(TMU) — As the crisis of plastic waste grows, researchers have looked for various ways to cut down on single-use plastics, with many cities and countries across the world seeking to put an end to plastic bags, straws, and other common products in favor of more sustainable, environmentally sound options.
And at the University of the Valley of Atemajac (UNIVA) which lies just outside of Guadalajara in Mexico’s Jalisco state, chemical engineering professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz has found a novel alternative to plastic—one based on nopal, or prickly pear cactus, which has long been a national symbol of Mexico and a crucial staple of the Mexican diet.
Pascoe and her students have devised a way to form a new biodegradable plastic using the juice from the edible cactus’ fruit, known as the tuna, to make the innovative new product.
Pascoe told the BBC:
“It’s a non-toxic product. All the materials we use can be ingested both by humans or animals. And they wouldn’t cause any harm.”
The cactus-based plastic is formed out of the juice of the nopal, which contains sugars, pectin, and organic acids that grant it a viscous consistency.
When the juice is blended with a mixture of glycerol, colorants, proteins, natural waxes and decanted to remove the fiber, the formula is then dried out on a hot plate to produce the plastic.
In a separate interview with EFE news agency last year, Pascoe explained how she collaborated with the University of Guadalajara Center for Biological and Agricultural Sciences to measure just how quickly and in which conditions the new biodegradable plastic would break down. Pascoe noted:
“We’ve done very simple degradation tests in the laboratory; for example, we’ve put it in water and we’ve seen that it does break down [but] we still have to do a chemical test to see if it really did completely disintegrate. We’ve also done tests in moist compost-like soil and the material also breaks down.”
The invention could provide a crucial substitute for the commonly used petroleum-based plastics that are choking waterways and ocean life worldwide. Instead, this biodegradable plastic would either harmlessly dissolve or feed sea creatures rather than contributing to their demise.
For the time being, however, the production of the cactus-based plastic is limited to Pascoe’s lab, where she and her students spend time manufacturing the potentially revolutionary substitute.
Her former students have even experimented with using the formula to produce toys for their kids, according to KJZZ.
Michelle Mendoza, who has completed her industrial engineering but continues working with Pascoe, explained:
“My daughter loves to buy toys in the markets and then once she played with it one day, she didn’t want it anymore.”
So Mendoza made strawberry-shaped plastics that excited her daughter for a bit, but then met the same fate as the rest of her toys and were discarded after a day in “the same way,” she laughingly said, noting that at least the nopal-based toys can be dissolved in water after three weeks unlike plastic toys.
Professor Sandra Pascoe Ortiz remains hopeful that one day, her biodegradable plastic can be used commercially, although she doesn’t have plans to turn a huge profit and become some sort of bio-plastic tycoon.
Instead, she hopes to simply continue her work as a researcher and reduce the impact of solid waste in Mexico and around the world.
“Maybe I’m too much of an idealist.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.