Dumped fishing gear is biggest plastic polluter in ocean, finds report

Dumped fishing gear is biggest plastic polluter in ocean, finds report

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 6, 2019 SNIP: Lost and abandoned fishing gear which is deadly to marine life makes up the majority of large plastic pollution in the oceans, according to a report by Greenpeace. More than 640,000 tonnes of nets, lines, pots and traps used in commercial fishing are dumped and discarded in the sea every year, the same weight as 55,000 double-decker buses. The report, which draws on the most up-to-date research on “ghost gear” polluting the oceans, calls for international action to stop the plastic pollution, which is deadly for marine wildlife. About 300 sea turtles were found dead as a result of entanglement in ghost gear off the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico, last year. And in October, a pregnant whale was found entangled in ghost gear off the Orkney coast. The fishing gear was jammed in the animal’s baleen, the filter-feeder system inside its mouth, and scientists said the net would have hugely impaired the minke whale’s feeding and movement. The report said abandoned fishing gear a particularly deadly. “Nets and lines can pose a threat to wildlife for years or decades, ensnaring everything from small fish and crustaceans to endangered turtles, seabirds and even whales,” it said. “Spreading throughout the ocean on tides and currents, lost and discarded fishing gear is now drifting to Arctic coastlines, washing up on remote Pacific islands, entangled on coral reefs and littering the deep seafloor.” Ghost gear is estimated to make up 10% of ocean plastic pollution but forms the majority of large plastic littering the waters. One study found that as much as 70% (by weight)...
Mass dismantling of old wind turbines could overburden Germany’s recycling capacities

Mass dismantling of old wind turbines could overburden Germany’s recycling capacities

SOURCE: Clean Energy Wire and Cowboy State Daily DATE: November 4, 2019 SNIP: The expected dismantling of thousands of old wind turbines in Germany could overburden the country’s recycling capacities and lead to financial difficulties for the turbines’ operators as reserves set aside might have been calculated too low, the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has found in a study. “The federal government and the states quickly ought to come up with guidelines for turbine deconstruction,” UBA head Maria Krautzberger said. “We need clear rules for the scope and procedures to protect people and the environment and to recycle the valuable materials.” While the turbines’ steel and concrete can be disposed of without greater problems, the UBA found that the rotor blades will pose particular problems as the materials they are made of are difficult to separate properly. By 2024, about 70,000 tonnes of old blades could pile up annually in Germany alone. Moreover, the reserves set aside by operators could fall short of covering the financial needs by hundreds of millions of euros by 2038, which is why the UBA recommends reviewing the reserves’ calculation base and have them reviewed by independent experts on a regular basis. There are currently nearly 30,000 onshore wind turbines operating in Germany. The first installations will reach the end of their 20-year guaranteed remuneration period by 2021, meaning that many turbines will likely be taken offline. Operators are looking for ways to keep their turbines operational by pursuing other funding models, such as power purchase agreements (PPA). However, as land becomes increasingly scarce for new renewable installations, replacing old models with newer ones...
E.P.A. to Roll Back Rules to Control Toxic Ash from Coal Plants

E.P.A. to Roll Back Rules to Control Toxic Ash from Coal Plants

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: October 31, 2019 SNIP: The Trump administration is expected to roll back an Obama-era regulation meant to limit the leaching of heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury into water supplies from the ash of coal-fired power plants, according to two people familiar with the plans. With a series of new rules expected in the coming days, the Environmental Protection Agency will move to weaken the 2015 regulation that would have strengthened inspection and monitoring at coal plants, lowered acceptable levels of toxic effluent and required plants to install new technology to protect water supplies from contaminated coal ash. The E.P.A. will relax some of those requirements and exempt a significant number of power plants from any of the requirements, according to the two people familiar with the Trump administration plan, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the new rules. The move is part of a series of deregulatory efforts by the Trump administration aimed at extending the lives of old, coal-fired power plants that have been shutting down in the face of competition from cheaper natural gas and renewable energy generators. Coal ash, the residue produced from burning coal, was dumped for years in holding areas near power plants, largely without regulation, but it came to the public’s attention after spills in North Carolina and Tennessee sent mercury, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals from the ash into water supplies. Environmental groups warned that the regulatory rollback could lead to contaminated drinking water and birth defects, cancer and stunted brain development in young children. Energy analysts said the...
Fishery collapse ‘confirms Silent Spring pesticide prophecy’

Fishery collapse ‘confirms Silent Spring pesticide prophecy’

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 31, 2019 SNIP: The Silent Spring prophecy that pesticides could “still the leaping of fish” has been confirmed, according to scientists investigating the collapse of fisheries in Japan. They say similar impacts are likely to have occurred around the world. The long-term study showed an immediate plunge in insect and plankton numbers in a large lake after the introduction of neonicotinoid pesticides to rice paddies. This was rapidly followed by the collapse of smelt and eel populations, which had been stable for decades but rely on the tiny creatures for food. The analysis shows a strong correlation but cannot prove a causal link between the insecticides and the collapse. However, independent scientists said other possibilities had been ruled out and that the work provided “compelling evidence”. The research is the first to reveal the knock-on effects of insecticides on fish. Harm to bees is well known, but previous studies in Europe have linked neonicotinoids to die-offs in other freshwater species including mayflies, dragonflies and snails and also to falling populations of farmland bird that feed on insects, including starlings and swallows. The insecticide has also been shown to make migrating songbirds lose their way. Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, her seminal book on the dangers of pesticides in 1962. In their report, the Japanese researchers said: “She wrote: ‘These sprays, dusts and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests and homes – nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams.’...
Plastic pollution off China’s coast soars after drive to stop dumping it in rivers

Plastic pollution off China’s coast soars after drive to stop dumping it in rivers

SOURCE: The Independent DATE: October 29, 2019 SNIP: The amount of plastic polluting China‘s coastal waters has soared following a government drive to stop rubbish being dumped in the country’s rivers. More than 200 million cubic metres of waste was found floating off Chinese shores last year, up 27 per cent on 2017, according to the environment ministry. Debris in the country’s seas has hit the highest level in a decade, with plastic accounting for the vast majority of the rubbish. Most of the waste was dumped in the delta regions of the Yangtze and Pearl rivers, both major industrial zones on China’s eastern coast, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said. Environmental groups have previously expressed concern that China, desperate to clean up its own rivers, is dumping increasing amounts of trash in its seas instead. [S]cientists say China is the world’s leading generator of plastic waste. In a study published in May, researchers at Tianjin University warned China’s “massive impact on the plastic levels of the ocean” was “a definite cause of concern” with “multiple economic, environmental and biological...