Tag Archives | Plastic

All the World’s Oceans Have Plastic Debris on Their Surface

1271349466-plastic_patchVia ScienceDaily:

The Malaspina Expedition, led by the Spanish National Research Council, has demonstrated that there are five large accumulations of plastic debris in the open ocean that match with the five major twists of oceanic surface water circulation. In addition to the known accumulation of plastic waste in the North Pacific, there are similar accumulations in the central North Atlantic, the South Pacific, the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean.

However, central surface waters of the oceans may not be the final destination of plastic debris since, as indicated by the study performed by the Malaspina Expedition, large amounts of microplastics could be passing to the marine food chain and the ocean floor. Results of the study, led by the University of Cadiz (Spain), have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Andrés Cózar, researcher from the University of Cadiz, explains: “Ocean currents carry plastic objects which split into smaller and smaller fragments due to solar radiation.

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BPA From Plastics, Food Packaging, Linked To Obesity

Americans may be growing fat not only from the foods we eat, but from the hormone-disrupting materials in which those foods are given to us. Via the Smithsonian:

Since the 1960s, manufacturers have widely used the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in plastics and food packaging. A study by researchers from New York University, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at a sample of nearly 3,000 children and teens across the country and found a “significant” link between the amount of BPA in their urine and the prevalence of obesity.

The researchers speculate on a possible underlying mechanism, alluding to other studies that have shown that the chemical may disrupt mechanisms of human metabolism in ways that increase body mass. They also note studies that have revealed associations between urinary levels of BPA and incidences of adult diabetes, cardiovascular disease and abnormal liver function.

The vast majority of BPA in our bodies comes from ingestion of contaminated food and water.

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Creating A Habitable Island Made Of Garbage In The Pacific Ocean

Is this the solution to our waste problems? A research team at the University College London is working towards the creation of a Plastic Republic by 2030 in the North Pacific, and funding the project by selling off parcels of land on the future island:
We intend to engineer enhanced adhesive properties in Escherichia coli and marine bacteria to alter the composition and dynamics of resultant biofilms for the adhesion of micro-plastic pollutants, with an extended vision of creating mass aggregates, or ‘Plastic Islands’. After months of planning, we are now rallying to construct a ‘plastic island’ using the principles of synthetic biology. In so doing we hope to provide a solution to one of the world’s major environmental problems – the North Pacific Garbage Patch.
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Medical Study Of Three Real-Life Haitian Zombies

1218283_f260What causes zombification? Some mixture of schizophrenia, mistaken identity, a poison powder called tetrodotoxin, and amnesia. Mind Hacks writes:

We hear a lot about zombies these days, but many are unaware that in 1997 The Lancet published a medical study of three genuine Haitian zombies. The cases were reported by British anthropologist Roland Littlewood and Haitian doctor Chavannes Douyon and concerned three individuals identified as zombies after they had apparently passed away.

The Haitian explanation for how zombies are created involves the distinction between different elements of the human being – including the body, the gwobon anj (the animating principle) and the ti-bon anj, which represents something akin to agency, awareness, and memory.

In line with these beliefs is the fact that awareness and agency can be split off from the human being – and can be captured and stored in a bottle by a bòkò, a type of magician and spirit worker who can be paid to send curses or help individuals achieve their aims.

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A Continent Made Of Plastics

Taken from a 1940 issue of Fortune, a rendering of a map of an imaginary future continent, ‘Synthetica’, composed of synthetic materials and plastic debris. This is our magical future. Via Strange Maps:

“On this broad but synthetic continent of plastics, the countries march right out of the natural world – that wild area of firs and rubber plantations, upper left – into the illimitable world of the molecule. It’s a world boxed only by the cardinal points of the chemical compass – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen. Rayon is a plastic island off the Cellulose coast, with a glittering night life.”

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Flexible Screen Nears Commercial Release

Photo: RDECOM (CC)

Plastic screens that can be rolled up like a newspaper and not crack may be sold in stores soon, introducing new possibilities for laptops and smartphones. William D’Urso reports in the Arizona Republic:

A plastic screen that rolls up and doesn’t crack when you drop it may sound like science fiction, but the Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University is investing millions to liberate electronic devices from the constraints of rigid glass.

And reality could come sooner than you think. The project was initiated by the U.S. Army in cooperation with a number of companies, including Boeing and Hewlett-Packard, to expedite the development of the technology.

“Flexible … black-and-white screens for e-readers are very close to commercialization,” said Nick Colaneri, Flexible Display Center director. Black-and-white screens are less complicated to create, and he estimates flexible screens capable of rolling up and displaying color images are three to five years away.

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Making Chicken Feathers Into Plastic

Chickens

Photo: Paebi (CC)

Could chicken feathers help reduce our waste? The American Chemical Society has announced that a more environment-friendly plastic can be produced using the discarded feathers of chickens. BBC reports:

The millions of tonnes of chicken feathers discarded each year could be used in plastics, researchers say.

A study reported at the American Chemical Society meeting in the US suggests feathers could lead to more environment-friendly, lighter plastics.

The chemical recipe requires significantly less petroleum-derived material.

However, tests on a grander scale will be necessary to establish the idea’s industrial feasibility.

Such “biowaste” materials have been proposed as components of plastic formulations before.

Feathers, like hair and fingernails, are made up principally of the tough and chemically stable protein keratin, and can lend strength while reducing weight in the mixtures of plastics chemicals known as composites.

Researchers at the US agricultural authority have even published research into the possibility of incorporating chicken feathers into plastics, as an additive in composites that are made largely of a chemical polymer.

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Are Paper And Cotton Bags Bigger Eco-Villains Than Plastic?

4359906568_daa3beccdfHas the disposable plastic bag been unfairly scapegoated? The Independent reports on a contrarian U.K. study which found that, with typical use, plastic grocery store bags actually have less of an environmental footprint than paper ones or cotton tote bags. The lesson: avoid needless consumption, and don’t imagine your screen-printed tote is saving the planet:

Hated by environmentalists and shunned by shoppers, the disposable plastic bag is piling up in a shame-filled corner of retail history. But a draft report by the Environment Agency has found that ordinary high density polythene (HDPE) bags used by shops are actually greener than supposedly low impact choices.

HDPE bags are, for each use, almost 200 times less damaging to the climate than cotton hold-alls favoured by environmentalists, and have less than one third of the Co2 emissions than paper bags which are given out by retailers such as Primark.

Most paper bags are used only once and one study assumed cotton bags were used only 51 times before being discarded, making them – according to this new report – worse than single-use plastic bags.

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