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Bottled Water

Bottled Water Impacts The Environment ‘3,500 Times Greater Than Tap Water,’ Research Shows 

Scientists have found that the impact of bottled water on natural resources is 3,500 times higher than for tap water. 

The research specifically examined the impact of bottled water in Barcelona, where the demand for single-use bottled water has increased in popularity in recent years despite the city’s improvements to their tap water quality. 

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The Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) found that if the city’s entire population drank bottled water, the city would be paying 3,500 times more on resource extraction than if they all drank tap water; it costs about $83.9 million a year. 

The impact of bottled water on ecosystems is also 1,400 greater than tap water. 

The lead author of the study, the ISGlobal researcher Cristina Villanueva, said: “Health reasons don’t justify the wide use of bottled water. Yes, strictly speaking, drinking tap water is worse for local health, but when you weigh both, what you gain from drinking bottled water is minimal. 

“It’s quite obvious that the environmental impacts of bottled water are higher compared to tap water.”

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In the US, about 17 million barrels of oil are required to produce the plastic needed to meet the annual bottled water demand. Bottled water in the UK is also 500 times more expensive than tap water. 

“I think this study can help to reduce bottled water consumption, but we need more active policies to change that.”

“For example, in Barcelona, we could have more education campaigns to make the public aware that the health gains from drinking bottled water are minor compared to the environmental impacts. We need to improve access to public water, to public fountains, to public buildings where you can bring your own bottle and don’t need to buy one,” Villanueva explained. 

“We need to facilitate access to public water in public streets. People trust bottled water because advertisers have done a good job of convincing people it’s a good option, so we need the effort on the other side.”

Plastic Bags

New York Plastic Bag Ban Goes Into Full Effect This Week

New York’s plastic bag ban will go into full effect this Sunday (3/1) and store-owners throughout all five boroughs are preparing themselves by buying paper bags in bulk, and implementing new marketing strategies to encourage customers to bring their own bags. A lot of establishments throughout the state of New York have already begun transitioning out plastic bags from their businesses, however, for others it’s a bit of a scramble. 

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation last year on Earth Day as a means of reducing litter throughout the state, especially in New York City, but also to combat climate change in general by protecting wildlife from eating said litter, and reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions that are directly linked to plastic bag production, distribution, and disposal. 

As previously stated, the ban goes into full effect on March 1st and states that all New Yorkers will either have to bring their own reusable bags when going grocery shopping, or pay a five cent fee per paper bag they need; the fee does not apply to individuals who use SNAP of WIC. Certain bags are exempt from the ban, such as garbage or garment bags, or any kind of bag that’s used to wrap perishable foods. 

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“It’s self-explanatory. It’s the right thing for the environment, and we really care. Our clientele also appreciate the fact that we care about the environment. Yes, it’s going to be a little bit of transition for many stores — being a shortage of bags or whatever it may be — but we wanted to be proactive on it,”  said Carlos Alfara, director of produce for all Union Market stores in NYC.

Union Market has also created their own informational campaign that they’re calling “BYOBag” as a means of informing all NYC residents on the specifics of the new law. Part of their campaign also instructs all sales representatives and cashiers to talk to customers about the new policy, as well as offering a 10 cent discount to every customer who brings their own bag.

For Union Market, however, as a chain making this transition isn’t as financially impactful as it would be for smaller, independently owned businesses who are paying nearly three times the amount for paper bags, hence the fees. Store owners are encouraged to also keep all cardboard boxes they recieve in case customers want to use those for groceries as well. At the end of the day, customers will get used to the change, and the planet will surely thank New Yorkers in the long run.

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New York has now become the third state in America to fully ban plastic bags statewide; California and Hawaii being the other two. According to Riverkeeper, a water advocacy nonprofit, New Yorkers use more than 23 billion single-use plastic bags every year, and the average life cycle of each bag is about 15 minutes long, before being improperly disposed of. Riverkeeper has also been outspoken about their discontent with this specific ban, stating that it’s simply not enough, especially when compared to the massive amounts of single-use plastic that New Yorkers go through in general annually. 

