Environment

“Plasticrust”

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Researchers say they have found a strange new combination of rock and plastic forming on Portugal’s Atlantic island of Madeira.

Researcher Ignacio Gestoso says the new hybrid geology was first observed on the island’s volcanic shore in 2016, the apparent result of waterborne plastic pollution being slammed into rocks by wave action.

The new “plasticrust” looks like melted plastic encrusted on the rocks, according to Gestoso and colleagues at the island’s Marine and Environmental Research Center. They say the plastic is mainly polyethylene, a mixture of polymers and ethylene used in single-use packaging, bottles and food containers.

Heatwave in Europe

Europe’s record-breaking heatwave is forecast to intensify further on Thursday with authorities on high alert as temperatures threaten to exceed 40 degrees Celsius in some parts of the continent.

The stifling heat prompted traffic restrictions in France, sparked forest fires in Spain, and fanned debate in Germany over public nudity as sweltering residents stripped down.

Meteorologists blame a blast of hot air from northern Africa for the heat this week, which has already set new records in Europe for June. According to reports, the high temperatures have already claimed the lives of three people.

Exceptional for arriving so early in summer, the heatwave will on Thursday and Friday likely send mercury above 40C in France, Spain and Greece.

Paris Bans 60% of Cars Due To Heatwave and Pollution Levels

Paris imposed a ban on older and less efficient cars on Wednesday and is due to stay in place within the A86 second ring-road – which encompasses Paris and 79 towns around it – as long as the hot weather lasts, the city council said.

Data firm AAA Data said that nearly five million vehicles registered in the Ile-de-France area around Paris were covered, about 60 percent of total, a record number to be restricted. The city was not immediately available to comment on those estimates.

Traffic was lighter in Paris, but not significantly so. Several drivers said they were ignoring the restrictions as the fines for breaking them – just 68 euros ($77) for cars and 135 euros for vans – were so low.

French authorities also stepped up restrictions on water use on Thursday as swathes of western Europe remained in the grip of an intense heatwave.

Paris’ driving ban was imposed under the new “Crit’Air” colored stickers system, which classifies cars by age and pollution levels.

Only electric or hydrogen vehicles, petrol cars registered after Jan. 2006 and diesel cars registered from Jan. 2011 – corresponding to Crit’Air levels 1 and 2 out of 5 – were allowed on the roads.

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Wildlife

Sewage Spill Wipes out Thousands of Fish – Texas, USA

One-hundred thousand gallons of sewage spilled into a Williamson County’s Bushy Creek, wiping out several thousand fish from the ecosystem. The sewage killed everything in the water, according to local reports. Texas Parks and Wildlife said it was Monday’s storms that knocked out power at the wastewater treatment plant. Now several thousand game and non-game fish have been wiped out from Brushy Creek.

Environment

Everest clean-up

Nepali climbers have retrieved four bodies and collected some 11 tonnes of decades-old garbage from Mount Everest and its approach below the base camp as part of a drive to clean up the world’s highest mountain.

Climbers returning from the 8,850-metre mountain say its slopes are littered with human excrement, used oxygen bottles, torn tents, ropes, broken ladders, cans and plastic wrappers left behind by climbers, an embarrassment for a country that earns valuable revenue from Everest expeditions.

The garbage, along with the bodies of some of the 300 people who have died over the years on Everest’s slopes, are buried under the snow during winter, but become visible when the snow melts in summer.

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Plastic Pollution

Humans on Earth eat at least 50,000 particles of microplastic on average each year and inhale a comparable amount as well, according to new research that looked at data from 26 previous studies. Some experts estimate the level being absorbed by people is actually much higher.

The plastic pollution is entering the human food chain and environment due to the disintegration of plastic bags, bottles and other litter, which has now reached virtually every corner of the planet.

Another study cautions that pathogens and other organisms have been found to grow on microplastics in fresh water, posing a potential threat to the health of humans and wildlife.

Environment

Philippines returns waste to Canada

cargo ship carrying tonnes of rubbish dumped in the Philippines by Canada more than five years ago, has left the Southeast Asian country, as nations in the region increasingly reject serving as dumpsites for wealthier states.

