Read the full story in Fast Company.
Maybe it’s not surprising that a city that’s experimenting with building roads out of recycled plastic is also building plastic bridges.
Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the Netherlands, is filled with canals and split in half by a river—and along with all of that water, it has 850 bridges for pedestrians and cyclists. As the bridges wear out, the city is replacing them with plastic instead of steel, concrete, or wood.
Using fiber-reinforced polymer, a lightweight plastic, makes it possible to install a pedestrian bridge in as little as an hour. “It’s a light material, making it really easy to put it out there,” says Dave Geensen, project manager for the city. “A normal wooden bridge or steel bridge will take up to three weeks of construction. With this bridge, in the morning the truck with the bridge came, and in the afternoon, before lunchtime they had already left. The bridge was there.”
Read the full story from PBS Newshour.
In 2014, humans produced 311 million metric tons of plastic — that equals about 3,500 of the world’s largest aircraft carriers. In the environment, this plastic can take decades to break down, and some have wondered if nature would be forced to adapt. A new study argues yes, and on one of the smallest levels possible.
A plastic-eating species of bacteria has been uncovered by researchers in Japan. This microbe munches on one type of plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. PET is one of the most abundant forms of plastic on Earth and typically takes five to 10 years to naturally degrade. This bacteria could break it down six weeks. This discovery, scientists say, could play a key role in how we rid the world of this insidious plastic.
Read the full story from Stanford University.
Stanford scientists have discovered a novel way to make plastic from carbon dioxide (CO2) and inedible plant material, such as agricultural waste and grasses. Researchers say the new technology could provide a low-carbon alternative to plastic bottles and other items currently made from petroleum.
“Our goal is to replace petroleum-derived products with plastic made from CO2,” said Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford. “If you could do that without using a lot of non-renewable energy, you could dramatically lower the carbon footprint of the plastics industry.”
Kanan and his Stanford colleagues described their results in the March 9 online edition of the journal Nature.
Read the full story at Earth911.
Did you know that Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles each year, with a recycling rate of only 23%? From an environmental standpoint, it brings up numerous concerns. Kicking our bottled water habit can conserve resources, but what are we going to do with the billions of plastic bottles that are recycled? How do we boost stubbornly low plastic bottle recycling rates?
Luckily Patagonia has been looking at this issue for decades and has made considerable progress in turning plastic trash into polyester fabric for apparel. The company has found a way to actually upcycle plastic bottles, finding a good use for this waste stream by turning it into a higher value goods.
Read the full story at Grist.
Few things in this world are more terrifying than free-floating poop. It ranks just below megalodons, Carnival cruises, and tequila shots as the biggest threat to swimmers worldwide. The mere sight of a floater is enough to ruin a perfectly good day at the beach.
But a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology suggests that it might actually be the dookie we can’t see that should worry us the most. According to the study, microscopic poop pellets that come from plankton can be chock full of plastic pollution. And when those pellets sink to the ocean depths, they bring that plastic with them, delivering it straight to the mouths of fish, crustaceans, and other organisms.
Read the full story in Ensia.
From drones to filters to artificial islands, innovators are working to reduce the threat thousands of tons of trash pose to marine ecosystems.
Read the full story in GreenBiz.
More plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050. 95 percent of plastic packaging’s potential value lost after its first use. Only 14 percent of plastic packaging collected for recycling. Global waste disposal systems so challenged that nearly a third of plastic waste doesn’t even make it to the landfill, and instead is littered on land or swept into the ocean.
These are some sobering findings of “The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics,” a report released last month by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in partnership with the World Economic Forum intended to move the circular economy a step closer from theory to practice.