WHO Calls for More Research into Microplastics and a Crackdown on Plastic Pollution

 

Plastics are widespread in everyday life. About 8 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean annually. Once in the water, which is not discharged from the waves on the shore, for the most part it breaks into tiny particles. The smallest particles – those smaller than 5 millimeters – are called microplastics. According to the data, the world’s oceans contain about 236,000 tonnes of microplastics. Some debris is swept away by the water, others sink depending on their own density, while others are swallowed by fish and crustaceans, which in turn become food for other animals, including birds and humans.

Currently effect on human health is a relatively unexplored area, but experts worry that the plastic material can contain high concentrations of pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Although experiments have not been conducted on humans, those on animals have shown that microparticles are capable of penetrating the blood of the affected creature, the lymphatic system and possibly the liver, while collecting in the intestine and having potentially harmful effects on organs and hormonal regulation.
The World Health Organization monitors and analyzes the incoming evidence and issued a news release on August 22, 2019, which reads as follows:

The World Health Organization (WHO) today calls for a further assessment of microplastics in the environment and their potential impacts on human health, following the release of an analysis of current research related to microplastics in drinking-water. The Organization also calls for a reduction in plastic pollution to benefit the environment and reduce human exposure.

“We urgently need to know more about the health impact of microplastics because they are everywhere –  including in our drinking-water,” says Dr Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants of Health, at WHO. “Based on the limited information we have, microplastics in drinking water don’t appear to pose a health risk at current levels. But we need to find out more. We also need to stop the rise in plastic pollution worldwide.”

According to the analysis, which summarizes the latest knowledge on microplastics in drinking-water, microplastics larger than 150 micrometres are not likely to be absorbed in the human body and uptake of smaller particles is expected to be limited.  Absorption and distribution of very small microplastic particles including in the nano size range may, however, be higher, although the data is extremely limited.

Further research is needed to obtain a more accurate assessment of exposure to microplastics and their potential impacts on human health. These include developing standard methods for measuring microplastic particles in water; more studies on the sources and occurrence of microplastics in fresh water; and the efficacy of different treatment processes.

WHO recommends drinking-water suppliers and regulators prioritize removing microbial pathogens and chemicals that are known risks to human health, such as those causing deadly diarrhoeal diseases. This has a double advantage: wastewater and drinking-water treatment systems that treat faecal content and chemicals are also effective in removing microplastics.

Wastewater treatment can remove more than 90% of microplastics from wastewater, with the highest removal coming from tertiary treatment such as filtration. Conventional drinking-water treatment can remove particles smaller than a micrometre. A significant proportion of the global population currently does not benefit from adequate water and sewage treatment. By addressing the problem of human exposure to faecally contaminated water, communities can simultaneously address the concern related to microplastics.

You can download the WHO report for 2019 here:

 

Want to Fight Climate Change? Plant 1 Trillion Trees

The total land, including current forested areas, that can support new trees

 

Want to help save the world from climate change? Then grab some seeds, or some seedlings, and start planting trees like there’s no tomorrow.

At least 1 trillion of them, and fast.

That may sound like a lot of trees, but the Earth has room for their gnarled bows and branches. In a new study that excluded cities and agricultural areas, researchers found that the planet has nearly 3.5 million square miles (9 million square kilometers) to spare for trees. Such newly planted trees could cut carbon (a part of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere by nearly 25%, bringing it down to levels not seen for nearly 100 years, the scientists said.

The study shows where in the world these trees could be planted, and how much carbon they could store. (Trees take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it in a process called photosynthesis, which allows them to grow, ultimately storing that carbon in their leaves and other parts.) Russia has the most space at 583,000 square miles (1.5 million square km), followed by the United States at 397,700 square miles (1 million square km), the researchers found. The next top contenders are Canada with 302,700 square miles (784,000 square km), Australia with 223,900 square miles (578,900 square km), Brazil with 191,900 square miles (497,000 square km), and China with 155,200 square miles (402,000 square km) available for new green shoots.

“We all knew restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we had no scientific understanding of what impact this could make,” study senior author Thomas Crowther, an assistant professor of ecology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (ETH Zurich), said in a statement.

