$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.

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.

Oceans, Meet Plasticrust, A New Type Of Plastic Pollution

Oceans, Meet Plasticrust, A New Type Of Plastic Pollution

Plastics have entered the world’s oceans such a massive scale that scientists have coined the term, “Marine Plastics” to identify these forms of plastics. Now, researchers Ignacio Gestoso, Eva Cacabelos, Patrício Ramalhosa, and João Canning-Clodea of the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, Madeira Island, Portugal and Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD, USA, have coined a new term for plastic that encrusts itself onto the ocean’s intertidal coastal rock formations, plasticrust.

“[The crusts] likely originated by the crash of large pieces of plastic against the rocky shore, resulting in plastic crusting the rock in a similar way algae or lichens do,” Gestoso told Earther.

These bits of plastic are most likely encrusting the rocky surfaces of intertidal zones around the world, and the impact of these man made materials on organisms that may be ingesting these plastics is not yet known.

Gestoso’s paper, “Plasticrusts: A new potential threat in the Anthropocene’s rocky shores” is published in the journal Science Direct. The researchers say these plastics present a novel pathway for entrance of plastics into the marine food web, and that plasticrusts are a potential new marine debris category.

“The potential impact that these new ‘plasticrusts’ may have needs to be further explored, as e.g. potential ingestion by intertidal organisms could suppose a new pathway for entrance of plastics into marine food webs,” the researchers wrote in their abstract discussing the new type of marine plastics. “Consequently, its inclusion as a potential new marine debris category in management and monitoring actions should be pondered.”

The impact of these plasticrusts are already having negative effects on the Portugese island of Madeira, where Gestoso says the plasticrusts are slowly replacing natural biological crusts and films on the rocks the intertidal animals such as snails and barnacles adhere to and rely on as a food source. For example, an algae-eating species of winkle sea snail was just as abundant on the plasticrusts as on surfaces that it normally feeds upon, suggesting that the mollusk may be grazing directly on the algae that forms on the plasticrusts, potentially ingesting plastic as it eats plasticrusts.

Clean Our Oceans Project takeaway: It is all about personal responsibility. Make a decision to use less plastic, and recycle the plastic that you do use.

Microplastics Found In Shellfish Living In UK Waters

Microplastics Found In Shellfish Living In UK Waters

A recent study of mussels living in the oceans off the United Kingdom have found that 100 percent of the popular mollusks found there as well as in supermarkets had microplastics and other man made materials in their systems.

The study, conducted in 2018 by researchers with the University of Hull and the Brunel University London collected the mussels from eight areas around the coastline of the United Kingdom between November 2016 and February 2017, and eight supermarkets representing eight unnamed brands, according to the University of Hull.

Some highlights:

  • 100 per cent of samples taken from UK waters and supermarket-bought products contained microplastics or other debris
  • For every 100g of mussels consumed, it is estimated there are approximately 70 pieces of microplastics
  • More particles were found in supermarket mussels which had been cooked or frozen, than in the freshly caught mussels.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that global contamination of the marine environment by microplastic is impacting wildlife and its entry into the food chain is providing a pathway for the waste that we dispose of to be returned to us through our diet,” Professor Jeanette Rotchell, of the School of Environmental Sciences, University of Hull said in a news release put out by the university.

“This study provides further evidence of this route of exposure and we now need to understand the possible implications of digesting these very small levels,” Rotchell said. “Continued research will hopefully drive effective human risk assessment. Chances are that these have no implications, but none the less, there is not enough data out there to say there is no risk. We still need to do the studies and show that is the case. There are currently regulation of some contaminants in food, in the long term, regulatory solutions to this problem will also be needed.”

Rotchell noted that in addition to the human consumption of these plastic- laden marine foods, humans are also exposed to plastics via other food sources, drinking water, and airborne plastics, which can be inhaled. She further noted that in addition to plastics found in mussels, other man-made debris such as cotton and rayon are ingested by these filter feeders. “All the conversation is about microplastics, but textiles could also be worth investigation.”

With microplastic and marine plastic pollution prevalent throughout the world’s oceans, mussels and other mollusks in other parts of the world are most likely to contain these man-made materials in their systems. It is a sad reminder of how much plastic pollution has permeated all levels of the world’s marine ecosystems, from planktons all the way up to the whales.

New Rules Governing Plastic Waste Exports Established By UN

New Rules Governing Plastic Waste Exports Established By UN

At the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP14) of the Basel Convention, governments in attendance acted to restrict what they call rampant plastic waste exports, requiring countries that are exporting contaminated or mixed plastic waste, to receive prior informed consent from the receiving countries. The Basel Convention is a multilateral international agreement that governs all transboundary movements of hazardous waste for recovery or disposal.

