Plastic and Climate Change: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet | naked capitalism
Plastic and Climate Change: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet | naked capitalism
U.S. could be outlier if UN clinches plastic waste pact - Agricultural Commodities - Reuters
• U.N. negotiations seek deal on trade in plastic waste
• Norway proposal would require importer’s prior consent
• U.S. is a leading major plastics exporter, but not in treaty
Countries are nearing agreement to tighten controls on trade in plastic waste, which would make it harder for leading exporter the United States to ship unsorted plastic to emerging Asian economies for disposal, campaigners said on Tuesday.
Global public outrage has grown at marine pollution, sparking demands for more recycling and better waste management. Only 9 percent of plastic is recycled, environmental groups say.
Germany, the United States and Japan each exported more than 1 billion kilos of plastic waste last year, U.N. figures show.
There is an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s seas, with 8 million tonnes added annually, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says.
Officials from 187 countries taking part in UNEP negotiations are considering legally-binding amendments to the Basel Convention on waste that would regulate trade in discarded plastic.
The United States has not ratified the 30-year-old pact.
Any plastic that goes on this so-called Annex 2 could not be traded between parties and non-parties to the Basel treaty.
“That would prevent the U.S. from sending - it would only allow the U.S. to export plastic waste that is already sorted, cleaned and ready for recycling,” Azoulay said.
“Which is exactly the type of waste they don’t send around because it has value.”
Though outside of the pact, the United States could ship plastic waste under bilateral deals if the equivalent of environmental standards under Basel are guaranteed, experts say.
The World’s Recycling Is in #Chaos. Here’s What Has to Happen | WIRED
Even before China’s ban, only 9 percent of discarded plastic was being recycled, while 12 percent was burned. The rest was buried in landfills or simply dumped and left to wash into rivers and oceans. Without China to process plastic bottles, packaging, and food containers—not to mention industrial and other plastic waste—the already massive waste problem posed by our throwaway culture will be exacerbated, experts say. The planet’s load of nearly indestructible plastics—more than 8 billion tons have been produced worldwide over the past six decades—continues to grow.
Over the coming decade, as many as 111 million tons of plastics will have to find a new place to be processed or otherwise disposed of as a result of China’s ban, according to Brooks and University of Georgia engineering professor Jenna Jambeck. However, the places trying to take up some of the slack in 2018 tended to be lower-income countries, primarily in Southeast Asia, many of which lack the infrastructure to properly handle recyclables. Many of those countries were quickly overwhelmed by the volume and have also now cut back on imports
What a strange case of scientific déjà vu showed us about the dangers of plastics
New research shows that BPA-free plastic might still be harmful
How the Disposable Straw Explains Modern Capitalism - The Atlantic
Alexis C. Madrigal - Jun 21, 2018
A straw is a simple thing. It’s a tube, a conveyance mechanism for liquid. The defining characteristic of the straw is the emptiness inside it. This is the stuff of tragedy, and America.
Over the last several months, plastic straws have come under fire from environmental activists who rightly point out that disposable plastics have created a swirling, centuries-long ecological disaster that is brutally difficult to clean up. Bags were first against the wall, but municipalities from Oakland, California, (yup) to Surfside, Florida, (huh!) have started to restrict the use of plastic straws. Of course, now there is a movement afoot among conservatives to keep those plastics flowing for freedom. Meanwhile, disability advocates have pointed out that plastic straws, in particular, are important for people with physical limitations. “To me, it’s just lame liberal activism that in the end is nothing,” one activist told The Toronto Star. “We’re really kind of vilifying people who need straws.” Other environmentalists aren’t sure that banning straws is gonna do much, and point out that banning straws is not an entirely rigorous approach to global systems change, considering that a widely cited estimate for the magnitude of the problem was, umm, created by a smart 9-year-old.
All this to say: The straw is officially part of the culture wars, and you might be thinking, “Gah, these contentious times we live in!” But the straw has always been dragged along by the currents of history, soaking up the era, shaping not its direction, but its texture.
The invention of American industrialism, the creation of urban life, changing gender relations, public-health reform, suburbia and its hamburger-loving teens, better living through plastics, and the financialization of the economy: The straw was there for all these things—rolled out of extrusion machines, dispensed, pushed through lids, bent, dropped into the abyss.
You can learn a lot about this country, and the dilemmas of contemporary capitalism, by taking a straw-eyed view.
People have probably been drinking things through cylindrical tubes for as long as Homo sapiens has been around, and maybe before. Scientists observed orangutans demonstrating a preference for a straw-like tool over similar, less functional things. Ancient versions existed, too.
But in 19th-century America, straws were straw, rye stalks, cut and dried. An alternative did not present itself widely until 1888. That year, Marvin Stone, a Washington, D.C., gentleman, was awarded a patent for an “artificial straw”—“a cheap, durable, and unobjectionable” substitute for natural straws, Stone wrote, “commonly used for the administration of medicines, beverages, etc.”