Plastic containers used for take out throughout the hundreds of thousands of places to eat in New York contributes to some of the most plastic waste for the state. Additionally, critics of the ban claim that while it is a step in the right direction, the amount of fossil fuels required to transport containers and paper bags is just as much as it would be for regular plastic bags. 

“They’re [plastic bags] cheap, convenient, waterproof, strong enough to hold groceries but thin and light enough to make and transport using scant energy, water or other resources. Though they’re called single-use, most people reuse them, typically as trash can liners. When governments ban them, consumers buy thicker substitutes with a bigger carbon footprint,” wrote John Tierney in The Wall Street Journal.

The Department of Sanitation for New York City will be scattered throughout the five boroughs this Friday handing out reusable bags as preparation for the change. While it may not be the biggest accomplishment in terms of combating climate change, it’s this type of systematic action that we need worldwide if we want a shot at saving our dying planet and all its inhabitants. 

Bushfire

2019 Was One Of The Hottest Years In History

2019 was officially the second-hottest year in world history, following 2016 as the hottest. In general, this past decade, and the past five years specifically (2015-now) were the hottest ever recorded by man. The data comes from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, an online climate change resource that, according to their website, provides “authoritative information about the past, present and future climate, as well as tools to enable climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies by policy makers and businesses.”

2016 overall was only 32 degrees fahrenheit (.04 degrees Celsius) warmer than 2019, and within the past five years the global average has reached about 35 degrees fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius) more than what it averaged pre-industrial revolution. Scientists have claimed in the past that once the global average reaches 1.5 degrees Celsius more than what it was pre-industrialization, the planet will have reached a critical threshold for maintaining life on Earth. This means if the average increases by .3 degrees Celsius, we’re all in trouble. 

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The planetary destruction that scientists warned about if global temperatures rise are already occurring. A major increase in extreme wildfires, floods, and food shortages impacting millions are all current problems that we’ve been warned about for decades. Greenhouse gas emissions, plastic in our oceans, single-use plastic product distribution in general, and more are all worldwide problems that continue to plague our planet and raise our climate. The impact has been extremely devastating. 

Currently over half a billion animals are thought to be dead as a result of the deadly bushfires engulfing Australia. These fires have been the worst of hundreds of other wildfires that the planet has endured this past year, the Amazon rainforest and California being other notable ones. Additionally, the planet has seen an increase in flooding and starvation, as predicted, in Venice, which is currently still recovering from massive flooding throughout the city, and Yemen, which has been in the midst of a major famine since 2016. 

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According to Copernicus’ report, Europe, Australia, and the Arctic were hit the hardest with above average temperatures in 2019, but the entirety of the planet also experienced increases in temperatures throughout the year. 

Europe especially broke records this past summer. In June and July of 2019 Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Luxembourg all broke their summer heat records with average daily temperatures reaching 100-104 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology reported at the end of 2019 that the nation had never experienced a drier or hotter climate in a given year. The average temperatures reported to be 35 degrees (fahrenheit) warmer than their yearly average, and they saw the worst of it during December, which only worked to further fuel the already devastating bushfires that have been taking over the continent for the past month. 

Finally, the report stated that both the Arctic and Alaska experienced the largest increase in temperature in 2019. This is a major red flag for scientists, as the Arctic itself is critical for regulating temperatures around the entire planet, meaning when the Arctic heats, so will the rest of the world, as the data is clearly showing. 

Scientists claim that the biggest contributor to global warming is greenhouse gas emissions that get trapped within our atmosphere, deplete our ozone layer, and thus leave the Earth exposed to increased levels of UV radiation. Systematic change is the solution, and living a greener life individually can help, but for now we must wait and continue to raise awareness for the massive levels of devastation occurring across the globe.

