The NOAA Marine Debris Program, in partnership with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, has published reports that assess the current state of science on two marine debris impacts: ingestion and entanglement.
The reports examine existing scientific literature to determine what we know about these impacts, as well as gaps in knowledge and how they may be addressed.
Entanglement of Marine Species in Marine Debris with an Emphasis on Species in the United States
From reports in the United States, at least 115 marine species are impacted by entanglement, including mammals, turtles, birds, fish, and crabs. Most marine debris entanglement reports involved pinnipeds, particularly northern fur seals and Hawaiian monk seals, as well as sea turtles. Worldwide, at least 200 species are impacted.
Occurrence of Health Effects of Anthropogenic Debris Ingested by Marine Organisms
An estimated 26 marine mammal species, including toothed whales, manatees, and multiple seal species, as well as all sea turtle species have been confirmed to ingest marine debris. Over one-third of sea bird species ingest plastic. Research to-date has characterized the types, sources and impacts of ingestible debris, yet the overall effects on animals remain poorly understood.
Read the full post at Bored Panda.
DIY recycling projects are always cool, especially when you can turn your trash into something new and useful. We’ve written posts about ways to recycle before, but it turns out there’s so much that you can do with recycle plastic bottles that they deserved their own post.
The PET plastic that most plastic beverage bottles are made of is a fairly useful material – it’s resilient, flexible, transparent and food safe. As such, there are probably countless applications for these bottles that will give them second lives. These 23 are a great place to start, but can you think of your own as well?
Read the full story at Environmental Leader.
Green chemistry company Carbios says it has achieved a key milestone in the development of its controlled biodegradation process for disposable soft plastics by obtaining completely biodegradable plastic material in domestic conditions.
This plastic material issued from an oil-based polymer and an enzyme has a controlled kinetic that loses 50 percent of its mass in 15 days and completely biodegrades in less than three months.
Read the full story from the BBC.
A container filled with millions of Lego pieces fell into the sea off Cornwall in 1997. But instead of remaining at the bottom of the ocean, they are still washing up on Cornish beaches today – offering an insight into the mysterious world of oceans and tides.
Read the full story in Fast Company.
There’s no “great garbage patch” of plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a problem.
Rik I. L. Eggen, Juliane Hollender, Adriano Joss, Michael Schärer, and Christian Stamm (2014). “Reducing the Discharge of Micropollutants in the Aquatic Environment: The Benefits of Upgrading Wastewater Treatment Plants.” Environmental Science & Technology 48 (14), 7683-7689. Online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es500907n.
Abstract: Micropollutants (MPs) as individual compounds or in complex mixtures are relevant for water quality and may trigger unwanted ecological effects. MPs originate from different point and diffuse sources and enter water bodies via different flow paths. Effluents from conventional wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), in which various MPs are not or not completely removed, is one major source. To improve the water quality and avoid potential negative ecological effects by micropollutants, various measures to reduce the discharge should be taken. In this feature we discuss one of these measures; the benefits of upgrading WWTPs toward reduced MP loads and toxicities from wastewater effluents, using the recently decided Swiss strategy as an example. Based on (i) full-scale case studies using ozonation or powder activated carbon treatment, showing substantial reduction of MP discharges and concomitant reduced toxicities, (ii) social and political acceptance, (iii) technical feasibility and sufficient cost-effectiveness, the Swiss authorities recently decided to implement additional wastewater treatment steps as mitigation strategy to improve water quality. Since MPs are of growing global concern, the concepts and considerations behind the Swiss strategy are explained in this feature, which could be of use for other countries as well. It should be realized that upgrading WWTPs is not the only solution to reduce the discharge of MPs entering the environment, but is part of a broader, multipronged mitigation strategy.
Read the full story in Fast Company.
One of the challenges of cleaning up the billions of pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans is that the fragments are so small. Water bottles and plastic bags eventually break apart into tinier and tinier pieces that spread throughout the water in a messy soup. While the ideal solution might be making sure plastic makes it to recycling bins–or actually using fewer plastic products–another approach is to do a better job of catching plastic trash just before it reaches the sea.
In the Netherlands, a new project plans to use a “plastic fisher” set up at the edge of a harbor to trap wrappers, bottles, and other junk as it floats by. The collection device floats in the water, with two folding arms that reach down several meters to catch garbage in a screen. Since most ocean plastic comes from urban runoff, the team behind the project hopes that the device can slow pollution in the North Sea.
Download the article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).
Significance: High concentrations of floating plastic debris have been reported in remote areas of the ocean, increasing concern about the accumulation of plastic litter on the ocean surface. Since the introduction of plastic materials in the 1950s, the global production of plastic has increased rapidly and will continue in the coming decades. However, the abundance and the distribution of plastic debris in the open ocean are still unknown, despite evidence of affects on organisms ranging from small invertebrates to whales. In this work, we synthetize data collected across the world to provide a global map and a first-order approximation of the magnitude of the plastic pollution in surface waters of the open ocean.
Abstract: There is a rising concern regarding the accumulation of floating plastic debris in the open ocean. However, the magnitude and the fate of this pollution are still open questions. Using data from the Malaspina 2010 circumnavigation, regional surveys, and previously published reports, we show a worldwide distribution of plastic on the surface of the open ocean, mostly accumulating in the convergence zones of each of the five subtropical gyres with comparable density. However, the global load of plastic on the open ocean surface was estimated to be on the order of tens of thousands of tons, far less than expected. Our observations of the size distribution of floating plastic debris point at important size-selective sinks removing millimeter-sized fragments of floating plastic on a large scale. This sink may involve a combination of fast nano-fragmentation of the microplastic into particles of microns or smaller, their transference to the ocean interior by food webs and ballasting processes, and processes yet to be discovered. Resolving the fate of the missing plastic debris is of fundamental importance to determine the nature and significance of the impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean.
Read the full story in Environmental Leader.
The total natural capital cost of plastic in the consumer goods industry is more than $75 billion per year, according to research released today by the Plastic Disclosure Project, the UN Environment Programme and natural capital analysts Trucost.
The cost comes from a range of environmental impacts including the harm done by plastic litter to wildlife in the ocean and the loss of resources when plastic waste is sent to landfill rather than being recycled.
The report, Valuing plastic: the business case for measuring, managing and disclosing plastic use in the consumer goods industry, is the first-ever assessment of the environmental costs of plastic in business. It says companies could become more sustainable by improving the way they measure, manage and report the amount of plastic they use in their business operations and supply chains.
Read the full story in Fast Company.
The Ekocycle Cube 3-D Printer makes objects up to six inches cubed from recycled plastic bottles.