Workmen created these early artificial straws by winding paper around a thin cylindrical form, then covering them in paraffin. Often, they were “colored in imitation of the natural straw.” Within a decade, these straws appeared often in newspaper items and advertisements across the country.
A typical Stone straw ad from a newspaper in 1899 (Google Books)
Advertising for the Stone straw describes its virtues and emphasizes the faults of the natural straw. Stone’s straws were free from TASTE and ODOR (natural straws were not). Stone’s straws were SWEET, CLEAN, and PERFECT (natural straws could be cracked or musty). You only had to use one Stone straw per drink (not always the case with natural straws).
They worked. They were cheap. They were very popular and spawned many imitators because once an artificial straw had been conceived, it just wasn’t that hard to make them, tinkering with the process just enough to route around Stone’s patent. This could be read as a story of individual genius. America likes this kind of story.
But in 1850, long before Stone, Abijah Fessenden patented a drinking tube with a filter attached to a vessel shaped like a spyglass. Disabled people were using drinking tubes in the mid-19th century, as attested to by a patent from 1870. These were artificial, high-value straws; rye was natural and disposable. But it wasn’t until the late 1880s that someone thought to create the disposable, artificial straw.
Americans were primarily a rural people in the early 19th century. Cities had few restaurants until the 1830s and 1840s. Most that did exist were for very rich people. It took the emergence of a new urban life to spark the creation of the kind of eating and drinking establishment that would enshrine the straw in American culture: the soda fountain.
Carbon dioxide had been isolated decades before, and soda water created with predictably palate-pleasing results, but the equipment to make it was expensive and unwieldy. It wasn’t until the the gas was readily available and cheap that the soda fountain became prevalent. In the 1870s, their technical refinement met a growing market of people who wanted a cold, sweet treat in the city.
At the same time, the Civil War had intensified American industrialization. More and more people lived in cities and worked outside the home. Cities had saloons, but they were gendered spaces. As urban women fought for greater independence, they, too, wanted places to go. Soda fountains provided a key alternative. Given the female leadership of the late-19th-century temperance movement, soda fountains were drafted onto the side. Sodas were safe and clean. They were soft drinks.
By 1911, an industry book proclaimed the soda fountain the very height of democratic propriety. “Today everybody, men, women and children, natives and foreigners, patronize the fountain” said The Practical Soda Fountain Guide.
Temperance and public health grew up together in the disease-ridden cities of America, where despite the modern conveniences and excitements, mortality rates were higher than in the countryside. Straws became a key part of maintaining good hygiene and public health. They became, specifically, part of the answer to the scourge of unclean drinking glasses. Cities begin requiring the use of straws in the late 1890s. A Wisconsin paper noted in 1896 that already in many cities “ordinances have been issued making the use of wrapped drinking straws essential in public eating places.”
But the laws that regulated health went further. A Kansas doctor campaigned against the widespread use of the “common cup,” which was ... a cup, that many people drank from. Bans began in Kansas and spread.
The Cup Campaigner
In many cases, this cup was eventually replaced by the water fountain (or paper cups). Some factories kept the common cup, but purchased straw dispensers that allowed all to partake individually. “The spectacle of groups of able-bodied men standing around drinking water through straws and out of a common, ordinary drinking cup, prompted no end of facetious comment,” read an item in the Shelbina Democrat of October 11, 1911.
Cup and straw both had to be clean to assure no germs would assail the children (or the able-bodied men). So even the method by which straws were dispensed became an important hygienic indicator. “In some stores, customers are permitted to choose their own straws, and this system would work very well if customers would not finger the straws,” The Practical Soda Fountain Guide lamented.
That led to the development of the straw dispenser, which has a deep lineage. Already, in 1911, the thing existed where you individually pop a straw into reach. That’s it, right below, with the rationale written in: “Protects straws from flies, dust, and microbes.”
The Practical Soda Fountain Guide
To people living through the early 20th century, the straw was a creation of the new public-health regime. “Due to the ‘Yankee mania for sanitation,’ the [American] output of artificial straws has increased from 165 million in 1901 to 4 billion a year at present,” the Battle Creek Enquirer wrote in May 1924. “A manufacturer pointed out yesterday that, laid end to end, these straws would build an ant’s subway 16 times around the world at the equator.”
Four billion straws! There were only 114 million Americans at the time, so that’s 35 straws per capita (though some were exported).
Of course, straw making was improving through all these decades—mechanizing, scaling up—but the straw itself basically stayed the same. According to Sidney Graham—who founded the National Soda Straw Company in 1931, and who competed against Stone and other early straw manufacturers—in a 1988 history of the straw:
Straws were uniform up until the 1930s ... They were tan in color, thin, and exactly 8.5 inches long. Then someone in the soda-bottling business started marketing eight-ounce bottles, and straws grew to 10.5 inches. Various soda fountains began mixing malted milks, and the old straws were too thin. So we started making them thicker. Still, they were all tan in color, like the original straws.
