Mutant Enzyme that Eats Plastic Bottles

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident as posted in the Guardian recently on April 16th! The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.

The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.

The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”

The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

“What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” said McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”

About 1m plastic bottles are sold each minute around the globe and, with just 14% recycled, many end up in the oceans where they have polluted even the remotest parts, harming marine life and potentially people who eat seafood. “It is incredibly resistant to degradation. Some of those images are horrific,” said McGeehan. “It is one of these wonder materials that has been made a little bit too well.”

Original link here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/16/scientists-accidentally-create-mutant-enzyme-that-eats-plastic-bottles

Drawdown EcoChallenge

The Drawdown EcoChallenge is a fun and social way to learn about and take action on the 100 climate solutions featured in the seminal work of Paul Hawken “Drawdown.”

From April 4-25, individuals and teams from around the world will take part in simple daily activities to reduce their carbon footprints and delve into the world’s most substantive solutions to global warming. At the end of the Challenge, the teams with the most points will win great prizes, including copies of Drawdown and a one-hour video session with Paul Hawken!

The EcoChallenges are broken down into these sections (with an added note of current participants):

LAND USE (1260)

ELECTRICITY GENERATION (1751)

FOOD (3156)

WOMEN AND GIRLS (1392)

BUILDINGS AND CITIES (1598)

TRANSPORT (1814)

MATERIALS (2094)

Executive Director of Drawdown, Hawken states “All of life is comprised of self-organizing systems and the Drawdown EcoChallenge is exactly that—people coming together to share, learn, support, imagine, and innovate for a better world. We are honored to be a part of this significant and brilliant initiative.”

Visit http://www.drawdown.org/ecochallenge for more information!

The Ocean Cleanup Project: What It Is and What You Can Do

Although we may already be familiar with Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup Project, and perhaps even the recent advancements in phase two, we can now ask how to get involved in a variety of ways. In his recently posted article on Business Connect World, John Hawthorne brings together the vision behind the international Ocean Cleanup Project. Here is an excerpt:

So, what’s the next step you can take to help the Ocean Cleanup Project, or just to help clean up our waterways, bodies of water, and expanses of fresh and saltwater? While it may seem unlikely, small efforts by individuals can make go a long way toward decreasing the garbage in our oceans.

When speaking specifically about the Ocean Cleanup Project, there are a few specific ways to help this foundation inch their way toward success.

  • First, you can simply help fund the cleanup. The foundation needs help bridging the gap between their first-system and the full-scale development of the plans they have to clean up the Pacific Garbage Patch. The foundation states that any amount helps to further their mission, so donating is certainly a great way to get involved.
  • Second, you can volunteer your time, skills, and efforts to the cause. According to their site, there are plenty of career, as well as volunteer, opportunities to work with the foundation.

Speaking generally, though, you can help reduce the amount of garbage in the ocean and contribute to solving the trash problem by making small dedicated efforts.

  • Recycle
  • Support bans
  • Reduce your use of single-use plastics
  • Avoid microbeads in cosmetic products
  • Back organizations that work to fight pollution and encourage ocean cleanup

Visit John Hawthorne’s FULL original article with a new video here: https://businessconnectworld.com/2018/02/21/the-ocean-cleanup-project/

CEF FFT:  The environmental impact we have affects not only the living creatures inhabiting of bodies of water and land, but even the health of us human beings unto ourselves.

Thanks for the share John!

Toyota’s ePalette

Toyota, the second biggest automaker in the world, announced an ambitious plan today to tackle mobility and delivery services in the age of autonomous cars. Apparently it involves weird, see-through self-driving boxes roaming through cities, delivering people, packages, and pizza.

Toyota is calling them “e-Palettes” and describes them as “fully-automated, next generation battery electric vehicle[s] designed to be scalable and customizable for a range of Mobility as a Service businesses.” Think of them as transparent cargo or shipping containers on wheels that grow and shrink in size depending on their specific task.

Toyota envisions these serving a variety of functions, from typical mobility services like ride-sharing and carpooling, to less-typical purposes like serving as mobile office and retail space, medical clinics, hotel rooms, and more. Need a new pair of shoes? Summon the mobile shoe palette and try on different sizes as you travel from here to there. Hungry from some pizza? Hail the roaming pizza oven, complete with (prisoner?) chef. As far as concepts go, this one is pretty out there.

“Just think how good e-Palette would be at Burning man,” quipped Akio Toyoda, Toyota Motor Company’s bespectacled president, from the stage at CES in Las Vegas today. That about sums it up.

Visit the original article on The Vergehttps://www.theverge.com/2018/1/8/16863092/toyota-e-palette-self-driving-car-ev-ces-2018

Litterati

Litterati, created by Jeff Kirschner, is a global community that’s crowdsource-cleaning the planet, from students in South Africa to activists in Italy, and neighbors across the US. They’re designing a mobile app that identifies, maps, and collects the litter that we pick up as a community, collecting a ton of data in the process, helping businesses and communities identify the root of the problem and drive change.
Upon the request of early users of the app, Kirschner has launched a kickstart campaign for Litterati!
Among these changes include:
1. Groups: Understand Combined Impact (“Our most requested feature. Schools, environmental groups, scout troops, and companies, they all want to understand their combined impact to drive change for their communities.”)
2. Maps: Measure Actions Locally (“In-app maps will provide the ability to search, browse, and filter by location or brand, so that anyone can map and measure their impact while understanding more about the litter in their neighborhood.”
3. Data Analysis Tools: Drive Bigger Change (“The community has already picked up nearly 1,000,000 pieces and we want to put that data to work. These additional layers of information, like retail locations, trash can placement, even weather and topography, will help us make more informed decisions and take effective action.”)
Change is happening! Check out their app and kickstarter to get involved:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/litterati/litterati-join-the-community-thats-cleaning-the-pl
CEF FFT: Creating a greater awareness around how we treat our community environment is a great place to start in spreading awareness of the impact we have on the planet!

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]

Mental Health and Climate

Here is an excerpt from the 2017 APA Mental Health on Climate white-paper:

MENTAL HEALTH
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.
COMMUNITY HEALTH
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
natural world.

Link to article: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/03/mental-health-climate.pdf

Hot Solar Cell

As posted in the MIT Technology Review earlier this year, we are developing a new “hot solar cell” technology.
By converting heat to focused beams of light, a new solar device could create cheap and continuous power.

Solar panels cover a growing number of rooftops, but even decades after they were first developed, the slabs of silicon remain bulky, expensive, and inefficient. Fundamental limitations prevent these conventional photovoltaics from absorbing more than a fraction of the energy in sunlight.

But a team of MIT scientists has built a different sort of solar energy device that uses inventive engineering and advances in materials science to capture far more of the sun’s energy. The trick is to first turn sunlight into heat and then convert it back into light, but now focused within the spectrum that solar cells can use. While various researchers have been working for years on so-called solar thermophotovoltaics, the MIT device is the first one to absorb more energy than its photovoltaic cell alone, demonstrating that the approach could dramatically increase efficiency.

Visit the full source article here!

REON II Water Quality Sensor Device

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.