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These New Plant-Based Bottles Degrade in Only a Year – And Could Herald the End of Plastic

A new plant-based plastic created from sugars extracted from sustainably-grown plants would replace fossil fuel-based plastics.

Elias Marat

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(TMU) – As awareness increases about the growing problem of pollution, single-use plastics have come under for their massive contribution to rampant litter all around the world.

But soon, we may be drinking soft drinks and beer from “all-plant” bottles, if new plans from major beverage makers come to fruition.

Under a new plan being spearheaded by Danish beer manufacturer Carlsberg and multinational food and beverage titans Coca-Cola and Danone, a new plant-based plastic created from sugars extracted from sustainably-grown plants would replace fossil fuel-based plastics, reports The Guardian.

Danish biochemical company Avantium has devised plans to kick off the pioneering project in hopes that it can permanently reshape the manner in which beverages are packaged.

According to Avantium CEO Tom van Aken, the company is trying to kick-start investment in a revolutionary new bioplastic plant in the Netherlands that would open by year’s end.

The company has already made a significant step toward reaching the goal with the early endorsement of the brewery giant Carlsberg Group, which plans to soon sell its pilsner in cardboard bottles lined on the inside with the plant plastic.

The company’s bio-refinery would break down sustainable plant sugars sourced from corn, wheat, or beets into basic chemical structures that would then be rearranged to form the new plant-based plastic.

The company hopes to eventually move away from the use of raw food materials and eventually shift to using plant sugars derived from sustainably sourced bio-waste, ensuring that global food supply chains aren’t negatively impacted by the increased adoption of plant plastic.

According to Avantium, its plant plastic is strong enough to contain carbonated drinks. The plant plastic would decompose in only one year using a composter and a few years longer if it is left outdoors, according to trials. However, Van Aken notes that it should be recycled. The chief executive added:

“This plastic has very attractive sustainability credentials because it uses no fossil fuels, and can be recycled – but would also degrade in nature much faster than normal plastics do.”

Over the past decade, there have been increasing worries on a global scale about the growing problem of plastics and microplastics, which have inundated the world’s oceans and water supplies, leaching carcinogenic toxins and chemicals into the marine environment, with plastic drink containers trapping and confining – and ultimately killing – marine wildlife.

The pollution has reached such massive proportions that an estimated 100 million tons of plastic can now be found in the oceans, according to the UN. Between 80 and 90 per cent of it comes from land-based sources.

According to a report prepared for the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by 2050 it is estimated that plastic waste in the ocean will outweigh all fish.

Coca-Cola and Danone, which have come under fire for their contribution to the roughly 300 million tons of fossil fuel-based plastic produced every year, are also backing Avantium’s plant plastic project, which could land in supermarket shelves as soon as 2023.

The use of plastic is key to the workings of the global economy, and while most global and local authorities acknowledge the huge harm it causes to the environment, its usage has also paved the way to spectacular advances in modern society in the fields of medicine, food preservation, water transportation, hygiene, high technology, and a range of other applications.

However, while petroleum-based plastics have many benefits, they’ve also created a major burden on future generations by instilling consumers with a “throwaway” culture that has seen and single-use disposables largely displace durable, reusable, and washable products, contributing to the vicious cycle of increased plastic waste and pollution.

Animals

As Marine Life Flees the Equator, Global Mass Extinction is Imminent: Scientists

Elias Marat

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The waters surrounding the equator are one of the most biodiverse areas in the globe, with the tropical area rich in marine life including rare sea turtles, whale sharks, manta rays, and other creatures.

However, rampant rises in temperate have led to a mass exodus of marine species from the sensitive region – with grave implications for life on earth.

While ecologists have long seen the thriving biodiversity of equatorial species holding constant in the past few centuries, a new study by Australian researchers published in The Conversation has found that warming global temperatures are now hitting the equator hard, potentially leading to an unprecedented mass extinction event.

The researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Queensland, and the Sunshine Coast found that as waters surrounding the equator continue to heat up, the ecosystem is being disrupted and forcing species to flee toward the cooler water of the South and North Pole.