In the interwar years, however, major changes came to straws. In 1937, for example, Joseph Friedman invented the bendy straw at his brother’s soda shop in San Francisco, leading to the design that’s prevalent today.
But what happened to the straw industry is far more interesting than its (limited) technical advances. Three of the biggest names in the industry—Friedman’s Flexi-Straw Company; the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation, which made popular white straws; and Maryland Cup Corporation—have bumped around the last 80 years like corporate Forrest Gumps.
As it turns out, all three companies’ histories intersect with each other, as well as with structural changes to the American economy. But first, we have to talk about McDonald’s.
Let’s start with Ray Kroc, who built the McDonald’s empire. For about 16 years, beginning in 1922, he sold cups for the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation, rising to lead sales across the Midwest. “I don’t know what appealed to me so much about paper cups. Perhaps it was mostly because they were so innovative and upbeat,” Kroc recalled in his memoir, Grinding It Out. “But I sensed from the outset that paper cups were part of the way America was headed.”
At first, selling cups was a tough job. Straws were cheap—you could get 100 for nine cents in the 1930s—but cups were many times more expensive. And besides, people could just wash glasses. Why would they need a paper cup? But America was tilting toward speed and disposability. And throwaway products were the future (“innovative and upbeat”). Soda fountains and their fast-food descendants were continuing to grow, spurring more sales of cups and straws. In the end, Kroc called the years between 1927 and 1937 “a decade of destiny for the paper-cup industry.”
Selling all those cups brought Kroc into contact with soda fountains, and eventually he went into business selling milkshake mixers. This led him to Southern California, where he saw the first McDonald’s in operation. He bought his way into the small company and deposed the original owners. With Kroc growing the brand, McDonald’s added 90 franchises between 1955 and 1959. By 1961, Kroc was fully in control of the company, and by 1968, there were 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants.
The first McDonald’s that Ray Kroc opened in Des Plaines, Illinois, is now a museum dedicated to the burger chain. (Reuters/Frank Polich)
The restaurant chain became a key customer for Maryland Cup, which began as an ice-cream-cone bakery in Boston. Its first nonfood product launched under a brand that became nationally famous, Sweetheart. That product? The straw. The name derived from the original packaging, which showed “two children sharing a milkshake, each drinking from a straw and their heads forming the two curved arcs of a heart.”
After the war, the company went into cups, and later other kinds of packaging for the growing fast-food industry. It developed new products for McDonald’s, like those old foam clamshell packages that hamburgers used to come in. It also snatched up the Flexi-Straw Company—along with all its patents and rights—in 1969. Things were going great. The founder’s son-in-law was president of the company in Baltimore; one nephew of the founder ran the McDonald’s relationship; the other ran the plastics division.
Because the future, at that point, had become plastics! In 1950, the world produced 1.5 million tons of plastic. By the late 1960s, that production had grown more than tenfold. Every product was being tried as a plastic thing, and so naturally, the straw became a plastic thing, too. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years for paper straws to lose their cultural salience.
While functionally, paper and plastic straws might have seemed the same, to the keen observer who is the narrator of Nicholson Baker’s dazzling 1988 novel, The Mezzanine, the plastic and paper straw were not interchangeable. Paper did not float. Plastic did: “How could the straw engineers have made so elementary a mistake, designing a straw that weighed less than the sugar-water in which it was intended to stand? Madness!”
Baker’s narrator wonders why the big fast-food chains like McDonald’s didn’t pressure the straw engineers into fixing this weighting mistake. “[The chains] must have had whole departments dedicated to exacting concessions from Sweetheart and Marcal,” Baker writes.
But there was a problem: lids, which had come into vogue. Plastic straws could push through the little + slits in the cap. Paper ones could not. The restaurant chains committed fully to plastic straws.
Baker goes on to imagine the ramifications, painting a miniature portrait of the process of path-dependent technological choice, which has helped shape everything from the width of railroad tracks to the layout of your keyboard. The power players went plastic, so everyone had to go plastic. “Suddenly the paper-goods distributor was offering the small restaurants floating plastic straws and only floating plastic straws, and was saying that this was the way all the big chains were going,” Baker writes. Sometimes it all works. Other times, a small pleasure is lost, or a tiny headache is created: “In this way the quality of life, through nobody’s fault, went down an eighth of a notch.”
I can’t prove that this was the precise series of events that took hold among straw engineers, cup distributors, and McDonald’s. Most corporate decision-making of this kind simply doesn’t stick in the nets of history. Yet these differences influence the texture of life every single day, and ever more so, as the owners of corporations become ever further removed from the products they sell. Let’s just say that the logic Baker describes, the way he imagines the development and consequences of these forgettable technologies, squares with the histories that we do know. The very straw engineers that Baker describes might well have been working in the plastics division of the Maryland Cup Corporation, owners of the Sweetheart brand.
