Copepods Ingesting Microplastics, Researcher Says

Copepods Ingesting Microplastics, Researcher Says

Copepods, those tiny crustaceans that make up much of the building blocks of marine life, have been found to be ingesting tiny beads of plastic trash, also known as microplastics. These tiny animals usually eat algae, and are fed upon by larger organisms which in turn are eaten by larger organisms up the food chain, but Emily Shore, a student researcher at the University of Vermont has shown that the fecal material, otherwise known as poop, of Acartia tonsa copepods in her study, has shortened considerably, as these organisms, often just one millimeter in length, consume more micro plastics and less algae. 

“I have some data from a previous experiment where the adults were laying shorter fecal lengths, which showed that they were consuming less algae—and more microplastics,” Shore told UVM Today. “There was less biomatter to make the fecal lengths longer.”

Various copepod species. Andrei Savitsky/Wikipedia

Acartia tonsa is an important food source for Atlantic fish, and they do well in laboratory situations, so Shore and her professor,  Melissa Pespeni, can reproduce them in the lab and study how microplastics affects these crustaceans for the duration of their lives.

It is not surprising that these little critters are eating microplastics, because the world’s oceans are inundated with these man-made materials. Researchers with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego released a study last year that says microscopic plastics off the California coast has doubled every 15 years since the 1940s, and the increase in these marine plastics matches the rise in plastic production worldwide.

And a study of shellfish off the coast of the United Kingdom found that 100 percent of mussels taken from UK waters as well as supermarket-purchased mussels contained microplastics and other debris in their systems. 

Shore, who is pursuing an accelerated master’s degree in biology, is hoping that more attention is placed on the perils of marine plastics in the world’s oceans.

“There’s just not enough attention on plastic pollution in the ocean. It’s scary because you can’t see all these critters, except with a microscope,” Shore said, “but they’re out there, eating plastic. Which means we are too.”

$US 100 Million Singapore Fund Launched To Prevent Marine Plastic Pollution

$US 100 Million Singapore Fund Launched To Prevent Marine Plastic Pollution

None of these executives are smiling. They have launched the fund in an effort to clean up the oceans and prevent plastics from entering the evironment in the first place. Left to right: Rob Kaplan (Founder & CEO, Circulate Capital), Bambang Candra (Asia-Pacific Commercial Vice President, Dow Packaging and Speciality Plastics), Matt Echols (Vice President, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Asia Pacific), and Matt Kovac (Executive Director, Food Industry Asia)

A venture capital fund management company in Singapore has launched a $US100 million plastic pollution fund in an effort to curtail the flow of plastics into the oceans of Asia. The partners of the fund, the Circulate Capital Ocean Fund (CCOF), include some of the largest conglomerates whose product packaging is often seen in coastal cleanups, including The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever, and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company.

These single-use plastic satchets can be upcycled to create products, such as a pallet.

The fund comes at a time when the world’s oceans, and especially the oceans of Asia, are under assault from plastic. Microplastics found in shellfish. Marine plastics promotes disease on coral reefs. Marine plastics costs $US2.5 billion a year in losses. These are headlines from just the past year. We have an ocean plastic pollution problem, so much so that scientists have coined the term marine plastics, to describe something that shouldn’t be in the marine environment at all.

The fund will finance debt and equity financing for regional waste management efforts, and recycling and circular economy startups that are fighting what the fund calls a plastic crisis.

“The good news is that we are able to reduce nearly 50% of the world’s plastic leakage by investing in the waste and recycling sector in Asia, and even more if we invest in innovative materials and technologies,”  Rob Kaplan, CEO of Circulate Capital said in a statement released to the media. “This is why we are here in Singapore—a strategic hub of Southeast Asia—to prove that investing in this sector is scalable for the region and can generate competitive returns while moving closer to solving the ocean plastic crisis.”

About 60 percent of marine plastics originate from Southeast Asia, with China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam the top five ocean polluting countries in the world. A large portion of these pollutants can most likely be traced to the conglomerates that are contributing to the fund. They have realized that without efforts from industry, the marine plastic pollution problem cannot be corrected.

“Financing alone cannot solve the ocean plastic crisis,” the fund wrote in its press release. “It requires a full suite of solutions from policy and corporate commitments to financial incentives and changes in CONSUMER BEHAVIOR.”

