There's no one way to solve the plastic waste problem, but in the packaged goods sector, an enormous amount of plastic is used in order to surround and protect simple solutions of some agent dissolved in water, from toothpaste to window cleaner to shampoo.
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In February 2018, Denmark's Ministry of Environment and Food published its Life Cycle Assessment of grocery carrier bags, which looked at the overall embodied energy, materials and labor in different grocery bags, and also evaluated the environmental impacts of different kinds of plastic bags.
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When I was young, my mom banned plastic wrap from our kitchen because it frustrated her so much when it would invariably cling to itself. Apparently you can avoid this problem though just by storing the plastic wrap in the freezer. The cold temporarily reduces its clinginess. From Mental Floss:
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The cold temperature alters the polyethylene at the molecular level, which helps to remove the static and stickiness...
The freezer only temporarily changes the properties of the plastic wrap, giving you enough time to rip a sheet off and cover your leftovers with it while the material is still cool. Once the plastic wrap warms up, it will go back to its old, clingy self.
Carolyn Forte of the Good Housekeeping Institute tried it out and gave the freezer method a thumbs up. "The plastic wrap was a lot easier to unroll and use," she tells Good Housekeeping. "It doesn't stick to itself when it's cold, but still works to cover up a dish. As it warms up, it goes back to being sticky, but it's definitely easier to handle when cold."
Microplastics -- the tiny pieces of plastic debris littering our planet -- has been found in human poop, surprising nobody. The pilot study included 8 people from seven countries in Europe plus Japan. While the study was obviously very small, the researchers did discover waste plastic such as that from food wrappers and synthetic clothing in feces from all the participants. According to lead researcher Dr. Philipp Schwabl of the University of Vienna, the study was too small to draw any huge conclusions but it does confirm what sadly was inevitable. From Laura Parker's feature in National Geographic
“I’d say microplastics in poop are not surprising,” says Chelsea Rochman, an ecologist at the University of Toronto, who studies the effects of microplastics on fish. “For me, it shows we are eating our waste—mismanagement has come back to us on our dinner plates. And yes, we need to study how it may affect humans.”
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Every year, an average of eight million tons of plastic waste, most of it single-use varieties, flows into the world’s oceans from coastal regions. There, sunlight and wave action break these waterborne plastics down into bits the size of grains of rice. Fibers from synthetic clothes such as polyester and acrylic make their way into freshwater systems via washing machines. You can see this in action with a fleece jacket; just scratching the arm of the jacket can shed invisible fibers. As a result, tiny plastic fragments and fibers have now spread all over the planet. They're in deep sea trenches and in the air we breathe.
In the 2000s, Saran changed their formula to be less sticky: more convenient for most people, but also less useful to those adept in the mystic arts of cling-wrapping things. And where Saran goes, the clingwrap industry follows.
The switch was for a good reason, though: the stickiness was due to using PVDC, a chloride-containing polymer that's bad for the environment and in all likelihood not something you want near hot food. Delicious! Read the rest
The Association of Independent Festivals plans to take a step in the right direction on single-use plastic items with their Drastic on Plastic initiative. Read the rest
Researchers "accidentally" engineered a natural enzyme found in a Japanese waste recycling plant to eat plastic waste. According to the scientists from the UK's University of Portsmouth and the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the enzyme, Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, degrades polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the material used to make plastic bottles and other crap. The photo above is an electron microscope image of the enzyme degrading PET plastic.
"We hoped to determine (the enzyme's) structure to aid in protein engineering, but we ended up going a step further and accidentally engineered an enzyme with improved performance at breaking down these plastics," NREL's lead researcher Gregg Beckham told CNN. From the University of Portsmouth:
“Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception,” Professor McGeehan said.
“Although the improvement is modest, this unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics.”
"Engineering a plastic-eating enzyme" (UOP) Read the rest
Celia Pool and Alec Mills used to sell period products and soon realized what a tremendous waste it all was, especially those single-use plastic applicators on tampons. So they launched a company called DAME and made the D, a self-cleaning reusable tampon applicator. It's currently on Kickstarter.
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