Plastic litter on Great Lakes beaches

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

What do cigarette butts, takeout containers, straws and water bottles have in common? They’re some of the most common litter found on Lake Michigan and Lake Erie beaches, according to a recent study published in Science of the Total Environment.

Sea Unworthy: A Personal Journey into the Pacific Garbage Patch [Slide Show]

Read the full story and view the slide show from Scientific American.

More plastic in the oceans, found at greater depths than thought, would mean a bigger threat to environmental—and possibly human—health.

Are We Eating Our Fleece Jackets? Microfibers Are Migrating Into Field And Food

Read the full story from NPR.

The innovation of synthetic fleece has allowed many outdoor enthusiasts to hike with warmth and comfort. But what many of these fleece-wearing nature lovers don’t know is that each wash of their jackets and pullovers releases thousands of microscopicplastic fibers, or microfibers, into the environment — from their favorite national park to agricultural lands to waters with fish that make it back onto our plates.

This has scientists wondering: Are we eating our sweaters’ synthetic microfibers?

The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics

Download the report.

Plastics have become the ubiquitous workhorse material of the modern economy – combining unrivalled functional properties with low cost. Their use has increased twenty-fold in the past half-century and is expected to double again in the next 20 years. Today nearly everyone, everywhere, every day comes into contact with plastics – especially plastic packaging, the focus of this report. While delivering many benefits, the current plastics economy has drawbacks that are becoming more apparent by the day. After a short first-use cycle, 95% of plastic packaging material value, or $80–120 billion annually, is lost to the economy. A staggering 32% of plastic packaging escapes collection systems, generating significant economic costs by reducing the productivity of vital natural systems such as the ocean and clogging urban infrastructure. The cost
of such after-use externalities for plastic packaging, plus the cost associated with greenhouse gas emissions from its production, is conservatively estimated at $40 billion annually – exceeding the plastic packaging industry’s profit pool. In future, these costs will have to be covered. In overcoming these drawbacks, an opportunity beckons: enhancing system effectiveness to achieve better economic and environmental outcomes while continuing to harness the many benefits of plastic packaging. The “New Plastics Economy” offers a new vision, aligned with the principles of the circular economy, to capture these opportunities. With an explicitly systemic and collaborative approach, the New Plastics Economy aims to overcome the limitations of today’s incremental improvements and fragmented initiatives, to create a shared sense of direction, to spark a wave of innovation and to move the plastics value chain into a positive spiral of value capture, stronger economics,
and better environmental outcomes. This report outlines a fundamental rethink for plastic packaging and plastics in general; it offers a new approach with the potential to transform global plastic packaging material flows and thereby usher in the New Plastics Economy.

Renewable Plastic Can Be Created From Pine Needle Waste

Read the full story at Seeker.

That pine fresh scent in the air actually smells like the future of plastics.

A team of chemists in England has figured out a way to produce a renewable plastic from pine needle waste, potentially replacing a type that’s currently made from crude oil. In order to do it, they turned to the chemical called pinene that gives pine trees their delicious smell.

Pinene is a naturally derived organic compound known as a terpene, and the paper industry generates a bunch of it as a waste product. Chemists at the University of Bath converted the chemical into a polymer using a four-step process. The team was led by Matthew Davidson, director of the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, and they published their results in the journal Polymer Chemistry.

Call for Abstracts for Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, and IISG are organizing the Emerging Contaminants in the Aquatic Environment Conference, which will be held on May 31 – June 1, 2017 in Champaign, Illinois.

Abstracts are welcome on all aspects of emerging contaminants in the aquatic environment. Topics may include: research, policy, management, outreach, and education about their detection, fate, transport, remediation, and prevention. Emerging contaminants include but are not limited to:

  • Flame retardants
  • Algal toxins
  • Hormones
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Personal care products
  • Microplastics
  • Nanoparticles
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in contaminants such as coal tar sealants
  • Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)

Oral presentation abstracts are due January 31, 2017, and poster abstracts are due February 28, 2017.

Submit an Oral Presentation Abstract      

Submit a Poster Presentation Abstract

The conference is an expansion of the successful Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment Conference held in Champaign in April 2016.

ISTC and IISG encourage researchers, educators, businesses, government officials, outreach and extension professionals, environmental groups, and members of the general public to attend this conference.

The event will take place at the I Hotel Conference Center in Champaign. On May 31, oral sessions will run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. CDT, with a reception and poster session following from 4:15 – 6:00 p.m. On June 1, oral sessions and a panel discussion will run from 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Registration will open mid-February. (Times are subject to change once the agenda is finalized.)

For questions, please contact Elizabeth Meschewski, conference coordinator.