Most plastic is manufactured from petroleum the end product of a few million years of natural decay of once-living organisms. Petroleum’s main components come from lipids that were first assembled long ago in those organisms’ cells. So the question is, if petroleum-derived plastic comes from biomaterial, why doesn’t it biodegrade?
A crucial manufacturing step turns petroleum into a material unrecognized by the organisms that normally break organic matter down.
Most plastics are derived from propylene, a simple chemical component of petroleum. When heated up in the presence of a catalyst, individual chemical units monomers of propylene link together by forming extremely strong carbon-carbon bonds with each other. This results in polymers long chains of monomers called polypropylene.
“Nature doesn’t make things like that,” said Kenneth Peters, an organic geochemist at Stanford University, “so organisms have never seen that before.”
The organisms that decompose organic matter the ones that start turning your apple brown the instant you cut it open “have evolved over billions of years to attack certain types of bonds that are common in nature,” Peters told Life’s Little Mysteries.
“For example, they can very quickly break down polysaccharides to get sugar. They can chew up wood. But they see a polypropylene with all its carbon-carbon bonds, and they don’t normally break something like that down so there aren’t metabolic pathways to do it,” he said.
But if all you have to do to make propylene subunits turn into polypropylene is heat them up, why doesn’t nature ever build polypropylene molecules?
According to Peters, it’s because the carbon-carbon bonds in polypropylene require too much energy to make, so nature chooses other alternatives for holding together large molecules. “It’s easier for organisms to synthesize peptide bonds than carbon-carbon bonds,” he said. Peptide bonds, which link carbon to nitrogen, are found in proteins and many other organic molecules.
Environmentalists might wonder why plastic manufacturers don’t use peptide bonds to build polymers rather than carbon-carbon bonds, so that they’ll biodegrade rather than lasting forever in a landfill . Unfortunately, while peptide bonds would produce plastics that biodegrade, they would also have a very short shelf life. “It’s an issue of ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too,'” said Jim Coleman, chief scientist at the US Geological Survey Energy Resources Program. “When you buy a plastic jar of mayonnaise, you want [the jar] to last a few months.” You don’t want it to start decomposing before you’ve finished the mayo inside.
For the original article visit livescience.com!
[Photo Credit: Antonio Oquias | Dreamstime]
Here is an excerpt from the 2017 APA Mental Health on Climate white-paper:
The ability to process information and make decisions
without being disabled by extreme emotional responses is
threatened by climate change. Some emotional response is
normal, and even negative emotions are a necessary part of
a fulfilling life. In the extreme case, however, they can interfere
with our ability to think rationally, plan our behavior, and
consider alternative actions. An extreme weather event can
be a source of trauma, and the experience can cause
disabling emotions. More subtle and indirect effects of
climate change can add stress to people’s lives in varying
degrees. Whether experienced indirectly or directly, stressors
to our climate translate into impaired mental health that can
result in depression and anxiety (USGCRP, 2016). Although
everyone is able to cope with a certain amount of stress,
the accumulated effects of compound stress can tip a
person from mentally healthy to mentally ill. Even uncertainty
can be a source of stress and a risk factor for psychological
distress (Greco & Roger, 2003). People can be negatively
affected by hearing about the negative experiences of
others, and by fears—founded or unfounded—about their
own potential vulnerability.
PHYSICAL HEALTH AND MENTAL HEALTH
Compromised physical health can be a source of stress
that threatens psychological well-being. Conversely, mental
health problems can also threaten physical health, for
example, by changing patterns of sleep, eating, or exercise
and by reducing immune system function.
Although residents’ mental and physical health affect
communities, the impacts of climate on community health
can have a particularly strong effect on community fabric
and interpersonal relationships. Altered environmental
conditions due to climate change can shift the opportunities
people have for social interaction, the ways in which they
relate to each other, and their connections to the
Until now. Beginning in 2015, a pair of Google Street View cars, equipped with high tech “mobile labs” developed by San Francisco–based startup Aclima, crisscrossed the streets of West Oakland taking second-by-second samples of the area’s air. They tested for nitrogen dioxide and a type of pollution known as black carbon (bad for your heart and lungs, not to mention the planet), as well as nitric oxide. The cars hit every stretch of pavement, from tiny cul-de-sacs to truck-choked Peralta Street, multiple times, taking millions of measurements.
There are three stationary air pollution monitors for all of Oakland, which reveal the city’s air quality as a whole. But the Street View cars can tell you what the air is like at, say, the corner of Market Street and Grand Avenue—basically anywhere you can drive a Street View car. They can even tell you how the air varies from one end of a single block to the other for a truly hi-res view of the problem.The result: one of the largest and most granular data sets of urban air pollution ever assembled in the world.
Quoting Google’s interview on Aclima: “We visited each block on between 20 and 50 different days over the course of a year,” says Joshua Apte, an engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin. In the process, they were able to identify patterns they wouldn’t have otherwise seen. “If pollution spikes for an instant, it may or may not be such a bad thing. But if pollution is consistently high, that’s something we really should care about.”
Imagine what difference awareness on air pollution can make when this information becomes more accessible!
Visit https://aclima.io/ for more information!