Baker was writing in the 1980s, when straws of all kinds had begun to proliferate, and the American economic system entered a period of intense consolidation and financialization. A key component of this new form of capitalism was the “leveraged buyout,” in which private-equity firms descended on old companies, sliced them up, took out huge amounts of debt, and sold off the various components, “unlocking value” for their investors. You might remember this was how Mitt Romney made his fortune. Matt Taibbi described the model in acerbic but not inaccurate terms: “A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place.”
Global competition and offshoring enabled by containerized trade was responsible for some of the trouble American manufacturing encountered in the 1970s and 1980s. But the wholesale restructuring of the economy by private-equity firms to narrow the beneficiaries of business operations contributed mightily to the resentments still resounding through the country today. The straw, like everything else, was swept along for the ride.
In the early 1980s, Maryland Cup’s family-linked executives were on the glide path to retirement. Eighty family members held about half the company’s stock. In 1983, the company had $656 million in revenue, $32 million in profits, and 10,000 employees. It was the biggest disposable-food-product manufacturer in the nation, an empire built on cups, straws, and plastic silverware. The family was ready to cash out.
The big paper and food companies circled Maryland Cup, but it was eventually sold for $534 million to Fort Howard, a paper company that had gone public in the early ’70s, and began to aggressively expand beyond its Wisconsin base.
The sale was a boon for Maryland Cup’s shareholders, but the company did not fare well under the new management. Following the transaction, the Baltimore Sun relates, Maryland Cup executives flew to dinner with Fort Howard’s hard-charging CEO, Paul Schierl. He brought out a flip chart, on which he’d written the company’s “old” values—“service, quality, responding to customers.” He turned the page to show the company’s “new” values—“profits, profits, profits.” It’s like a scene out of Tommy Boy, or a socialist’s fever dream.
Fort Howard forced deep cuts on the company. Some longtime managers quit. The trappings of the family company went out the window. No more executives dressing up as Santa Claus or local charitable contributions. And while Fort Howard was cutting people, it invested in expanding the company’s factories. This was just business. Schierl literally appeared at a sales meeting in a devil’s mask.
Maryland Cup’s struggles intensified after the wave of departures that followed the acquisition. It needed customer volume to keep its new, bigger plants running, so Fort Howard snatched up the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation in 1986 for another $332 million. Surely there would be synergies. More layoffs came.
Two years later, the private-equity guys struck. Morgan Stanley, which had helped broker Fort Howard’s deals, swept in and snatched the company for $3.9 billion in one of those famed leveraged buyouts. The whole enterprise was swept off the public markets and into their hands.
One of their moves was to spin out the cup business as Sweetheart Holdings—along with a boatload of debt jettisoned out of Fort Howard. Just eight years inside Fort Howard and a turn through the private-equity wringer had turned a profitable company into one that still made money on operations in 1991, but was $95 million in the red because it was so loaded up with debt.
The company made layoffs across the country. Retirement health-care benefits were cut, leaving older employees so livid they filed a class-action lawsuit. A huge Wilmington factory closed after McDonald’s got rid of its plastic clamshell packaging for hamburgers, citing environmental concerns over plastic.
In 1993, the company was sold again to a different investment group, American Industrial Partners. Eventually, it was sold yet again to the Solo Cup Company, makers of one-third of the materials necessary for beer pong. And finally, in 2012, Solo was itself sold to Dart Container, a family-owned packaging company that sells a vast array of straws under the Solo brand.
Fort Howard continued on, going back public in 1995, then merging with another paper company, James River, in 1997, to become Fort James. Just three years later, an even bigger paper company, Georgia Pacific, snatched up the combined entity. In 2005, Koch Industries bought the shares of all the companies, taking the company back private. They still make straws.
While bulk capitalism pushes hundreds of millions of plain plastic straws through the American food system, there are also thousands of variations on the straw now, from the “krazy” whirling neon kind to a new natural straw made from rye stalks advertised on Kickstarter (the entrepreneur calls them “Straw Straws”). There are old-school paper straws and newfangled compostable plastic straws. Stone Straw, founded by the inventor of the artificial straw, even survives in some form as the straw-distributing subsidiary of a Canadian manufacturing concern. Basically, there’s never been a better time to be a straw consumer.
Meanwhile, the country has shed manufacturing jobs for decades, straws contribute their share to a dire global environmental disaster, the economy continues to concentrate wealth among the very richest, and the sodas that pass through the nation’s straws are contributing to an obesity epidemic that threatens to erase many of the public health gains that were won in the 20th century. Local governments may legislate the use of the plastic straw, but they can’t do a thing about the vast system that’s attached to the straw, which created first disposable products, then companies, and finally people.
The straw is the opposite of special. History has flowed around and through it, like thousands of other bits of material culture. What’s happened to the straw might not even be worth comment, and certainly not essay. But if it’s not clear by now, straws, in this story, are us, inevitable vessels of the times in which we live.