“For the beverage sector, the more recycled content used in any type of packaging such as 100% recyclable plastics, the lower the carbon footprint. That’s why at Coca-Cola we have invested in Circulate Capital and have committed to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle or can we produce by 2030. Beverage packaging does not need to become waste. By investing in the waste collection and recycling sector in this critical region, it can become a valuable material used again and again—a step closer towards a circular economy,” said Matt Echols, Vice President, Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainability Coca-Cola Asia Pacific.

Circulate Capital was created in collaboration with Closed Loop Partners and Ocean Conservancy, and our founding investors include PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Dow, Danone, Unilever, The Coca-Cola Company and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, the fund wrote.

Companies Not Solely Responsible For Plastic Trash, Consumers Are Too

Companies Not Solely Responsible For Plastic Trash, Consumers Are Too

Many people want to blame brands for the plastics that end up into the ocean, as if a company such as Coca Cola tells you to throw the bottle in the ocean. They don’t. But those bottles still end up in the ocean.

anilao trash
Broken corals interspersed with plastic trash. Anilao, Philippines. Photo by John Virata

We as consumers have to find ways to minimize the plastic, paper, tin, e-waste etc. that we use everyday from leaking into the ocean. The solution can be as simple as buying less. Reduce and then refuse.

If you can do without soda, that’s one less consumer and one less plastic bottle that ends up in the ocean.

If you can do without SPAM, that’s one less tin can that ends up in the ocean.

See where you can cut down. Imagine if 8 billion people cut down on soda intake, do the math.

Reduce your use of online shopping. For example, according to Fast Company, about 165 million packages are shipped every year in the United States. That equals about 1 billion trees. That is a lot of cardboard that gets, for the most part thrown away, with much of it ending in the oceans.

In the Philippines, online shopping portal Lazada broke records for Singles day last November 11. It reported that a single shopper spent P1.2 million, and more than one million products were sold during the first hour of the online shopping sale. Imagine what the total was for the entire day. Filipinos spent 205 million minutes shopping on the website November 11. A sample of the breakdown, according to Interaksyon, is telling: More than 200,000 toys and games were sold, 13 million diapers, 240,000 pairs of sneakers and 10,000 pieces of luggage. That is not to mention 348 pre-ordered cars.

Where does all that packaging go? It has to go somewhere. Lazada and the maker of Pampers are not entirely responsible for the waste that is generated, the consumer is. The consumer is responsible for what is purchased. Companies though are beginning to take notice in how their products are packaged. Coca Cola announced that Coca Cola Sweden is the first to adopt 100 percent recycled plastic for its products. The company says the switch will prevent the use of 3,500 tons of virgin plastic each year and 25% fewer CO2 emissions.

Hyatt Hotels To Reduce Its Global Use Of Single-Use Plastics

Hyatt Hotels To Reduce Its Global Use Of Single-Use Plastics

Reusable glass water bottles at Hyatt Regency Amsterdam

In an effort to reduce its global use of plastics, Hyatt Hotels Corp. announced that it is launching three global initiatives to reduce its use of single-use plastics. As part of its efforts, the company will phase out its use of single use bottles of shower gel, shampoo, conditioners and lotions, and replace them with what the company calls large format bathroom amenities.

It will increase the number of water stations (once known as water fountains) in key public spaces on its hotel grounds worldwide so guests can refill their own reusable water bottles; and it will serve water in carafes or other reusable containers for meetings and events, with bottled water available upon request.

Single use soaps such as these will be a thing of the past at Hyatt Hotels worldwide.

“At Hyatt, our purpose – we care for people so they can be their best – guides all business decisions, including our global sustainability framework, which focuses on using resources responsibly and helping address today’s most pressing environmental issues,” Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO, Hyatt said in a statement released to the media. “Plastic pollution is a global issue, and we hope our efforts will motivate guests, customers and, indeed, ourselves to think more critically about our use of plastic.” 

The company rethinking its use of plastic is not new. It has already removed plastic straws and drink picks from its hotels, and has made alternatives available. Hyatt properties around the world have already done away with many single use plastics, and have solutions in place, including:

•   In-house water bottling plants that reuse glass bottles and replace single-use bottles. Hotels with this solution currently include Alila Villas Koh Russey, Alila Manggis, Alila Ubud, Alila Villas Uluwatu, Alila Bangsar, Alila Jabal Akhdar, Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa, Hyatt Regency Delhi, Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo and Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.
 •   Reusable bottles distributed to all guests at check-in at resorts such as Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Hyatt Ziva Cancun, Miraval Arizona and Miraval Austin.
 •   Filtered water spouts installed in all guest rooms at Park Hyatt Istanbul - Macka Palas to provide fresh drinking water.

