Category: Plastics

Are current river flux assessments overestimated and what does this mean?

Read the full story at AzoCleanTech.

An imbalance in the amount of plastic floating on the surface of the ocean and the volume leaking into the ocean by rivers led scientists to believe an unidentified sink was removing the river-sourced plastics quickly from the ocean surface.

However, several miscalculations mean the mass fluxes or flows have been overestimated by two to three orders of magnitude. This increased the average residence time of microplastics at the ocean surface from a matter of days to several years and implies they exist for longer periods and take more time to degrade than previously thought, negating the need for a missing sink.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor Ting Lu jointly presented with 1 million euro Future Insight Prize for converting waste into food

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Ting Lu, a professor of bioengineering at The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign received the 2021 Future Insight Prize. Established by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a leading science and technology company, the Future Insight Prize aims to stimulate innovative solutions to solve some of humanity’s greatest problems and to realize dreams for a better tomorrow in the areas of health, nutrition and energy. The prize comes with €1 million ($1.19 million) of research funding to incentivize winners whose work has enabled significant progress towards making this vision a reality.

This year, the theme of the Future Insight Prize is food generation with a target to convert non-edible biomass to edible biomass. Lu shared the prize with Stephen Techtmann, an associate professor of biological sciences at Michigan Technological University. The duo were presented with the prize by Mrs. Anja Karliczek, the Federal Minister of Education and Research of Germany, and Dr. Belén Garijo, the Chair of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, during the 2021 Future Insight Days conference. Lu and Techtmann are recognized for their work which uses microbes and chemicals to break down end-of-life plastics and transform them into edible food.

Plastic the Trojan Horse

Read the full story from the University of Portsmouth.

A new study has found plastic accumulation in foods may be underestimated. There is also concern these microplastics will carry potentially harmful bacteria such as E. coli, which are commonly found in coastal waters, up the food chain. 

Mathematical model predicts the movement of microplastics in the ocean

Read the full story from the University of Newcastle.

A new model tracking the vertical movement of algae-covered microplastic particles offers hope in the fight against plastic waste in our oceans.

How Lego perfected the recycled plastic brick

Read the full story at Wired.

After 72 years and billions of interlocking polymer toy bricks, the company finally has an eco-friendly alternative.

Webinar: Chemical and biological approaches for plastics upcycling

Oct 14, 2021 noon-1 pm
Register here.

The accumulation of plastics waste in landfills and in the natural environment is creating a global pollution crisis. Moreover, current mechanical recycling approaches do not typically incentivize the reclamation of many waste plastics, and mechanical recycling is not universally applicable to all synthetic polymers. To that end, the research community is developing additional approaches that harness biological and chemical catalysis approaches to deconstruct plastics to processable intermediates and convert them into the same plastics or other products – namely chemical recycling. This talk will cover development efforts for selective approaches that use biological and chemical catalysis for plastics deconstruction and upcycling. Discussion and examples of techno-economic analysis and life-cycle assessment applied to chemical recycling scenarios will also be highlighted, both of which are essential tools to enable realistic solutions to this global pollution challenge.

About the speaker

Gregg Beckham is a Senior Research Fellow and Group Leader at NREL. He received his PhD in Chemical Engineering at MIT in 2007. He currently leads and works with an interdisciplinary team of biologists, chemists, and engineers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on green processes and products using chemistry and biology, including in the areas of biomass conversion and plastics upcycling.

Tracking ocean microplastics from space

Read the full story from the University of Michigan. See also the researcher’s article at The Conversation.

An estimated eight million tons of plastic trash enters the ocean each year, and most of it is battered by sun and waves into microplastics—tiny flecks that can ride currents hundreds or thousands of miles from their point of entry. The bits can harm sea life and marine ecosystems, and they’re extremely difficult to track and clean up.

Now,  University of Michigan researchers have developed a new way to spot ocean microplastics across the globe and track them over time, providing a day-by-day timeline of where they enter the water, how they move and where they tend to collect. The approach relies on the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) and can give a global view or zoom in on small areas for a high-resolution picture of microplastic releases from a single location.

Deep Dive into Plastic Monomers, Additives, and Processing Aids

Helene Wiesinger, Zhanyun Wang, and Stefanie Hellweg (2021). “Deep Dive into Plastic Monomers, Additives, and Processing Aids.” Environmental Science & Technology 55(13), 9339-9351. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.1c00976

Abstract: A variety of chemical substances used in plastic production may be released throughout the entire life cycle of the plastic, posing risks to human health, the environment, and recycling systems. Only a limited number of these substances have been widely studied. We systematically investigate plastic monomers, additives, and processing aids on the global market based on a review of 63 industrial, scientific, and regulatory data sources. In total, we identify more than 10’000 relevant substances and categorize them based on substance types, use patterns, and hazard classifications wherever possible. Over 2’400 substances are identified as substances of potential concern as they meet one or more of the persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity criteria in the European Union. Many of these substances are hardly studied according to SciFinder (266 substances), are not adequately regulated in many parts of the world (1’327 substances), or are even approved for use in food-contact plastics in some jurisdictions (901 substances). Substantial information gaps exist in the public domain, particularly on substance properties and use patterns. To transition to a sustainable circular plastic economy that avoids the use of hazardous chemicals, concerted efforts by all stakeholders are needed, starting by increasing information accessibility.

Collaborate to accelerate a circular economy for plastics: CGF

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

There are times when the challenge of plastic waste seems so immense and so intractable that solutions feel difficult to find. More than 60 percent of plastics end up in a landfill or the natural environment. Millions of tonnes of plastic waste spill into the oceans every year, creating highly visible ecological devastation, a stark reminder that immediate action is needed.

This tool lets you see world’s 1,000 most-polluting rivers

Read the full story at Nerdist.

One of the biggest environmental disasters that needs to be addressed ASAP is the immense plastic pollution in the oceans. According to the nonprofit organization The Ocean Cleanup Project, the best way to do this is to tackle the incoming plastics at their source: rivers along coasts. With a new tool, the nonprofit allows people to see the 1,000 most-polluting rivers in the world; ones it aims to purify with its autonomous, plastic-collecting drone ships.

The nonprofit’s tool, which you can check out here, allows users to scroll through a world map with 1,000 dots placed along various coasts. Each dot represents one of the 1,000 most-polluting rivers in the world; with dot sizes growing proportionally to how much pollution their corresponding rivers produce.

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