The team’s calculation “shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today,” Crowther added.

Planting trees in these regions would increase Earth’s forest-covered land by a third, all without affecting land humans use for cities and agriculture. Once these trees have matured, they could store 225 billion tons (205 billion metric tons) of carbon, or about two-thirds of the 330 billion tons (300 billion metric tons) of carbon that humans have released into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution began.

The unfolding greenery could help limit Earth’s warming climate. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report found that adding an additional 3.8 million square miles (10 million square km) of forestland could limit climate change to 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) by 2050. But this number may change, as climate change factors tend to accelerate quickly, meaning that even more trees than the IPCC calculated in their report may be needed to achieve that goal, the researchers said.

The Swiss team came up with their forecasts by using a dataset of nearly 80,000 forests and combining that with Google Earth Engine, which allowed them to make a predictive model of tree cover.

However, even if the trees are planted pronto, their effects won’t be immediate.

“It will take decades for new forests to mature and achieve this potential,” Crowther said. “It is vitally important that we protect the forests that exist today, pursue other climate solutions and continue to phase out fossil fuels from our economies in order to avoid dangerous climate change.”

The study was published online July 4 in the journal Science.

 

Live Science

 

Bye, Bye, Plastic! Indonesians Have Invented Awesome Eco-friendly Biodegradable Bags

 

A company in Indonesia has created a plastic bag so eco-friendly you can eat it.

It’s made out of cassava, the vegetable root which is a staple in the diets of many in Africa, Latin America and Asia, but which can also be used in manufacturing.

The company, Avani Eco based in Bali, has created a bag that they say looks and feels like plastic, but is completely degradable and compostable.

It also dissolves in water, so if animals eat it, it won’t cause any harm. They say it’s so safe, in fact, that humans could even swallow it.

 

Unprecedented Wildfires Are Smothering The Arctic In Smoke

 

 

 

Right now, much of the top of the world is smoked out. NASA satellites have observed what looks like a vortex of smoke swirling over Siberia, which has been on fire for weeks.

Multiple satellites in orbit have been monitoring huge plumes of smoke from wildfires in parts of Russia, including Siberia, as well as Canada and Alaska.

For the past few months now, scientists with Europe’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) have been keeping an eye on over 100 fires above the Arctic Circle, all pumping particulates and other pollution into the sky.

“I think it’s fair to say July Arctic Circle #wildfires are now at unprecedented levels,” Copernicus senior scientist Mark Parrington said on Twitter Monday.

Atmospheric scientist Dr. Santiago Gasso says the fires burning in the Siberian regions of Krasnoyarsk Krai and Sakha have “now created a smoke lid extending over 4 and half million (square km) over central northern Asia. This is staggering.”

Gasso says the layer of smoke is equivalent to that of a thin cloud “resulting in major reduction of solar radiation to the surface.”

In addition to just being plain nasty for air quality, all that smoke also creates a nasty feedback that could exacerbate climate change, which helped create the dry tinder-box conditions fueling the record northern wildfires.

“It is unusual to see fires of this scale and duration at such high latitudes in June,” Parrington said earlier this month. “But temperatures in the Arctic have been increasing at a much faster rate than the global average, and warmer conditions encourage fires to grow and persist once they have been ignited.”

Earlier in the month, airline passengers captured this video of fires burning in Greenland:

Indeed, last month was the warmest June on record for the planet.

Parrington says the amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere by Arctic wildfires during the first three weeks of July is equal to the annual fossil fuel CO2 emissions for Bulgaria, Hungary and Sweden.

Making matters worse is the double-whammy effect of dark particulate matter like soot falling on northern icy areas, making them absorb more sunlight and accelerating melting.

 

 

A Greenpeace Russia team is documenting wildfires in the Taiga forest, in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia. Despite statements by Russian authorities, the intensity of forest fires in Siberia is not decreasing. The 4.3 million hectare fire — an area larger than Denmark — is contributing significantly to climate change. Since the beginning of the year a total of 13.1 million hectares has burned.