The surprising way plastics could actually help fight climate change
Petro-plastics aren’t fundamentally all that bad, but they’re a missed opportunity. Fortunately, there is an alternative. Switching from petroleum-based polymers to polymers that are biologically based could decrease carbon emissions by hundreds of millions of tons every year. Bio-based polymers are not only renewable and more environmentally friendly to produce, but they can actually have a net beneficial effect on climate change by acting as a carbon sink. But not all bio-polymers are created equal.
Microplastics found in human stools for the first time | Environment | The Guardian
Microplastics have been found in human stools for the first time, according to a study suggesting the tiny particles may be widespread in the human food chain.
The small study examined eight participants from Europe, Japan and Russia. All of their stool samples were found to contain microplastic particles.
Up to nine different plastics were found out of 10 varieties tested for, in particles of sizes ranging from 50 to 500 micrometres. Polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate were the plastics most commonly found.
On average, 20 particles of microplastic were found in each 10g of excreta. Microplastics are defined as particles of less than 5mm, with some created for use in products such as cosmetics but also by the breaking down of larger pieces of plastic, often in the sea.
We are living on a plastic planet. What does it mean for our health?
Based on this study, the authors estimated that “more than 50% of the world population might have microplastics in their stools”, though they stressed the need for larger-scale studies to confirm this.
Saudi-led coalition launches air strikes on Yemen’s main port city | Reuters
A Saudi-led coalition launched heavy air strikes on Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah on Friday, in an apparent resumption of military operations on the Red Sea city after the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement attacked two Saudi oil tankers.
Residents said coalition warplanes had begun their bombardment after midnight, attacking a Houthi military police camp in the city center, a plastics factory north of the city, and the districts of Zubaid and al-Tahita to the south.
Container lines will feel the pinch as China restricts import of #waste for recycling - The Loadstar
Container shipping lines could lose around 5m teu of cargo a year following the recent import ban on a wide variety of waste materials for recycling, according to new research from Drewry Maritime Advisors.
China brought in new rules on 1 January, applying from 1 March, which will see a complete ban on the import of unsorted waste paper, Vanadium slag and waste textiles, as well as wide-ranging restrictions on other recyclable materials such as a steel, plastics, wood, paper and cardboard.
In 2016, China imported around 30m tonnes of waste paper and 8m tonnes of waste plastics, and the ban has already led to growing mountains of waste products in the US, Japan and Europe as dealers struggle to find alternative recycling facilities.
One in-depth report claims the ban could create crises around the world equivalent to a major natural disaster.
The problem for ocean carriers is that waste products constitute a large percentage of #backhaul volumes from Europe and North America to China – the US exported two-thirds of its waste paper to China in 2016, some 13.2m tonnes, and about half of westbound transpacific violumes are waste products for recycling.
Et le pire, c’est que les élus semblent découvrir l’embargo seulement maintenant, alors que la Chine l’avait annoncé précédemment.
In Britain, even the political class appeared caught by surprise. When asked in front of lawmakers about the impending ban last month, Environment Secretary Michael Gove fumbled: “I don’t know what impact it will have. It is something to which — I will be completely honest — I have not given sufficient thought.”
$180bn investment in plastic factories feeds global packaging binge | Environment | The Guardian
The global plastic binge which is already causing widespread damage to oceans, habitats and food chains, is set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years after multibillion dollar investments in a new generation of plastics plants in the US.
Fossil fuel companies are among those who have ploughed more than $180bn since 2010 into new “cracking” facilities that will produce the raw material for everyday plastics from packaging to bottles, trays and cartons.
Threats to human health by great ocean garbage patches
The Lancet Planetary Health
The medical relevance of environmental topics can be blurred by politicised debates and the global scale of the environmental impact of human life. However, a seemingly remote serious health threat is currently floating in our oceans and needs to trigger the attention of the medical community, as its clinical manifestation is only a matter of time.
Via the intake of microplastics or their chemical compounds, which are set free in various decomposition processes, ocean garbage has become a latent threat to the health of future generations, and already affects human health on a global scale. Human biomonitoring shows that compounds used for plastic production are already ubiquitous in human blood and cell.
Slowing Demand Growth to Push #Big_Oil From Cars to Chemicals - Bloomberg
Global oil demand growth will slow to a crawl and gasoline use will peak within the next decade, prompting the world’s biggest energy companies to accelerate the shift to natural gas and chemicals, according to consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd.
Major crude producers will have to adapt to significant changes in the coming years, but their businesses can grow. Oil consumption will keep expanding until at least 2035 as the petrochemical industry, which provides the building blocks to manufacture everything from plastics to pesticides, makes up for the contraction in some transport fuels, Wood Mackenzie said in a report on Monday.
but their businesses can grow -> ouf !
Chromium 6, the ’Erin Brockovich Carcinogen,’ Now in the Drinking Water of 250m Americans, Report Reveals - EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists
Un article du 22 août dernier, via “naked capitalism”
Hexavalent chromium is used in textile dyes, wood preservation, chromate conversion coatings, dyes, paints, inks, and plastics. It is added as an anticorrosive agent to paints, primers, and other surface coatings. Within the European Union, the use of chromium 6 in electronics is largely banned by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive.