Plastic Cup

3,000-Year-Old Cup Proves Humans Haven’t Been Green For A Long Time

The Minoans are historically known as one of the original European civilizations; beyond that, they’re also known as one of the most innovative and advanced for their time. The Minoans were around between 1700 and 1600 BC on the island of Crete in Greece. Archaeologists have always credited the Minoans for their advancements in technology, and now, they discovered a 3,600 year old cup that they believe to have been the first evidence of disposable utensil technology. The cup was discovered to be fully intact, and through further inspection, archaeologists believe it was meant to be thrown out after one use. Throughout the past few years, thousands of these disposable cups have been discovered throughout the island. Experts believe they were most likely used to hold wine, based on the aging and shape. Now, the most recent discovery will be on display at the British Museum in London as the first evidence of disposable dishware. 

“People may be very surprised to know that disposable, single-use cups are not the invention of our modern consumerist society, but in fact can be traced back thousands of years. Three and a half thousand years ago, the Minoans were using them for a very similar reason to us today: to serve drinks at parties. The only difference is the material. People were getting together in large groups and much like today, nobody wants to do the washing-up,” Julia Farley, a curator at the British Museum.

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Prince Charles, Prince of Wales attends “Cooking Like Minoans”

Farley went on to explain that the specific museum display that the cup will be a part of is titled “Rubbish And Us.” The exhibit plans to show multiple examples of single-use products from the past into today. The items from the past are meant to show the unexpected strength and endurance the original materials that disposable products were made with have. One of the other most notable items that is set to be on display is a waxed paper cup, that originally was made for serving hot beverages on flights, from the 1990’s.

A major aspect of this display is also to raise awareness over how, even in 1700 BC, these materials were so tough to break down, that they just sit in the Earth and further contribute to pollution. Single-use products in general, but plastic especially, are one of the leading causes of litter and pollution on land and in our oceans today. With this new evidence, it’s clear that this has also been an issue since the dawn of modern civilization.

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“With ceramics being a higher status material to us now, it seems strange to throw them away after just one use. But like plastic today, clay was readily available, cheap to acquire, easy to mold. But also like plastic, clay stays in the ground for many, many years,” Farley stated.

Currently, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is almost two times the size of Texas when combined, more than 400 million pieces of plastic were recently discovered on a remote group of islands off the coast of India, and we ingest thousands of microplastic particles every day when we use these single use products. These issues only scratch the surface when it comes to damage induced by litter that plagues our natural world and remains stagnant and intact for years and years.

The exhibit is meant to be completely educational, as it is intriguing. The fact that scientists have discovered that even 3,000 years ago humans wanted an easy solution to their dinnerware needs is truly an amazing discovery, and it gives us a greater insight into just how advanced humanity was at the time. The “Rubbish And Us” exhibit at the museum will be opening on December 19th, and will be displayed until February 23rd. So if you’re in the London area and want to learn more about the initial use of disposables in modern society, be sure to go check it out!

Beach Clean up

A 25-Year-Old May Have Figured Out How To Clean Up The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has grown quite famous in regards to the climate change conversation that the world is constantly taking part in. First discovered 20 years ago, the patch has now grown to be anywhere between the size of Texas to the size of Russia, based on how spread across the Pacific it is on a given day. Regardless, it’s a giant pile of plastic and garbage that has been excreting micro-plastics and pollutants into the ocean for two decades now, with no signs of improvement, until now. 

Boyan Slat is a 25 year old conservationist who 6 years ago, when he was just 19 years old, began developing a device that would clean up the garbage patch plaguing the Pacific once and for all. Slat is in an organization known as The Ocean Cleanup, who’s primary mission is to clean up our planet’s oceans, starting with the garbage patch. 

The U-shaped device looks like a bunch of buoys strung up together from an aerial view, and it’s meant to fold like a giant arm as a means of retaining plastic and moving it. On paper, the device seems simple enough to make and use, however, there’s a reason it took 6 years to fully develop and perfect. Originally the design hit a lot of bumps in the road during its initial testing. The initial reports stated that the system had difficulties retaining the plastic, causing it to leak out into different parts of the ocean. 