Fires in the Taiga have been raging every year, but this summer’s blazes have reached unprecedented size and strength. The Siberian fires are emitting more than 166 Mt CO2 — nearly as much as 36 million cars emit a year. Fires in Siberian forests are especially dangerous for the climate as they are the source of black carbon that settles on the Arctic ice and accelerates its melting.

“These fires should have been put out at the very beginning, but were ignored due to weak policies. Now it has grown into a climate catastrophe that can not be stopped by human means,” said Greenpeace Russia wildland fire expert and volunteer firefighter Anton Beneslavskiy. “Russia should increase efforts in forest protection and provide sufficient funding for firefighting and fire prevention. The problem of wildfires should be addressed at the international level in the global climate agreements to keep global warming below 1.5°C.”

Greenpeace Russia experts warn that the situation will most likely remain catastrophic in the coming two weeks due to weather conditions. While smoke has blown away from the major Siberian cities, it still envelops settlements in remote forest areas, according to Greenpeace Russia reports from the Krasnoyarsk region.

In an update on Thursday, Russia’s aerial forest protection service said there were now 2,424,396 hectares of wildfire area where firefighting efforts have been stopped saying there were no threats to either people or infrastructure.

“The projected costs of extinguishing them exceed the projected damage that they may cause,” they said in a a statement.

A fire in Krasnoyarsk Region in eastern Russia. Maxim Yakovenko, head of Russia’s meteorological service, said this month he sees global climate change as a factor behind the wildfires blazing throughout Siberia and the country’s Far East. (Ministry of Emergency Situations of Krasnoyarsk Region/AP)

Elsewhere, firefighting efforts continue on 179,179 hectares of wildfire areas in Russia, including in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and Krasnoyarsk Territory, involving some 3,864 people, authorities say.

Nearly 3,000 people and 50 aircraft are working to extinguish wildfires across Russia said the country’s aerial forest protection service said in a statement on Thursday.

In all, 2,848 people have been mobilized to fight the fires, 27 aircraft are being used for monitoring the burning and another 21 aircraft are being used to help extinguish the blazes.

Besides planes from the forest protection services, aircraft were also leased from local airlines and Russia’s ministries of Defense and of Emergencies.

Places in Siberia are amongst the hardest hit and include the Irkutsk Region, Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Sakha Republic (Yakutia)

Some of the areas in Siberia where authorities are actively working to extinguish fires:

  • Krasnoyarsk Territory: 60 fires covering an area of 24,328 hectares
  • Irkutsk Region: 67 fires covering an area of ​​83,832 hectares
  • Sakha Republic (Yakutia): 20 fires covering an area of ​​1,431 hectares
  • Republic of Buryatia: 3 fires covering an area of 282 hectares

Source: Russia’s federal forestry agency; August 1, 2019

In many regions, authorities are planning to monitor the fires, but will not deploy resources saying there is currently “no threat to human settlements and economic facilities.”

“The projected cost of extinguishing them exceeds the projected damage that they may cause,” the forestry service said in its statement.

Sources: forbes.com, rcinet.ca

 

Semi-Finalists Gather in Turin for the The European Social Innovation Academy

 

About the Academy

What do social innovators need when they’re starting out? 50,000€ to invest in their business is obviously a game changer – but so too are skills! That’s why each year we run the European Social Innovation Academy – a three day residential learning and networking event, where our Competition Semi-Finalists pick up the vital knowledge they need to take their ideas to the next level.

This year, we invited experts from the world of banking, local government, as well as industry leading social innovation thinkers to Turin, to give our entrepreneurs the practical tools they need to scale and spread their Challenging Plastic Waste projects.

But don’t just take our word for it – here’s what some of the participants said about their three days in Turin…

 

Lina Radvilaite from The Plastomobile  (Lithuania)

“The Academy was so useful – we can’t wait to apply the knowledge we’ve picked up here! The experts really know what they’re talking about. We are currently building our team, so we have been able to learn some valuable lessons in how to best go about this.

Our project is currently our hobby and passion, but we think this Competition can be the springboard to take it to the next level!”

