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Car Tires May Be the Single Greatest Source of Plastic Pollution in the Ocean

A new study found 7 trillion pieces of microplastic waste in the San Francisco Bay Area, mainly from automobiles.



Car Tires Pollution
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(TMU) — We all know that automobiles are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and the ongoing climate crisis—but a new study released Wednesday has revealed that driving may be polluting the globe in a terrible manner that hasn’t yet been the focus of many studies.

A new study published Wednesday by the San Francisco Bay Microplastics Project has found that the single greatest source of microplastics in California’s coastal waters comes from car tires, at a rate of about 300 times greater than the microplastics washing off of microbeads from beauty products, microfibers from polyester clothing, and the myriad plastics that are washed into our sinks on a daily basis.

The tiny plastics are extremely difficult to study, primarily owing to their small size. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines microplastics as fragments of plastic that are smaller than 5 mm in length, or roughly the size of a sesame seed. They’re so small that scientists across the globe can’t even sample or study them, but the danger that the dye- and chemical-ridden pollutant poses can’t be understated.

In recent years, microplastics have come under heavy focus from conservationists and scientists as they make their way into every space possible—from the tallest mountain peaks to the stomachs of various marine organisms.

NOAA is even worried about the possibility that contaminants from microplastics have made their way into the food chain. Indeed, a recent study from the University of California, Davis, found that 25 percent of all fish seafood markets in nearby Half Moon Bay contained plastic debris while one-third of the shellfish likewise contained plastic.

This problem drove researchers from the San Francisco Estuary Institute to join forces with the 5 Gyres Institute to tackle what they claim is the first major regional study of microplastic pollution. The team analyzed hundreds of samples of fish, surface water, wastewater, stormwater and sediment in a bid to determine the source of microplastic particles.

The results were shocking and showed that within the San Francisco Bay alone, over 7 trillion pieces of microplastic wash into coastal water—primarily from tire particles left behind on streets.

Mark Gold, the head of California’s Ocean Protection Council who has worked on preventing toxic chemicals from tainting state beaches and coastal waters, told the Los Angeles Times:

“I’m so used to thinking of the toxics that come from urban runoff and not the actual physical particles from something like tire dust.

But the sheer number of particles … the scope and scale of this problem makes you realize that this is something that’s definitely worth looking at a great deal more seriously.”

Modern society is completely reliant on plastic. From food preservation to water transportation, computer technology to healthcare and medicine, plastic can be found in nearly every facet of the human experience. The rubber in our tires—as well as the tires carrying food and basic goods across markets—are also made of plastic, whether the tires are natural isoprene tires or synthetic and comprised of stytrene butadiene.

Jennifer Brandon, a microplastics biologist at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said:

“We’re using more and more plastic and it’s showing up as a footprint on the seafloor.

It begs the question: Is this what our civilization is going to be remembered for?”

However, some Californians are hopeful that solutions can be found, primarily in how cities are planned. Rain-gardens and other nature-based infrastructure have been floated as potential solutions that can trap runoff polluted with toxic waste from reaching the ocean, and one rain garden was found to be capable of capturing over 90 percent of microplastics.

Warner Chabot, executive director of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, said:

“The role of greening cities becomes part of the overall solution.… It’s all part of a complex dance.

Plastic pollutes the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. Plastics are a big part of the climate change problem…. Since California is the fifth-biggest economy on Earth, we have the potential to lead the planet with solutions.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons |

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Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral



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A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.

Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.

It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.

The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.

Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.

While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.

“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”

“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.

It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.

“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.

The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.

“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.

The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.

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Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History



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For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.

Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.

However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.

Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.

The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.

To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.

The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.

“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”

“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”

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South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash



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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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