Mutant plastic-dissolving enzymes could help curb the increasing global plastic pollution that threatens marine life and even the humans who eat it.
Researchers from the University of Portsmouth were studying a bacterium discovered at a Japanese dump in 2016 that had naturally evolved to eat plastic.
While using ultra-intense beams of X-rays to examine the structure of the key enzyme produced by the bacterium, they accidentally improved the enzyme’s ability to break down the kind of plastic used to make beverage bottles.
China Changes Trash Import Policy – Refuses to be a Trash Dumping Ground
For decades, China was the world’s largest importer of waste but that’s changing after Beijing banned 24 types of scraps from entering its borders starting January.
The ban was hailed as a big win for global green efforts by environmentalists, who said it would not only clean up China, but also force other countries to better manage their own trash.
More than three months into the ban, waste exporters such as the U.S., Europe and Japan are still scrambling for an alternative to China.
China was the dumping ground for more than half of the world’s trash before the ban and, at its peak, was importing almost 9 million metric tons of plastic scrap a year, according to Greenpeace.
The country started importing waste in the 1980s to fuel a growing manufacturing sector. It grew a whole waste processing and recycling industry, but improper handling of trash and a lack of effective supervision turned the country into a major polluter.
China, now the second-largest economy in the world, has been doubling down on efforts to clean up its air, water and land. Under President Xi Jinping, the country has shuttered tens of thousands of factories that contributed pollution, pushed for greater use of renewable energy and became a green finance giant.
World shipping industry agrees to halve carbon emissions by 2050
Members of the UN International Maritime Organization on Friday struck a deal to halve carbon dioxide emissions from shipping by 2050 in a deal that will force the industry to redesign fleets.
“The initial strategy envisages for the first time a reduction in total GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions by at least 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2008,” the IMO said in a statement.
Major shipping nations such as Saudi Arabia and the United States had objected to earlier drafts in two weeks of discussion at the 173-member organization based in London.
Some countries such as the Marshall Islands, which are at risk of rising seas but are also a major flag state, had wanted a stronger commitment and the EU wanted a 70 to 100 percent cut. But the agreement was widely hailed by stakeholders.
Asia’s longest river floods sea with plastic waste
The longest river in Asia has become one of the world’s most polluted, with tonnes of plastic waste threatening marine life in the East China Sea and beyond.
The Yangtze River is the third longest river in the world, with a length of more than 6,300km. According to research published in a recent environmental journal, the Yangtze and its tributaries carry 1.5 million tonnes of plastic into the sea each year – the most of any river in the world.
In an effort to save marine life, environmental groups and campaigners in the country are organising volunteer clean-up operations, clearing out plastic along the mouth of the polluted river.
China is one of the biggest plastic consumers in the world. In 2016, package delivery services used an estimated 14 billion plastic bags. And with the rapid increase of food delivery options, it is estimated that 60m plastic containers are used each day – many of which cannot be recycled.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Has Quadrupled, Maybe Even 16-upled
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is getting denser. The enormous plastic soup floating in the vast North Pacific spans more than 617,000 square miles (1.6 million square kilometers), and its density is now between four and 16 times greater than previous estimates, scientists have found.
Researchers made the discovery by looking at the garbage patch in the Pacific between California and Hawaii. They found that the patch has more than 87,000 tons (79,000 metric tons) of plastic in it. That equates to 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, or roughly 250 pieces for every person on the planet, the researchers said.
Plastics made up 99.9 percent of the debris in the patch. Fishing nets accounted for at least 46 percent of the plastic, the researchers found. Smaller items had broken into fragments, but researchers still managed to identify quite a few objects, including containers, bottles, lids, packaging straps and ropes. Fifty items even had discernable dates, including one from 1977, seven from the 1980s, 17 from the 1990s, 24 from the 2000s and one from 2010.
Pollution from Ships Creates Massive Clouds Visible from Space
NASA’s Aqua satellite was orbiting over Portugal back in January when it snapped the above photo. It shows a thin film of clouds above the brilliant blue of the North Atlantic, slashed with white lines of thicker clouds that look like scars or etchings.
Those thicker clouds, NASA officials explained in , are signs of ship traffic below. When ships power their way through the ocean, they pump exhaust into the atmosphere, just as cars do. And those massive plumes of particles can “seed” clouds, causing new cloud droplets to form.
Global Cleansing Plan
Nations of the world have agreed to move toward a pollution-free planet, curbing contamination of the oceans, rivers, soil and air.
Every day, nine out of 10 people worldwide breathe in pollution that exceeds health guidelines, with 17,000 dying prematurely from it. Wildlife is also being poisoned.
Meeting at a U.N. Environment Assembly in Nairobi, members also called for a shift in how goods are produced and used, especially plastics that wind up in the world’s oceans.
But the non-binding declaration has no timetable and has not been signed onto by the United States.