The massive changes in marine ecosystems that this entails will have a grave impact not only on ocean life – essentially becoming invasive species in their new homes –  but also on the human livelihoods that depend on it.

“When the same thing happened 252 million years ago, 90 percent of all marine species died,” the researchers wrote.

To see where marine life is headed, the researchers tracked the distribution of about 49,000 different species to see what their trajectory was. The global distribution of ocean life typically resembles a bell curve, with far fewer species near the poles and more near the equator.

However, the vast alteration of the curve is already in motion as creatures flee to the poles, according to a study they published in the journal PNAS.

These changes augur major disruptions to global ecosystem as marine life scrambles in a chaotic fight for food, space, and resources – with a mass die-off and extinction of creatures likely resulting.

The research underscores the dire need for human societies to control rampant climate change before the biodiversity and ecological health of the planet is pushed past the point of no return.

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Environment

Japan Says Dumping Fukushima Radioactive Water in Pacific Ocean is Now “Unavoidable”

Elias Marat

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While Japan last month marked the 10th anniversary of the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami with solemn ceremonies, the government has also been stressing the successes of its recovery efforts in the country’s northeast.

In truth, however, the country is still coping with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, which has already cost Japan trillions of yen and whose exclusion zone will require up to 40 more years to fully rehabilitate.

And with contaminated water continuing to build up at the ruined Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says that the government must finally begin dumping it into the Pacific Ocean.

With nuclear waste and fuel rods still contaminating the area, over one million tons of radioactive waste water continue to seep from the facility, according to The Japan Times, forcing authorities into what Suga describes as the “unavoidable” position of having to dump the water.

Officials claim that the water would be purified to the maximum extent possible, but environmentalist groups like Greenpeace warn that the water contains hazardous material that could damage human DNA and the health of marine life.

Fishers also fear that consumers will refuse to buy fish caught in contaminated waters, worsening their plight amid a restriction of imports from Fukushima prefecture imposed by 15 countries and regions.

Regardless, authorities argue they must deal with the cards that have been dealt.

“What to do with the [treated] water is a task that the government can no longer put off without setting a policy,” Japanese trade minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said on Wednesday.

Suga is expected to formally decide on the course of action by next Tuesday. If he proceeds, authorities will dilute tritium to 2.5 percent of the maximum concentration allowed by the country before it is dumped.

But while Japanese officials say that the water will be safe, it remains an open question whether people will trust their word.

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Environment

Crowds Flock to Lava-Spewing Volcanoes in Italy, Iceland and Guatemala to Get Closer View

Elias Marat

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The year 2021 has so far been a particularly active time for volcanic eruptions. In February and March, three spectacular volcanic eruptions have occurred: the Fagradalsfjall volcano in Iceland, Mount Etna in Italy and Pacaya in Guatemala.

In each case, the eruptions have drawn large crowds of curious onlookers and sightseers.

In vivid video captured at Fagradalsfjall volcano on April 1, lava can be seen being spewed as amazed onlookers can be heard in the background. According to local reports, tens of thousands of people have been drawn to the area to view the eruption.

Iceland’s authorities are not anticipating evacuations due to the mile-and-a-half distance from the nearest road.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and as of now it is not considered a threat to surrounding towns,” said Iceland Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir. “We ask people to keep away from the immediate area and stay safe.”

Italy and Guatemala have also experienced a few volcanic eruptions this year.

On March 7, Sicilian villages were showered with ash and lava stone following the eruption of Mount Etna, which began its highly active phase in February.

The Pacaya volcano lying 30 miles south of the Guatemalan capital has also been extremely active since February.

Pacaya’s peak typically attracts tourists, but hikes are temporarily on hold due to the uptick in activity. Pacaya has a clear view of the nearby Volcano of Fire, whose lava flows in a 2018 eruption killed at least 110 people and left rougly 200 missing.

While volcano tourism provides a steady source of income for villages like nearby San Francisco de Sales, locals must balance this with the need to ensure their long-term safety.

So far, however, Pacaya has not yet injured locals.

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