An Unprecedented Number Of Species Have Crossed The Pacific On Tsunami-Liberated Plastic Debris - Science Sushi
The remnants of those buildings and all sorts of debris liberated by the moving waters have since spread the tsunami’s legacy far beyond the site of impact. As a new study in the journal Science explains, thanks to objects set adrift by the tsunami’s waves, more than two hundred and eighty species have been found on the wrong side of the ocean.
How did hundreds of animals hitch rides across such vast distances? Well, to paraphrase the slogan from America’s Plastics Makers, plastics made it possible.
“This has turned out to be one of the biggest, unplanned, natural experiments in marine biology, perhaps in history.”
Breast Milk is Exported to the US | Inter Press Service
They have no front door. Privacy is a sheet of cloth drawn across an opening. A gas burner on the ground. A saucepan with leftover porridge.
“It’s been three months. Since I started”, Check Srey-Toy tells Arbetet Global. “It’s an easy job. All I need to do is lie there and the machine pumps it out”.
As the Cambodian capital city falls into darkness, some glimpses of light shine through the makeshift wall of plastic and wood out to the alley-ways among the ramshackle sheds of Stoeng Mean Chey, one of Phnom Penh’s poorest slums. Dark figures move along, shuffling past, following the stench filled pathways covered with ripped plastic bags and other litter.
This used to be a garbage dump. Then bulldozers covered the garbage and poisonous soil, creating a housing market for ramshackle sheds at ten dollars per month. For an extra 15 dollars, electricity is provided.
Check Srey-Toy and her husband used to make their daily income by picking plastics, aluminium cans and paper from the city streets. They assorted their rewards and sold it to a recycling centre. A few months ago a new opportunity arose as two women approached them.
Check Srey-Toy was selling her breast milk during three months. She was paid 5 dollar a day. Photo: Daniel Quinan
This Is Some Very Bad News for #Fast-Food Eaters
An analysis of people who ate fast food over the previous 24 hours found that they had elevated levels of #phthalates, a chemical used to make plastics more pliable, reported Bloomberg.
The study by researchers at the George Washington University looked at federal nutrition survey data 2003 to 2010 from more than 9,000 people, who provided urine samples and a log of what they ate over a 24 hour period. The urine samples were analyzed for byproducts and two distinct industrial chemicals were linked with higher fast-food consumption: DEHP and DiNP, two types of phthalates.
The Anthropocene Is Here: Humanity Has Pushed Earth Into a New Epoch
The Anthropocene Epoch has begun, according to a group of experts assembled at the International Geological Congress in Cape Town, South Africa this week.
After seven years of deliberation...
Intéressant. Début de l’époque : ~1950 ; marqueur principal : les retombées de plutonium…
As the working group articulated (▻http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/press-releases/2016/august/media-note-anthropocene-working-group-awg) in a media note on Monday :
« Changes to the Earth system that characterize the potential Anthropocene Epoch include marked acceleration to rates of erosion and sedimentation; large-scale chemical perturbations to the cycles of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other elements; the inception of significant change to global climate and sea level; and biotic changes such as unprecedented levels of species invasions across the Earth. Many of these changes are geologically long-lasting, and some are effectively irreversible.
These and related processes have left an array of signals in recent strata, including plastic, aluminium and concrete particles, artificial radionuclides, changes to carbon and nitrogen isotope patterns, fly ash particles, and a variety of fossilizable biological remains. Many of these signals will leave a permanent record in the Earth’s strata. »
Guardian compiled more “evidence of the Anthropocene,” saying humanity has:
– Pushed extinction rates of animals and plants far above the long-term average. The Earth is now on course to see 75 percent of species become extinct in the next few centuries if current trends continue.
– Increased levels of climate-warming CO2 in the atmosphere at the fastest rate for 66m years, with fossil-fuel burning pushing levels from 280 parts per million before the industrial revolution to 400ppm and rising today.
– Put so much plastic in our waterways and oceans that microplastic particles are now virtually ubiquitous, and plastics will likely leave identifiable fossil records for future generations to discover.
– Doubled the nitrogen and phosphorous in our soils in the past century with our fertilizer use. This is likely to be the largest impact on the nitrogen cycle in 2.5bn years.
– Left a permanent layer of airborne particulates in sediment and glacial ice such as black carbon from fossil fuel burning.