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Boyan Slat

Additionally, the flotation devices that formed the bendable “arm” would suffer from some structural failures, causing the “arm” to disconnect from the entire system. These failures all continued to occur throughout the past 6 years, but each time the team from Ocean Cleanup made improvements that slowly but surely made the device completely functional. So much so that earlier this month the group was able to harvest 60 full bags of plastic debris from the patch and return it back to land; at their base in Vancouver. 

 

“We actually have the first plastic back on land. It fills me with a lot of pride and joy. [Even though] It’s absolute garbage, this stuff has been in the ocean likely for decades,” Slat said at a press conference on Thursday. 

The intention is to not only clean up the entire patch, but also recycle the plastic that’s collected. The Ocean Cleanup states as part of their mission that they’d want to turn the plastic into some kind of marketable product so the plastic doesn’t just end up back in the ocean somehow. The team does have an idea in mind as to what this product will be but for now they’re keeping that a secret; what we do know is that they intend to start selling it by September 2020.

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The Ocean Cleanup states that the 60 bags that they collected is just step 1 of the massive project, and they intend on using their device to bring half of the patch back to land to be recycled within the next five years. 

“You might wonder: It’s 20 years ago that this patch was discovered. Why hasn’t anyone cleaned this yet? Well, it turns out that it’s actually pretty difficult. It’s one of the roughest environments on the face of the planet,”  Slat said.

Additionally, the device that they used still needs to be improved upon, along with further funding for the project. If they really want to have a shot at cleaning the ocean of this 20 year old patch of garbage, they need to make sure their device is at its fullest scale and fully operational, which would mean ensuring the device itself can spend long periods of time travelling in the ocean without any wear or tear.

Funding has become a major issue as well, as a majority of the money that was invested into The Ocean Cleanup has been spent throughout the past six years. This is the reason the company plans to make a marketable product out of the plastic, so this way they can further fund this project on its own; hopefully the device will begin to pay for itself with the money raised. For now though, Slat and his team couldn’t be more proud of this monumental step towards a plastic free ocean. 

Beached Whale

Beached Sperm Whale Has Over 200 Pounds Of Plastic In Its Stomach

Plastic in our planet’s oceans is one of the leading environmental issues that’s killing the Earth today. Mounds of garbage fill the natural aquatic world’s that make up a majority of our planet’s ecosystems, thus affecting the ecosystems of any other part of the world that requires a clean body of water to run. Plastics shed off micro-plastic particles that spread into all aspects of life and leave uncertain damage to all living and nonliving things in our world, but they don’t even need those tiny particles to cause serious damage. A small Scottish Island has become all too familiar with these kind of effects this week when a deceased young sperm whale washed to shore, the cause of death? It might have had something to do with the hundreds of pounds of plastic in its stomach. 

Residents around Seilebost beach on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides discovered the young male carcass Thursday, according to CNN. According to Dan Parry, the administrator of a Luskentyre beach Facebook page which has a goal of keeping the local beaches completely litter free, the animal had a ball of plastic debris in it’s stomach weighing close to 220 pounds. This discovery was made by the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (SMASS). This organization specifically works on collecting data regarding stranded marine life animals around the Scotland area. They performed the autopsy and made the discovery of the ball of plastic debris in the sperm whales stomach. 

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“Among the debris, which seemingly came from both the land and fishing sector, were sections of net, plastic cups and tubing. [SMASS] could not find evidence that the waste had blocked the creature’s intestines, but it said the amount of debris could have played a part in its live stranding. This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate, yet again, the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life,” according to the Facebook Posts. 

The whale weighed close to 26 tons, making it impossible to move, so the autopsy was performed on the beach where the body already was. Afterwards, members of the coast guard and the council of the Western Isles all gathered to help bury the whales body on the beach. The burial was meant to keep the young whale close to the world it unfortunately never got the chance to fully explore, but at least it would lay there for the rest of eternity. 