 

Simona Stiliyanova from  Fountains of Bulgaria (Bulgaria)

    

“I have loved the Academy. It’s brought together like-minded people from across Europe. I learned here that I don’t have to act alone – there is a community of us out there.

I now feel much better prepared for my project and I am so excited to get started on implementing the things I’ve learned!”

 

Constantin Ferseta from  Kidibot Plastic Battles (Romania)

      

“As innovators, we are often a little blinded by the effort we put into our projects and ideas. The Academy has taught us how to take an objective view. We have met some great experts, who have been particularly helpful in guiding us on measuring the impact of what we do. By putting this into practice, we can really see how we will end up with a better product.“

 

Arianna Dalfrà from ReciclaGaMe (Italy)

“At the Academy, we’ve come into contact with so many fascinating projects that I’m sure are going to shape the future.

The experts helped us identify our problems – I see now the mistakes we are making and how we can improve our business model and communication. We have a much clearer picture of what we have to do next.”

What Happens Next?

After three action-packed days in Turin, the Semi-Finalists headed home to work on their Development Plans. They’ll be supported in this process by local coaches, who will be providing one-to-one advice. After this, it’s up to the judging panel to select the final 10… and with 30 excellent projects to choose from, the decision will certainly be a tough one!

eusic.challenges.org

Tesco, Sainsbury’s And Iceland Announce Latest Plastic Reduction Initiatives

Leading grocery retailers unveiled another round of plastic waste reduction initiatives this week as part of the industry’s wider drive to lessen its impact on the environment.

Following a similar move by Asda earlier this month, Tesco announced that it will stop using carrier bags to deliver groceries from its online business. The decision, which follows six months of trials, is expected to mean that 250 million fewer carrier bags will be delivered to customers’ homes each year and nearly 2,000 tonnes of plastic will come out of production annually.

Tesco’s Quality Director, Sarah Bradbury said: “We’re looking for ways to reduce the amount of plastic we use. We know it’s an important issue for customers, colleagues and our business and we know we have to do more. Removing carrier bags from our online shopping is one of the many ways we are making changes to help customers reduce their use of plastic.”

Meanwhile, having started the week by revealing that it was trialling the removal of plastic bags for loose fruit and veg in its stores, Sainsbury’s claimed yesterday that it will be the first retailer to replace black plastic trays from chilled ready meals, with a recyclable alternative.

Launched in all stores nationwide this week across Sainsbury’s most popular ready meals, the retailer is replacing the black pigment material previously used for ready meal trays with natural CPET, a form of recyclable plastic. The new material, which is easily detectable at recycling plants, will be rolled out across all chilled ready meals by November this year.

The move is expected to cut over 1,000 metric tonnes of hard to recycle plastic each year.

Judith Batchelar, Director of Sainsbury’s brand, commented: “This is a fantastic development in sustainable packaging innovation and we’re proud to be introducing our new, fully recyclable ready meal trays this week. Our commitment to reducing our impact on the environment is ongoing and the announcement today is an addition to the wider steps we have taken as a business this year.”

And finally, Iceland has started trailing the removal of all plastic bags from one of its stores, replacing them altogether with paper alternatives.

The trial will run in its Hackney store, with customers being offered extra-strong paper bags for 15p.  Lighter weight paper carrier bags (10p), jute bags (£1), Disney branded cotton bags (£1), and small paper bags for meat products will also be available, providing a complete range of plastic-free options for customers.

At the same time, Iceland will also trial the 15p paper bags alongside plastic bags for life (15p) in North Wales, Wirral and Cheshire, covering 25 stores. This additional trial will be rolled out across a further 15 stores in the Manchester area from 10 August and will be used to monitor consumer preference in a setting where the two options are offered side by side.

Both trials will run for six months, with the findings to be analysed and used to inform the retailer’s long-term approach to replacing single use plastic carriers.

Last year, Iceland was the first retailer globally to commit to remove all plastic from its own label packaging by the end of 2023.