A hard truth to swallow, but according to Rozalia Project, we are eating our fleece! Rozalia Project has developed the Cora Ball microfiber catcher, the first human-scale, consumer solution to synthetic microfiber pollution in our ocean, lakes and rivers. Check out their successful Kickstarter Campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/879498424/cora-ball-microfiber-catching-laundry-ball
The single biggest pollution problem facing our ocean is microfiber: trillions of pieces of tiny fibers flowing into the ocean – every time we use our washing machines. Our clothing is breaking up, sending this microfiber (made of plastic and chemical-covered non-plastics) out with the drain water – just one fleece jacket could shed up to 250,000 pieces per garment per wash [source]. New York City, alone, could have 6.8 billion microfibers flowing into its harbor every day. We are all contributing to this problem. Learn more about the problem of microfiber pollution here. http://rozaliaproject.org/stop-microfiber-pollution/
In the race to find solutions to critical water issues, the launch of a new cost-effective water quality sensor device by Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries|Clarkson University is the first step in overcoming hurdles of historically prohibitive costs for long-term water resource monitoring.
The installation of the Institute’s newest generation of River and Estuary Observatory Network (REON II) sensor arrays signifies the passing of the baton from the science lab to the river as they run ahead, complementing government capacity to invest in “wiring” the river for cleaner water.
The REON II device or “Sonde,” deployed on the banks of the Hudson River in New Hamburg, N.Y., is providing real-time data called for by scientists to better understand the complex relationship between humans, the built environment and our fragile waterways.
It is one of 37 sensor stations currently in place in the Hudson and St. Lawrence river watersheds, making REON one of the world’s most robust resources of real-time data. The goal of the REON research team to develop affordable, scalable, low-profile sensor networks and its potential for making water sensor technology universal, could be transformational to the field of environmental science.
CEF FFT: The more up-to-date and accurate the data we can collect on the water quality of rivers and estuaries, the more we can become aware of the impact our civilization has on these precious sources of life.
To read more and watch a video, visit the source link here.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive–consider for a moment that recycling may have us incidentally wasting more, and not only because be we are using the wrong receptacles to recycle.
People used more cups and paper when recycling was an option versus when they had to put them in the trash. Researchers say people’s guilt for wasting is overridden by the good feelings for recycling.
As Shankar Vedantam, NPR social science correspondent explained when ask if recycling was ‘bad’: “No, recycling isn’t bad. It’s actually very good. But in fact, that’s where the problem lies. Recycling is so good that it makes us feel virtuous, and that can lead to problematic outcomes. Let me back up and explain. I was talking to Remi Trudel. He’s a marketing professor at Boston University. He told me he was having lunch at a restaurant with his colleague, Monic Sun, when they noticed something.
Then Remi Trudel continues: We noticed that people were just grabbing napkins, like, way more than they needed. And we started thinking is it because they feel, you know, that it’s OK because they’re going to be recycling it anyways? So then we decided to run some experiments to try to prove it. (Source: NPR)
Visit the NPR transcription of the interview here to find out what results came from their studies!
CEF FFT: (After reading the NPR transcript…) Do you think people who normally buy single-use cups and utensils would buy glassware or other long-lasting containers for food and drink if they knew about this potential pitfall of the psychology behind how we perceive the impact of our recycling?
(Photo Credit: Hiroshi Watanabe/Getty Images)
Why join the mobilization?
Well, the planet is warming and its okay to be afraid. Climate change threatens the collapse of civilization within this century. Confronting this crisis is the great moral imperative of our time.
The Climate Mobilization is a grassroots movement which demands a government-led mobilization to restore a safe climate; calls for full employment and fair, shared sacrifice; demands a rapid transformation of our energy and agriculture systems; and calls on politicians to pledge to mobilize.
Visit their site www.theclimatemobilization.org to learn more and get involved!
(Photo is adapted from The Climate Mobilization “Blueprint for a Climate Emergency Movement”)
The team at Earth Conscious Films aims to raise awareness to issues like our broken food system. This same team helped bring together the documentary “GMO OMG” and now has a new documentary film “The Need to GROW” which is still being funded. They are passionate about this project because virtually every environmental condition can be mitigated with healthy soils together with the decentralizing and localizing of our food system. Spreading awareness will have a huge part to play in ensuring we protect the environment for future generations to continue growing a healthy food supply. That is why this film holds great importance.
Visit http://www.theneedtogrow.com/ for more information and their sizzle reel for the film which is now needing funding for their post-production. Support their cause by helping fund their project: https://www.gofundme.com/theneedtogrow also follow them and their story on IG @TheNeedToGrow
If some 70% of the Earth’s topsoil crucial for growing food is gone, we’ve got to do something about it as a world!
With a passion for science dating back to as long as she could remember, Laalitya Acharya, 2017 Young Scientist Challenge Finalist and inventor of “TraffEnerate” has started a new project called “Studying STEM” in which she hopes to help anyone learn STEM.
In her first lesson on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), she gives us a great breakdown of the natural phenomena of gravitational force, frictional force, normal force and tension force using easy to understand explanations and illustrations for the vector of each force.
Education is crucial for us to create a deeper understanding of the world we live in. What are some specific subjects within STEM that you would like to learn more about? Follow @studyingstem on IG and subscribe to her channel “Studying STEM” on YouTube to build your knowledge on STEM. May the forces be with you!