“Deadly’ Smog in Delhi, India
Visibility is poor as pollution levels reached 30 times the World Health Organization’s recommended limit in some areas. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) declared “a state of medical emergency” and urged the government to “make every possible effort to curb this menace”.
The levels of tiny particulate matter (known as PM 2.5) that enter deep into the lungs reached as high as 700 micrograms per cubic metre in some areas on Tuesday.
The chief minister of Delhi has asked his education minister to consider shutting down schools for a few days. Delhi sees pollution levels soar in winter due to farmers in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana states burning stubble to clear their fields. Low wind speeds, dust from construction sites, rubbish burning in the capital and firecrackers used in festivals also contribute to increasing pollution levels.
Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:
In the Atlantic Ocean: Invest 95L is an area of disturbed weather in the Atlantic Ocean that has the potential for further tropical development.
In the Western Pacific Ocean: Typhoon 28w (Damrey), located approximately 182 nm northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is tracking west-southwestward at 13 knots.
Vietnam – At least four people have been killed by heavy rain and flooding in Central Vietnam caused by a tropical storm. Storm Damrey is expected to make landfall on Sunday.
Floods and Groundwater
A new study has pointed out that flooding in polluted rivers has the potential to make groundwater unsafe for human use. Researchers collected water samples from 17 locations in December 2015 and April 2016 (i.e. during and after the floods). They tested the samples for salt and heavy-metal concentrations, the microbial load and their susceptibility to available antibiotics. The results showed that the heavy-metal concentration and microbial load in groundwater samples were high.
Additionally, scientists found a high level genetic similarities between bacteria from various locations, implying that they must have originated from a single domestic sewage source containing faecal matter. The findings show that floods have the potential to impact the microbial quality of groundwater in affected areas.
Pollution Fuelling Climate Change
Climate change is already affecting the health of populations around the world, but things are set to get worse if adequate changes aren’t made, according to an international consortium of climate experts.
Fueling the impact is the fact that more than 2,100 cities globally exceed recommended levels of atmospheric particulate matter — particles emitted when fuels, such as coal or diesel, are burned and are small enough to get into the lungs — says a report published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet. In the UK alone, 44 cities exceeded levels recommended by the World Health Organization.
More than 803,000 deaths across 21 Asian countries in 2015 were attributable to pollution from coal power, transport and the use of fossil fuels at home, the report states.
Pollution is responsible for illnesses that kill one in every six people around the world each year, according to a new landmark report.
The Lancet, the world’s leading peer-reviewed journal on health, commissioned a study that found toxic air, water, soil and workplace environments kill at least 9 million people annually.
Study authors warn that the crisis “threatens the continuing survival of human societies.” Philip Landrigan, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said the scale of deaths from pollution surprised the researchers, as did the rate at which the fatalities were rising.
A new study has found that most of the honey sampled from every continent except Antarctica during a recent five-year period was contaminated with a common class of bee-harming insecticides.
Researchers from the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland found that 75 percent of the samples had “quantifiable amounts” of at least one of the neonicotinoids, which have also been linked to reduced colony growth and queen production in bumblebees.
The scientists say 86 percent of the samples collected in North America were contaminated, followed by 80 percent in Asia, 79 percent in Europe and 57 percent in South America.
UK Smog Alert
A combination of polluted air blowing in from continental Europe and toxic air around London has created unhealthful levels of air pollution around the British capital. London’s mayor ordered an emergency air quality alert due to the hazardous smog.
“The shocking and illegal state of London’s filthy air means once again I am triggering a high air pollution alert today under my new comprehensive alert system,” said Sadiq Khan.
The government has come under increased pressure to improve the United Kingdom’s air quality.
Humans Have Produced Whopping 9 Billion Tons of Plastic
A new study, which is the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever made, finds that since large-scale manufacturing of plastics took off in the 1950s and until 2015, humans have produced approximately 9 billion tons (8.3 billion metric tons) of plastic.
To put that in perspective, all that plastic would be equivalent to 85,567 aircraft “supercarriers” like the USS Gerald R. Ford, which weighs 107,000 tons (97,000 metric tons).
Of those 9 billion tons, half was made in the last 13 years, said Roland Geyer, an associate professor of industrial ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and lead author of the new study, which was published online today (July 19) in the journal Science Advances.
As of 2015, about 7 billion tons (6.3 billion metric tons) of plastic have been disposed of as waste, with only 9 percent of it recycled, 12 percent incinerated, and a whopping 79 percent finding its way into landfills, the researchers report.
The Gulf of Mexico’s ‘Dead Zone’
The oxygen-poor “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico may be the biggest on record this year, nearly doubling in size to cover an area of ocean as large as Vermont, scientists at Louisiana State University estimate.
The dead zone develops when nitrogen-rich runoff from the Midwestern farm belt pours into rivers and out into the Gulf. That runoff is loaded with fertilizer, as well as nutrients from animal and human waste, and it fuels the growth of algae that die, sink, and decompose, depleting oxygen levels offshore. That drives away marine life in the zone — or kills species that can’t escape.