Commenting on its latest initiative, Richard Walker, Managing Director at Iceland, said: “We know that many customers are using ‘bags for life’ only once and the retail industry needs to work together to challenge this behaviour and find alternative solutions. Over 1.2 billion plastic bags for life were sold last year in the UK and this needs to change drastically.

“These trials will help us to understand how our customers feel about removing one of the most common objects associated with plastic, the supermarket carrier bag, and how they respond to various alternatives. We’re looking forward to seeing how customers respond and using the results of the trials in our wider plans to reduce our plastic footprint.”

kamcity.com

July 3 – International Day for a World without Plastic Bags

 

A re-launch shopping bag flash mob took place on the Blue Market in Varna on July 3 – an international day for a world without plastic bags. The action is an idea of the Public Center for Environment and Sustainable Development (OCCASM) and is part of the initiatives, launched in various cities of the country under the slogan “Free of Plastic”.

Exactly at 2:00 pm. young people walked from the Yunashki area to the Blue Market and stopped every passerby with a plastic bag in their hands. “When you go to market, take your bag and on the stand say,” No, thank you, I carry it! “(#NeMersiNossyaCi). With this message the volunteers donated to the citizens and the guests of Varna shopping bags for reuse.

The local authority and the business representatives of the resort agreed on the complete removal of the disposable plastic products in Bansko. On the International Day without plastic bags in the retail outlets were offered paper bags and cloth bags branded with the logo of the campaign “NERAZDELNOBansko”.

 

 

The integrated campaign for separate collection and recovery of waste, as well as the reduction of non-degradable, started just a month ago, involving schools, partner institutions, businesses and households in Bansko. The pilot measure for collecting green waste that is composting in the regional landfill or home composts started last year and the result is over 10 tonnes of used mass.

Bansko Municipality and the business signed an agreement on 03.07.2019 which aims to eliminate completely disposable plastic products until 2021, and paper, glass and plastic packaging to be collected separately to 100 percent. The food stores were provided with paper bags and cloth bags to replace plastic bags. Children participated in the creation of the longest drawing on Green Ideas.

Plastic bags and food and beverage packaging are detrimental to the environment and, in the long run, to human health. Bulgaria is the last in Europe’s statistics for environmental self-awareness and informing. 246 plastic bags are used by every Bulgarian every year (third place in Europe). We use a bag every 12 minutes before discarding it.

Most plastic bags are made of non-recyclable material. They do not break down, but break up to 400 years in tiny parts (micro plastics) that enter into the food chain.

Why is this world day organized and why is it important to stop using plastic bags and all kinds of disposable plastic products?

• Because the measures to reduce the use of disposable polyethylene bags in Bulgaria have so far not been successful. The ban on these bags is supported by European legislation and would be a much more effective measure if we apply it in Bulgaria.
• Every year, up to 1 trillion polyethylene bags are used worldwide, equivalent to 1 million per minute. The average useful life of a polyethylene bag lasts 12 minutes after which it becomes an unnecessary waste;
• In the European Union, 800 000 tonnes of disposable polyethylene bags are used annually, or 191 per capita, but only 6% of them are recycled. The remaining quantity ends in the best case at landfills, where it often creates problems such as clogging the collecting pipes for leachate (harmful waste water from the waste) or polluting the environment not only in cities but also in remote places in nature;
• The ease of the polyethylene bags allows their distribution away- a huge quantity goes to the world’s seas and oceans where they cause the deaths of more than 100,000 marine animals per year;
• Polyethylene bags are made from non-renewable and limited raw materials – oil and natural gas. 40% of world oil used goes to produce plastic;
• More than 1 000 000 birds die each year because of the swallowed plastic that confuses them with food;
• Sea water researchs indicate, the ratio of plankton and plastic is 1 to 6 in each liter of plastic in favor of the plastic.

All these terrible statistics are not just figures but they show a real problem that every one of us can prevent by stopping the use of disposable plastic and using cloth bags instead of nylon.

 

Via Pontica Foundation Received a Certificate of the European Commission

 

EU Green Week is our annual opportunity to embrace European environmental policy. Organised by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment, this key event in the environment policy calendar attracts policymakers, leading environmentalists, and all interested citizens from Europe and from all over the world.