Paul J. Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer „The “Anthropocene”“ Global Change Newsletter 41:17-18 (2000)
Paul J. Crutzen „Geology of mankind“ Nature 415:23 (2002)
Johan Rockström, Will Steffen, Kevin Noone, Åsa Persson, F. Stuart Chapin, III, Eric F. Lambin, Timothy M. Lenton, Marten Scheffer, Carl Folke, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Björn Nykvist, Cynthia A. de Wit, Terry Hughes, Sander van der Leeuw, Henning Rodhe, Sverker Sörlin, Peter K. Snyder, Robert Costanza, Uno Svedin, Malin Falkenmark, Louise Karlberg, Robert W. Corell, Victoria J. Fabry, James Hansen, Brian Walker, Diana Liverman, Katherine Richardson, Paul Crutzen and Jonathan A. Foley „A safe operating space for humanity“ Nature 461:472–475 (2009)
Will Steffen, Åsa Persson, Lisa Deutsch, Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams, Katherine Richardson, Carole Crumley, Paul Crutzen, Carl Folke, Line Gordon, Mario Molina, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Johan Rockström, Marten Scheffer, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, and Uno Svedin „The Anthropocene: from global change to planetary stewardship“ AMBIO 40:739–761 (2011).
Jan Zalasiewicz, Mark Williams, Alan Haywood and Michael Ellis The Anthropocene: a new epoch of geological time? Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 369:835–841 (2011)
Anthony D. Barnosky, Elizabeth A. Hadly, Jordi Bascompte, Eric L. Berlow, James H. Brown, Mikael Fortelius, Wayne M. Getz, John Harte, Alan Hastings, Pablo A. Marquet, Neo D. Martinez, Arne Mooers, Peter Roopnarine, Geerat Vermeij, John W. Williams, Rosemary Gillespie, Justin Kitzes, Charles Marshall, Nicholas Matzke, David P. Mindell, Eloy Revilla and Adam B. Smith « Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere », Nature 486:52-58 (2012)
Colin N. Waters, Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin Summerhayes, Anthony D. Barnosky, Clément Poirier, Agnieszka Gałuszka, Alejandro Cearreta, Matt Edgeworth, Erle C. Ellis, Michael Ellis, Catherine Jeandel, Reinhold Leinfelder, J. R. McNeill, Daniel deB. Richter, Will Steffen, James Syvitski, Davor Vidas, Michael Wagreich, Mark Williams, An Zhisheng, Jacques Grinevald, Eric Odada, Naomi Oreskes and Alexander P. Wolfe „The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene“ Science 351 (2016)
Clive Hamilton „Define the Anthropocene in terms of the whole Earth“ Nature 536:251 (2016)
Dutch Foundation Unveils Prototype System to Rid the World’s Oceans of Plastic - gCaptain
A Dutch foundation developing an advanced clean-up system to rid the world’s oceans of plastic has unveiled its first-ever prototype to be launched later this week in the North Sea.
The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, founded by now 21-year-old Boyan Slat when he was just teenager, unveiled its North Sea prototype on Wednesday before main sponsors Boskalis and the government of The Netherlands.
The prototype will be installed in the North Sea approximately 12 nautical miles off the Dutch coast, where it will remain for a period of 12 months. The objective is to test how The Ocean Cleanup’s floating barrier fares in extreme weather at sea, even more severe than the types of conditions that a full-scale version of the system may encounter.
Once installed, the prototype will be the first ocean cleanup system ever tested at sea.
The foundation says that the 100 meter-long barrier segment to be deployed will help validate the survivability of the system, while sensors will track every motion of the prototype and the loads it is subjected to. The data gathered will enable engineers to develop a system fully resistant to severe conditions during the cleanup of the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a enormous area of the northern Pacific Ocean where an insurmountable amount of trash has accumulated in mid-ocean gyres.
The design of the system uses long floating barriers which act as an artificial coastline, using the ocean’s natural currents to passively catch and concentrate ocean debris – such as trash and broken down plastics. Although some trash may be caught during the North Sea prototype test, collecting plastic is not its objective.
Are the Chemical Industry’s Interests Taking Precedence Over People’s Lives in Europe?
The #european_union has still not regulated usage of endocrine disruptors, chemical substances with colossal health impacts utilized in many common consumer products. Yet endocrine disruptors are the source of many disorders: birth defects, cancers and obesity. This regulatory delay, which has just been condemned by the European justice system, owes nothing to accident. The chemical industries - manufacturers of pesticides and plastics - are #Lobbying intensively and hamper any serious (...)
The Flip Flop Trail
Une initiative cartographique intéressante et marrante signalée par Carolina Boe
You might have a pair of flip-flops; perhaps something you have not given much thought to. I don’t think about mine. They sit at the back of a closet, suited only to journeys I don’t want to tackle barefoot – to the swimming pool, between the beach and the car park or the terrace - which don’t call for more formal shoes. Flip-flops are an accessory; they are accessory in being unassuming, secondary to more serious footwear in which more significant journeys are undertaken; accessory, as in not the main story, as in just a footnote.
This website follows a footnote through the landscapes, lives and stories animating it. Following flip-flops teaches us about globalisation; about people and places we have yet to imagine. The materials from which flip-flops are made – plastic – may seem cheap and insignificant. But so many things in the world in which we live are made of plastics. In a world on the move, what could be more important than the shoes in which we tread the journeys of our everyday lives? And flip-flops are simple in design, cheap and accessible: they worn by more people on the planet than any other shoes. In flip-flops we are all fellow travellers.