The 69 shipping containers of rotting waste were loaded onto the M/V Bavaria at Subic Bay port in the early hours of Friday, before embarking on a 20-day journey to Vancouver, in southwestern Canada.

The waste was transported to the Philippines in 103 containers in 2013 to 2014, and falsely declared as recyclable plastic scraps. Several containers of the rubbish had been disposed of, including in a landfill, leaving 69 containers of electrical and household waste, including used diapers, rotting in two Philippine ports.

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Environment

Scientists Went to One of the World’s Most Remote Island Atolls. They Found 414 Million Pieces of Plastic

The amount of plastic pollution previously thought to exist around the world may be a dramatic underestimate — because the vast majority of plastic pollution may actually be below the surface.

That’s the takeaway from a survey of plastic pollution on the beaches of Australia’s Cocos Islands, made up of two coral atolls.

An estimated 414 million pieces of debris are now littering the remote islands, and the vast majority of that waste is buried below the surface, according to a new study. But even that is likely an underestimate, a group of researchers reported May 16 in the journal Scientific Reports.

What’s more, because most of this plastic is buried below the surface, and most global surveys don’t look below the surface, the amount of plastic pollution worldwide may be way more than we previously thought, they reported.

The scientists surveyed seven of the 27 islands, which made up 88 percent of the total landmass of the islands, and estimated that they were littered with 262 tons (238 metric tons) of plastic. A quarter of those pieces of debris were single-use or disposable items such as straws, bags and toothbrushes (about 373,000 of them), The researchers also identified some 977,000 shoes.

Roughly 93% of the debris found, most of it tiny micro-debris, was actually buried below the surface. But because they only dug 3.94 inches (10 centimeters) into the sand, and couldn’t access some beaches that are known to have a lot of debris, these numbers are likely conservative.

The amount of debris buried up to about 4 inches (10 cm) below the surface of the beach is 26 times higher than the amount visible on its surface, the researchers wrote.

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Environment

Extent of Plastic Pollution in Durban, South Africa after Floods – Images

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Global Pollutants

Researchers using chemical-sampling wristbands have found that people on three continents are being contaminated by more than a dozen of the same environmental pollutants.

None of the wristbands returned from volunteers in the United States, Africa and South America had identical chemical exposures, but more than half had picked up the same 14 chemicals.

“Whether you are a farmworker in Senegal or a preschooler in Oregon, you might be exposed to those same 14 chemicals,” said lead researcher and environmental chemist Holly Dixon of Oregon State University.

She said some of the detected chemicals “weren’t on our radar, yet they represent an enormous exposure.”

Wildlife

Another Dead Whale Full of Plastic – This Time, in Italy

Yet another whale carcass has washed up with a stomach full of plastic. This time, it was a female sperm whale with 49 lbs. (22 kilograms) of plastic in her stomach. She washed up on a beach in Porto Cervo, a popular tourist destination in Sardinia, Italy.

She was pregnant and had almost certainly aborted before (she) beached. The fetus was in an advanced state of decomposition.

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Wildlife

Dead Whale Washes Ashore with Shocking 88 lbs. of Plastic in Its Stomach

A young Cuvier’s beaked whale washed up dead on a beach in Compostela Valley in the Philippines, its stomach filled with 88 pounds (40 kilograms) of plastic bags.

Workers from the D’Bone Collector Museum Inc. in Davao City in the Philippines recovered the whale — a male — on Saturday (March 16) and later performed a necropsy. They found its stomach was packed with plastic bags — 16 rice sacks, four banana-plantation-style bags and some shopping bags. His stomach “had the most plastic we have ever seen in a whale”.

This isn’t the first time a whale full of plastic has washed ashore. A dead sperm whale washed up in Indonesia last November with 100 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and even a couple of flip-flops inside its stomach. The Cuvier’s whale in the Philippines held seven times more plastic than that sperm whale

Around 8.8 million tons (8 million metric tons) of plastic get dumped into the ocean every year, according to a 2015 report by the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy. In particular, about 60 percent of it comes from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Environment

Black Snow Is Falling from the Skies in Siberia

A pall of eerie black snow has covered several towns in the Siberian region of Kuzbass, which is home to 2.6 million people and one of the world’s largest coal fields.