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This isn’t the first time Europe in general has faced a beached whale epidemic due to plastic ingestion. Back in May, Sicily discovered one out of five different whale carcass’ that had washed to shore within a five month span. All the causes of death were due to plastic ingestion. Scientists often suggest that whales ingest plastic bags more than anything, because they often look exactly like squid, a common prey for certain whale species. 

“Debris in our oceans is everyone’s problem – the fishing industry need to do better, but equally, we all need to do more. Watching this today, makes me despair for the environment, totally falling apart around us,” said Parry, who added on Facebook that he himself goes and cleans the local beaches of litter and plastic every single day.

Parry isn’t incorrect in his call onto the fishing industry to change their ways, as a majority of litter in our ocean’s is stranded materials from industrial fishing boats. However, there is also a major call to action for everyone on the planet to reduce their toxic single use plastic product use, and recycle, to prevent further unnecessary marine life death.

 

Cleaning up Plastic

Plastic Bank Is Cleaning Up The Planet Of All Plastic, One Country At A Time

When it comes to climate change, one of the biggest man-made contributions lies in our single-use plastic consumption. Plastic floods our oceans, litters our forests, and distributes micro plastic pieces throughout our bodies. Efforts are always increasing to make the planet more green, and less artificial, now, Plastic Bank, a relatively new “social enterprise” based in Canada, is monetizing recycling plastic to benefit the planet, and the people in more underdeveloped areas of the world in which plastic creates the most issues. 

According to CNN, the overall goal of Plastic Bank, is to motivate individuals in underdeveloped areas of the world to collect and recycle plastic products in exchange for cash, goods, and services such as food, clean water resources, and even tuition for children struggling to afford education. 

“After collection, plastic is weighed, sorted, chipped, melted into pellets and sold on as ‘raw material feedstock’ to be manufactured into everything from bottles for cleaning products to clothing. I saw an abundance; I saw an opportunity. We inherently reveal the value in this material,” CEO David Katz told an audience at the Sustainable Brands Oceans conference in Porto, Portugal. 

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Katz went on to explain that the company began back in 2013, and started in one of the poorest countries on the planet, Haiti. Now, there’s over 2,000 individuals working for Plastic Bank in the country and all those individuals are, on average, 63% above the poverty line thanks to income they’ve made recycling! The business is able to pay its workers through an app based system, which has also helped a lot of those individuals open their first bank account, (CNN). 

Plastic Bank has reported on their website that since 2013, the company has expanded into the Philippines, Indonesia, and most recently Brazil. Through their efforts and now multiple collaborations with major corporations such as S.C. Johnson, they’ve recycled over 13 million pounds of plastic! The company also reported that in 2020 they plan to expand into parts of Egypt, Colombia, and Vietnam. Egypt and Vietnam have been on the Bank’s radar for quite some time, both the Nile River in Egypt, and the Mekong River in Vietnam are responsible for up to 90% of plastic debris travelling into the planets seas, (CNN). 

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While the business is constantly growing and helping reduce the massive amounts of plastic littering our natural world, there needs to be more done on the opposite end, in terms of plastic manufacturing and distribution. In order to truly clean up the planet and help make a real major difference, more plastic alternatives need to be introduced and mass produced. Single-use plastic is one of the number one culprits in terms of pollution, general society can help by switching to more paper-based, or any other biodegradable alternative for those single use products.  

“If we add large streams of other bio-materials … and we eliminate the value of what’s already on the planet [single use plastic], and nobody goes to collect any of it, and no one wants to trade it, then what? An increase in plastic alternatives has to occur while not interrupting or degrading the value of the plastic that’s already on the planet. What we need to do is get away from traditional capitalism where shareholders benefit first. Companies that stand forward to repair the damage will win. The regeneration economy is emerging,” Katz discussed at the conference

At the end of the day, Katz says his company’s mission is clear, we know the world has all the resources, and means to end excessive plastic use and production, and increase much greener options while remaining economically stable. It’s about everyone coming together and agreeing upon a plan to help save our planet and all the individuals habituating it.