Use the map to navigate the trail, or start at the beginning by clicking below.
Un pas de plus vers la reconnaissance de l’#anthropocène comme nouvelle ère géologique avec ce papier dans Science de l’Anthropocene Working Group.
The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene
The appearance of manufactured materials in sediments, including aluminum, plastics, and concrete, coincides with global spikes in fallout radionuclides and particulates from fossil fuel combustion. Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles have been substantially modified over the past century. Rates of sea-level rise and the extent of human perturbation of the climate system exceed Late Holocene changes. Biotic changes include species invasions worldwide and accelerating rates of extinction. These combined signals render the Anthropocene stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene and earlier epochs.
’Case is made’ for Anthropogenic Epoch
“Within the Working Group - and we have 37 members - I think the majority of them now agree that we are living in an interval we should call the Anthropocene. There’s still some discussion as to whether it should be a formal or informal unit, but we’d like to have a specific definition. And a majority of the group are moving towards the mid-20th Century for the start of this new epoch.”
Ultimately it will be down to the International Commission on Stratigraphy to accept - or not - the “Anthropocene Epoch” as an additional unit in the official time scheme used to describe the planet’s 4.6 billion years of history.
Media : Is the US ignoring military burn pits’ harm to Middle East civilians ?
« The US » : comprendre les politiques ET les médias ET les scientifiques,
The U.S. media has failed to expose the civilian toll of recent wars by largely ignoring burn pits’ toxic effects on local people, a U.S. researcher argues in a new report, suggesting the burn pits are this generation’s Agent Orange.
The coverage gap helps legitimize war and overlooks the undeniable humanitarian impacts, said Eric Bonds, an assistant professor of sociology and researcher at the University of Mary Washington.
During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, things such as plastics, Styrofoam, electronics and unexploded weapons were burned in large pits, sending toxics into the air and people’s lungs. Bonds surveyed major U.S. newspapers from 2007 to 2014, and found that of 49 stories that mentioned wartime burn pits, only one mentioned civilian impacts on par with that of soldiers.
This “silence and selective attention” of the U.S. media extends to the U.S. government and researchers who are well aware of what toxics in the air might do to local citizens, said Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, an independent environmental toxicologist who studies the environmental toll of recent Middle East conflicts.
“This makes me, as a public health researcher, feel extremely uneasy,” said Savabieasfahani, who won the 2015 Rachel Carson prize for her research in the Middle East.
In comparing the open pit burning to Agent Orange used during Vietnam, Bonds points out the U.S. government has performed some small scale cleanup of Agent Orange-contaminated areas, but has never made amends with the Vietnamese who were most affected and said the burn pits are on the same track.
“Even as the U.S. government establishes a ‘burn pit registry’ to study the impacts of toxic pollution on soldiers, it is on course to leave Iraqi and Afghan victims exposed to burning-trash fumes unacknowledged and uncompensated,” Bonds wrote in his study published this month in the journal Environmental Politics.
Threat of plastic pollution to seabirds is global, pervasive, and increasing
Plastic pollution in the ocean is a global concern; concentrations reach 580,000 pieces per km2 and production is increasing exponentially. Although a large number of empirical studies provide emerging evidence of impacts to wildlife, there has been little systematic assessment of risk. We performed a spatial risk analysis using predicted debris distributions and ranges for 186 seabird species to model debris exposure. We adjusted the model using published data on plastic ingestion by seabirds. Eighty of 135 (59%) species with studies reported in the literature between 1962 and 2012 had ingested plastic, and, within those studies, on average 29% of individuals had plastic in their gut. Standardizing the data for time and species, we estimate the ingestion rate would reach 90% of individuals if these studies were conducted today. Using these results from the literature, we tuned our risk model and were able to capture 71% of the variation in plastic ingestion based on a model including exposure, time, study method, and body size. We used this tuned model to predict risk across seabird species at the global scale. The highest area of expected impact occurs at the Southern Ocean boundary in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, which contrasts with previous work identifying this area as having low anthropogenic pressures and concentrations of marine debris. We predict that plastics ingestion is increasing in seabirds, that it will reach 99% of all species by 2050, and that effective waste management can reduce this threat.
Article accessible intégralement
Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea
Plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment, yet estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics have lacked data, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and remote regions. Here we report an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world’s oceans from 24 expeditions (2007–2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea conducting surface net tows (N = 680) and visual survey transects of large plastic debris (N = 891). Using an oceanographic model of floating debris dispersal calibrated by our data, and correcting for wind-driven vertical mixing, we estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons. When comparing between four size classes, two microplastic <4.75 mm and meso- and macroplastic >4.75 mm, a tremendous loss of microplastics is observed from the sea surface compared to expected rates of fragmentation, suggesting there are mechanisms at play that remove <4.75 mm plastic particles from the ocean surface.
Field locations where count density was measured.
Model results for global count density in four size classes.
Model results for global weight density in four size classes
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