: May 23, 2019 SNIP: When Greg Wetherbee sat in front of the microscope recently, he was looking for fragments of metals or coal, particles that might indicate the source of airborne nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park. What caught his eye, though, were the plastics. The U.S. Geological Survey researcher had collected rain samples from eight sites along Colorado’s Front Range. The monitoring network was designed to track nitrogen trends, and Wetherbee, a chemist, wanted to trace the path of airborne nitrogen that is deposited in the national park. The presence of metals or organic materials like coal particles could point to rural or urban sources of nitrogen. He filtered the samples and then, in an inspired moment, placed the filters under a microscope, to look more closely at what else had accumulated. It was much more than he initially thought. In 90 percent of the samples Wetherbee found a rainbow wheel of plastics, mostly fibers and mostly colored blue. Those could have been shed like crumbs from synthetic clothing. But he also found other shapes, like beads and shards. The plastics were tiny, needing magnification of 20 to 40 times to be visible and they were not dense enough to be weighed. More fibers were found in urban sites, but plastics were also spotted in samples from a site at elevation 10,300 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park. The findings are detailed in a report published online on May 14. Where did the plastic fibers come from? Are they locally produced, or carried from distant states or countries? How do they...