According to the Guardian and the Siberian Times, the snow is tainted with toxic black coal dust that was released into the air from open coal pits and improperly maintained factories in the region. One coal plant official told the local media that a shield meant to prevent coal powder from escaping out of the factory had malfunctioned — however, toxic black snowfall seems to be a regular phenomena in the area and it isn’t necessarily tied to a single source.

Kuzbass (short for Kuznetsk Basin) is one of the largest coalfields in the world, spanning more than 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers). A 2015 report from Ecodefense found that the citizens of Kuzbass have an average life expectancy 3 to 4 years shorter than the Russian national average and have nearly twice the risk of contracting tuberculosis and childhood mental disorders.

Black snows like this one are a frequent winter feature in the region, the report found, and mitigation attempts have been… lacking. For instance, in December 2018, regional authorities were accused of trying to hide the toxic black stuff by literally painting over it with white pigment.

Environment

Plastic Pollution

Microplastics proliferating in the world’s oceans appear to also be carrying a host of bacteria, some so toxic that they can cause coral bleaching in tropical waters and even bring infections to humans with open wounds. Bacteria known to cause gastroenteritis were also found.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore sampled plastic debris in the waters around the city-state. They found that among the bacteria hitching rides on the microplastics were some useful organisms, such as those that can break down pollutants in the water.

But lead researcher Sandric Leong cautioned that since marine life are eating the plastic, the accompanying pathogens could be passing up the food chain.

Environment

Plastic Meals

Researchers say microplastics were in the guts of every marine animal they examined that had washed up on the coast of Britain, including dolphins, seals and whales.

A team from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory says most of the particles found in 50 animals from 10 different species were synthetic fibers, which can come from fishing nets, toothbrushes and clothing. They believe the rest came from sources such as food packaging and plastic bottles.

While it’s thought the plastic would eventually pass through the digestive systems or be regurgitated, the scientists say they “don’t yet know what effects the microplastics, or the chemicals on and in them, might have on marine mammals.”

Environment

Desalination Brine

The nearly 16,000 desalination plants around the world that extract fresh water from the sea are discharging far greater amounts of toxic brine back into the ocean than previously thought, a new U.N. study reveals.

It says the salt-laden liquid is increasing the density of salinity where it is released, and poses a significant risk to marine life and ecosystems.

More than half of the 5 billion cubic feet of brine discharged each day worldwide comes from desalination plants operating in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait.

Magnetic North Pole Shift

The erratic and rapid shift of the Magnetic North Pole since 2014 has prompted scientists to update a year earlier than scheduled a model used in crucial navigation systems.

The unprecedented update was requested by the U.S. military due to the mounting level of inaccuracies in guidance across the Arctic for ships, planes and submarines.

Scientists believe the wayward pole is being influenced by changes in the flow of iron in Earth’s outer core.

But some experts believe the planet’s magnetic poles are on the verge of reversing, which is long overdue.

Environment

Garbage Patch Cleanup Setback

A giant U-shaped floating barrier designed to corral debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been broken apart by the constant wind and waves of the North Pacific winter.

The prototype was towed to the patch between Hawaii and California last September, and early reports said it was moving slower than the plastic, allowing the trash to escape.

“This is an entirely new category of machine that is out there in extremely challenging conditions,” said the device’s 24-year-old inventor, Boyan Slat.

He said his Ocean Cleanup project will tow the broken device to Hawaii for examination, and it may need to be brought back to the project’s headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area for full repairs.

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Environment

Roach Recyclers

Food waste from China’s expanding cities has become such a problem that firms are being encouraged to set up urban waste farms that use countless cockroaches to devour the scraps.

Reuters reports that one facility on the outskirts of Jinan, capital of Shandong province, feeds food waste the equivalent in weight to seven adult elephants each day to a billion captive roaches. The bugs have the potential to provide nutrition for livestock once they die, and some say their dead bodies could also be used to cure stomach ailments and create beauty products.