Why is Plastic Non-biodegradable?

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]

Alcedo Sanitizing Force

Among the global efforts to remove litter and material waste from our environment is the environmental conservation organization the Alcedo Sanitizing Force.

Based out of Bandar Lampung, Indonesia, these trash warriors introduce themselves as a “Bunch’o youngsters attemptin to banish plastic pollution from the ecosystem! We r the Sanitizers, we will neva surenda”.

Using a hand-made bamboo “ARP” to quickly and efficiently pick up trash they are well-equipped to fight pollution–not to mention the cool team outfit!

Check out there IG: @asf_trash.warriors

 

Plastic Bank

The Plastic Bank is an organization setting out to stop ocean plastic and poverty by turning waste into currency! The Plastic Bank is a root cause solution to prevent the flow of plastic into our oceans using Blockchain technology.

Partnering with IBM to unite & empower recycling ecosystems to safely transfer as much value as possible into the hands of collectors, Plastic Bank’s mission is to stop Ocean Plastic by gathering a billion people together to monetize waste while improving lives.

Plastic Bank was the featured solution to stop Ocean plastic in the award-winning documentary A Plastic Ocean. They received the prestigious Sustainia Community Award at COP21 during the Paris Climate Summit, the RCBC innovation award, and recently their new Blockchain exchange & incentives platform received an IBM Beacon Award.

Visit their website to find out more on how you can get involved, their work in Haiti and many other videos!

Cora Ball

 

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 herehttp://rozaliaproject.org/stop-microfiber-pollution/

Recycling Psychology

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)

Seattle Bans Plastic Straws

Beginning July 1, 2018, restaurants in Seattle will no longer provide plastic straws and utensils to consumers. The reason for the ban is plain and simple: the waste that results from disposable plastic creates a cost that enterprises in the private sector do not subtract from the surplus value/price realization process but instead transfer to what the early 20th century British economist Arthur Cecil Pigou called in Economics of Welfare a “social cost.”

Seattle has decided to reduce these costs. This is the smart thing to do. The more matter and energy that is recycled in the city’s economy, the more it becomes like a ecosystem in its advanced or climax stage. American consumers waste an insane amount of drinking straws everyday (500 million!). The public, which includes natural services and goods (clean water, fresh air), has to pay for any kind of waste that cannot be recycled. Sadly, the ban will not included plastic straws in grocery stores. For the ban to be truly effective, it must be universal.
Think of how much plastic we could reduce every year if the biggest cities all committed to removing plastic straws from their economy!
Visit source article on The Stranger here!

(Photo Credit: Thomas Vimare)

Thanks to @mchllsong for the share!

RanMarine WasteShark

Founded by Richard Hardiman, Ranmarine Technology uses WasteShark — 24-hour on-the-water drones. The solar-powered drones collect detritus, marine waste and chemical substances from ports and canals.

Founded in 2015 in South Africa, the company was later re-incorporated in the Netherlands at the start of last year as RanMarine Technology BV.

Hardiman is based in Rotterdam. He moved there after being selected for PortXL Rotterdam’s maritime accelerator (portxl.org) in February last year. The startup was one of 12 companies selected from 1000 startups worldwide.

In July last year the startup began a pilot with the Port of Rotterdam to test both the use of autonomous surface vessels in their waters and how the product actually works in “high trafficked waters”. The pilot was successfully completed last month.

There are currently 3 different types of the Waste Shark products: the WasteShark, the Great WasteShark and the ChemShark.

Check out their website https://www.ranmarine.io/ for more info and videos!

Bee’s Wrap

Why use plastic wrap when you can use sustainable Bee’s Wrap?

Bee’s Wrap is washable, reusable and compostable. Their fabric and printing is certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard using beeswax that is sourced from sustainably-managed hives in the US. Bee’s Wrap packaging is recyclable and plastic-free.

Get your own and start cutting down on needless plastic waste! https://www.beeswrap.com/

As they say on their website: “Because good food deserves good care”

Surfrider Foundation

With roughly 80 chapters in 10 regions around the globe, the Surfrider Foundation has a blueprint for success that transforms passion into protection, which is mobilized in local communities, all across the U.S..  Their network campaigns for the ocean as issues arise and proactively works on programs to help keep beaches healthy. Whether it is for clean water, the ecology and environment of the beach, erosion, rising sea levels, the impacts of development, to keep the ocean’s clean and safe for the next generation…there are lots of reasons volunteers are showing up to make a difference in their local communities.

Visit their website www.surfrider.org to find your local chapter and get involved!

Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is the name, and international coastal cleanup is the game: “Harnessing the Power of People to Fight Ocean Trash”.

Nearly 12 million people and counting have been part of the world’s biggest volunteer effort to protect the ocean. Will you join us this year?

Today, plastic has been found in 62% of all sea birds and in 100% of sea turtle species.

A problem as big as plastic in the ocean requires a big response! By participating in the International Coastal Cleanup, you can make a difference. You’ll join millions of volunteers just like you, who love the ocean and want to protect it. This year’s International Coastal Cleanup is Saturday, September 16th, 2017.

Find a clean up near you on Ocean Conservancy’s website!