The new rule is in response to developed countries offloading their plastic waste to developing countries in Southeast Asia after China stopped importing plastic waste in 2018.

Plastics can be upcycled into useable products, such as this pallet, which was made out of plastic satchets. Photo by Anna Varona.

Countries at the conference noted the increase in marine plastics pollution and microplastics pollution in the world’s oceans and the negative impact these man made materials are having on marine biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, local communities and ecosystems around the world. The concerns over hazardous chemicals found in plastics was also discussed.

The plastic wastes actions adopted at the conference include:

  • Removing or reducing the use of hazardous chemicals in plastics production and at any subsequent stage of their life cycle.
  • Setting of specific collection targets and obligations for plastics producers to cover the costs of waste management and clean-up.
  • Preventing and minimizing the generation of plastic waste, including through increasing the durability, reusability and recyclability of plastic products.
  • Significant reduction of single-use plastic products.

“With this amendment, many developing countries will, for the first time, have information about plastic wastes entering their country and be empowered to refuse plastic waste dumping,” Dr. Sara Brosché, IPEN Science Advisor said in a statement released to the media. “For far too long developed countries like the US and Canada have been exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries claiming it would be recycled in the receiving country. Instead, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled and is instead dumped or burned, or finds its way into the ocean.”

The decision by the UN will have the biggest impact on the United States, because it is not a signatory of the Basel Convention, and the rules prohibit the export of listed wastes from countries that have not ratified the convention.

UN Report Says 1 Million Species Face Extinction Due To Human Activities

UN Report Says 1 Million Species Face Extinction Due To Human Activities

United Nations biodiversity experts say that one million species face extinction due to human activities, according to a summary of a report that will be released later this year, and the UNESCO director has put the world on notice.

The summary, “Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’” was released on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services website.

“Following the adoption of this historic report, no one will be able to claim that they did not know,” – UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said in a statement released to the media. “We can no longer continue to destroy the diversity of life. This is our responsibility towards future generations.”

Azoulay said that the importance of diversity, notably the diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems must be protected and is as vital as fighting climate change.

marine plastics
Collecting marine debris in Sargassum. (Photo Credit: USM)

The report, which was approved by more than 130 government delegations at UNESCO headquarters, is comprised of data compiled by 400 experts from 50 countries. It looks into the state of nature and ecosystems and how nature is changed by human activity. It also delves into the progress of UN international goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Paris Agreement on climate change, of which the United States withdrew under the Trump regime.
Some key highlights of the report

  1. One in four species is at risk
    The report says that human activities “threaten more species now than ever before” due in part to the fact that 25 percent of of species in plant and animal groups are vulnerable. They cite the a further acceleration in the “global rate of species extinction” that the report says is 10 times higher than the average over the last 10 million years. One million species face extinction within decades unless we take action to reduce “the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss.”
  2. Crop security is threatened long term
    The report states that wild relatives of domesticated food crops are needed for long term food security, and currently lack effective protection, and the status of wild relatives of domesticated birds and mammals is getting worse. The report states that when there are reductions in the diversity of cultivated crops, crop wild relatives and domesticated breeds will cause farming to be less resilient against future climate change, crop and animal pests and pathogens.
  3. Marine pollution has increased tenfold since 1980
    “Marine plastic pollution in particular has increased tenfold since 1980, affecting at least 267 species”, the report says. The report says 86 percent of marine turtles, 44 percent of seabirds and 43 percent of marine mammals have been negatively affected by marine plastic pollution.

“The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being,” Sir Robert Watson, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Chair said in the statement. “Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come. Policies, efforts and actions – at every level – will only succeed, however, when based on the best knowledge and evidence.”

Other key takeaways in the report:

  • Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. On average these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
  • More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production.
  • The value of agricultural crop production has increased by about 300% since 1970, raw timber harvest has risen by 45% and approximately 60 billion tons of renewable and nonrenewable resources are now extracted globally every year – having nearly doubled since 1980.
  • Land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of the global land surface, up to US$577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss and 100-300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.
  • In 2015, 33% of marine fish stocks were being harvested at unsustainable levels; 60% were maximally sustainably fished, with just 7% harvested at levels lower than what can be sustainably fished.
  • Urban areas have more than doubled since 1992.
  • Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters, and fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’, totalling more than 245,000 km2 (591-595) – a combined area greater than that of the United Kingdom.
  • Negative trends in nature will continue to 2050 and beyond in all of the policy scenarios explored in the Report, except those that include transformative change – due to the projected impacts of increasing land-use change, exploitation of organisms and climate change, although with significant differences between regions.

The full report, which is expected to be more than 1,500 pages, is scheduled to be released later this year.