More information about Hyatt’s sustainability efforts can be gleaned at  www.hyattthrive.com.

Microscopic Plastics In Oceans Doubled Every 15 Years Since 1940s

Microscopic Plastics In Oceans Doubled Every 15 Years Since 1940s

Plastic particles from box core. Examples of (A) fibers, (B) fragments, (C) film, and (D) spherical particles.

Researchers with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego have released a study that says microscopic plastics off the California coast has doubled every 15 years since the 1940s, and the increase in these marine plastics matches the rise in plastic production worldwide, and with regard to California, has coincided with the rise in California’s coastal population.

 FTIR spectra of plastic standards and sediment samples.PET, polyethylene terephthalate; LDPE, low-density PE; PS, polystyrene; PVC, polyvinyl chloride; HDPE, high-density PE; Unclear sediment sample, unidentified.

“This study shows that our plastic production is being almost perfectly copied in our sedimentary record. Our love of plastic is actually being left behind in our fossil record,” Scripps microplastics biologist Jennifer Brandon, lead author of the study, “Multidecadal increase in plastic particles in coastal ocean sediments” that appears in the journal Science Advances.

“It is bad for the animals that live at the bottom of the ocean: coral reefs, mussels, oysters and so on. But the fact that it is getting into our fossil record is more of an existential question. We all learn in school about the stone age, the bronze age and iron age – is this going to be known as the plastic age?” she said. “It is a scary thing that this is what our generations will be remembered for.”

The researchers analyzed coastal sediment of the Santa Barbara basic for changes in microplastic deposition using a box core that ranged from 1834 to 2009. The sediment was cataloged for plastic and the researchers found a subset off the man made material that was confirmed as plastic polymers using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. This led to the finding that plastic deposition in the ocean doubled every 15 years, from 1945 to 2009.

Most of the plastic that was found during the study were clothing fibers, starting in 1945 and then increasingly exponentially by 2010. They determined that 10 times as much plastic ended up in the Santa Barbara basin than before World War II. After the war, types of plastic discovered included plastic bag materials and plastic particles, in addition to plastic clothing fibers.

The complete research paper can be read in its entirety on the ScienceAdvances website.

Single-Use Plastic Products Phase Out Bill Introduced By Cong. Ruffy Biazon

Single-Use Plastic Products Phase Out Bill Introduced By Cong. Ruffy Biazon

Congressman Rufino B. Biazon, representative of the Lone District of Muntinlupa City, has introduced a bill that would require companies to phase out single use plastic products, including such things as plastic straws, plastic cups and lids, shrink wrap and other plastic used to encase products.

These single-use plastic satchets can be upcycled to create products, such as a pallet.

If and when House Bill #546 becomes law, companies, grocery stores, restaurants, public markets, fast food chains, department stores and retail stores would have three years to phase out the sale and use of single-use plastics or face fines of up to Php200,000 pesos and suspension of license to operate as a business.

“The Philippines produces 2.7 million tons of plastic annually, of which 521 Thousand tons are leaked to the ocean,” Cong. Biazon wrote on his Facebook page when he introduced the bill on July 3, International Plastic Bag Free Day. “The surprising thing about this is that 74% of the leakage comes from plastic waste that was collected. It means that even though we collect the plastic waste, a huge percentage still leaks into the ocean, contributing to the choking of the marine environment.”

Biazon’s bill calls for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Finance and the Department of Science And Technology, to work together and devise a phase out plan. These government entities would commence working on such a plan within six months of the passage of the bill.

“Government should adopt more aggressive policies that will reverse the self-destruction that we are inflicting on ourselves through uncontrolled plastic production and use, absence of a genuine system of collection and management of plastic waste and recycling/upcycling mechanisms embodied in a comprehensive program of plastic waste reduction,” Biazon said.

Some of the provisions in the bill include the involvement of local government units, or LGUs. The LGUs would be tasked with employing a separate collection system of waste single-use plastic products. The role of ensuring that waste single-use plastics are collected separately would be the responsibility fo the barangays and barangay councils.

” As we continue to look for ways and approaches on how to deal with plastic pollution, we will file proposals as we go along, with the hope that we can undo what decades of plastic production and use have done to our environment,” Biazon said.