EU Green Week 2019 take place from 13 to 17 May with the theme of ‘Applying Environmental Legislation’. Environmental laws have a huge impact on our life. They improve water and air quality, they protect nature, and they encourage recycling and waste management.

Today, environmental policy is one of the most important achievements of European integration. Europe is home to the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. It largely manages to protect endangered species and habitats, restore ecosystems and achieve more sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

The Via Pontica Foundation is proud to hold top positions in the political sphere of the environment in Bulgaria. This is evidenced by the certificate signed by Mr. Carmen Vela – Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the EC for participation in the EU Green Week 2019.

The Via Pontica Foundation’s team is determined to continue with doubled efforts to contribute to more efficient and effective protection of the environment, to stop the loss of biodiversity and to improve the status of the species, habitats and ecosystems in Bulgaria.

 

Underwater Fishing Club “Chernomorets” Burgas Launched Eco-initiative

 

With the beginning of the season the Burgas club “Chernomoretz” started an eco-initiative for clean water. The contestants of the most successful team over the years are provoking other clubs and enthusiasts in underwater and sport fishing in the country to join the international campaign #onefishoneplastic, along with them. Diving is not just about catching, but also cleaning the sea. Anyone who hit fish but finds plastic waste to “capture” it too.

“The goals are two – not to overdo the catch (and a fish is enough) and to clean the sea from the waste. You can be a good example, after once you catch fish and waste, take pictures of them and share the picture on Facebook.” It will be great if this idea is shared by more people and we hope that our thinking about the sea will change, even with such small steps”, write the competitors of “Chernomoretz” – Burgas on the club’s website on Facebook.

 

World Oceans Day 2019: 5 Ways You Can Help Protect Our Oceans

 

Today it’s World Oceans Day – the day to celebrate the majesty of the world’s oceans and raise awareness about their preservation.

Why are they so important? The world’s oceans generate an estimated 70% of the earth’s oxygen. They regulate the globe’s climate and weather. They support marine life. They provide us with food, and ingredients for many of our medicines.

In short, healthy oceans contributes to a healthy earth. But our oceans and marine life are under threat: from pollution and overfishing, to name just two of the challenges they face.

World Oceans Day is a celebration of the globe’s oceans. It is made up of a series of events all over the world and each year is themed.

The conservation focus of the day is to inspire a worldwide fight against plastic pollution.

The United Nation’s World Oceans Day designated theme this year is “Gender and Oceans”. This is to highlight the important role gender equality has to play in ensuring effective conservation of our oceans, seas and marine life.

The day will be used to publicise the advancement of gender equality in such ocean-related areas as marine scientific research, migration by sea and human trafficking, and policy-making.

 

 

5 ways to help protect our oceans:

  1. Focus on your plastic use

Although recycling processes are ever-developing, when it comes to plastic, it’s best not to use it at all. Take a reusable cup to the coffee shop, use a reusable carrier bag at the supermarket, choose loose vegetables and fruit, say ‘no’ to plastic straws… There are many things you can (and should!) do.

  1. Buy sustainable fish and seafood

We might love our cod and chips, and that tuna sarnie at the canteen. The bad news is we’re running out of their main ingredient. The good news is there are plenty of other fish in the sea.

Ask your fishmonger for currently sustainable options, such as hake, dab, mackerel or pollack. If you’re unsure if the fish you want to buy is sustainable, look it up in the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide.

  1. Visit a beach to pick up waste

Or else, why not join a community beach clean event.

  1. Support charities supporting the oceans

From The Marine Conservation Society to Plastic Oceans UK, there are a number of charities you can support to help the world’s oceans and seas.

You can also sponsor marine animals – why not a whale or dolphin through the Hebridean Dolphin and Whale Trust?

  1. Talk about the oceans

Keep the conversation going. It’s great to be getting involved on World Oceans Day itself, but there are other 364 days in the year.

Keep thinking about ways to help, spread the word in your local community, and if you go to a beach this summer – anywhere in the world – keep an eye out that plastic, and if safe to do so, pick it up.

standard.co.uk