Search results for: anthropocene

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New Plastics Alternative Might Help Save The Environment

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shrilk products

shrilk products

Scientists have brainstormed many ideas to help steer society away from its dependence on plastics, including lobbying for a ban on microbeads and brainstorming alternatives to objects such as water bottles. But given the ubiquity of plastic, this is no easy feat. As everyone knows by now, plastic doesn’t biodegrade, and is well on its way to screwing up the earth, the seas, and everything that lives on and in them. This week, Harvard researchers gave the world new hope in the fight against a plastics-shaped dystopia, and it comes from an unlikely source: shrimp shells.

Researchers from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have developed a new bioplastic derived from the shells of our tastiest crustacean friends. Specifically, the bioplastic is made from something called chitosan, which is produced by combining shrimp sheels with sodium hydroxide. Chitosan is currently used as a fungicide and pesticide, as well as an antibacterial agent. It’s also used in paint coating and to help prevent wine from spoiling. In other words, it’s one of those substances with countless uses. Better yet, it’s abundant in the natural world.

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Launch Of NASA’s Climate Satellite Delayed

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NASA-OCO2-satellite-carbon-tracking-460x250While debating climate change with a denier can be like delving into a circular debate about religion or abortion, scientists will continue to amass evidence that yes, humans are drastically altering the Earth’s ecosystem in frightening ways. This is part of the reason that NASA has developed the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2), which measures carbon dioxide emissions from space. The satellite is the agency’s first dedicated to studying atmospheric C02, providing scientists with global measurements of CO2 levels and cycles. It’s a great idea, although its launch, which was scheduled for 2:56 AM today, was delayed due to equipment failure.


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No More Microbeads: Ban Looks To Prohibit Tiny Plastics In Skin Products

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microbeadsIf you’ve spent any time in the skin care aisle at your local grocery store, you almost certainly have heard of microbeads—teeny tiny particles of plastic that provide exfoliating properties to a slew of facial scrubs. It turns out that those tiny particles are causing a big problem, and may soon be banned.

ScienceDirect published a Marine Pollution Bulletin late last year that details the effects of microbeads on the Great Lakes. Based on collected and analyzed samples, researchers found that Lake Michigan contained roughly 17,000 microbeads per square kilometer, and that Lake Ontario had more than 1 million per square kilometer. These particles are so tiny that conventional wastewater filters can’t catch them, so they make the long journey all the way to lakes, which wreaks havoc on plant and animal life.

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Plastic Waste Forms New Kind Of Stone

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plastiglomerateEven though some people are finding ingenious ways to avoid using plastic and/or to use plastics to make other goods, there’s no doubt that our use of plastics is a huge environmental problem. Since the 1950s, about six billion tons of plastic has been manufactured, and a considerable percentage of that plastic ends up in the trash. As we know, plastic can’t biodegrade or even really decompose, but researchers have recently learned that it’s doing something they didn’t expect — it’s becoming a kind of stone.

In a recent article in the Geological Society of America Today, researchers aimed to investigate the ways in which plastics are preserved or, for lack of a better word, fossilized. During the course of their study, researchers found a new material they call “plastiglomerate” on the beaches of Hawaii. The “stone” is a combination of melted plastic, sediment, lava chunks, and other organic matter found at the beach. When these materials combine, they become too dense and big to burn or to be carried off by the wind, so they accumulate, often getting buried by sand and other debris. In fact, plastiglomerate is so robust that the researchers expect it to become a permanent fixture in Earth’s geologic history, much like real fossils.