Pompeii ruins show that the Romans invented recycling | Archaeology | The Guardian

A reproduction of the market square, from The Houses and Monuments of Pompeii, by Fausto and Felice Niccolini, 1854-96.

Show captionArchaeology

Excavations reveal that rubbish left outside the city walls wasn’t just dumped. It was being collected, sorted and resoldDalya AlbergeSun 26 Apr 2020 05.00 EDT

Share on TwitterShare via Email

They were expert engineers, way ahead of the curve on underfloor heating, aqueducts and the use of concrete as a building material. Now it turns out that the Romans were also masters at recycling their rubbish.

Researchers at Pompeii, the city buried under a thick carpet of volcanic ash when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, have found that huge mounds of refuse apparently dumped outside the city walls were in fact “staging grounds for cycles of use and reuse”.https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2020/04/archive-zip/giv-3902ppd6gyPRalcp/#amp=1

Professor Allison Emmerson, an American academic who is part of a large team working at Pompeii, said rubbish was piled up along almost the entire external wall on the city’s northern side, among other sites. Some of the mounds were several metres high and included bits of ceramic and plaster, which could be repurposed as construction materials.

These mounds were previously thought to have been formed when an earthquake struck the city about 17 years before the volcano erupted, Emmerson said. Most were cleared in the mid-20th century, but some are still being discovered.

Scientific analysis has now traced some of the refuse from city sites to suburban deposits equivalent to modern landfills, and back to the city, where the material was incorporated into buildings, such as earth floors.

With fellow archaeologists Steven Ellis and Kevin Dicus, who worked on the University of Cincinnati’s excavations, Emmerson has studied how the ancient city was constructed. “We found that part of the city was built out of trash. The piles outside the walls weren’t material that’s been dumped to get rid of it. They’re outside the walls being collected and sorted to be resold inside the walls.6000

”The Porta Ercolano suburb outside the northern wall of Pompeii. When the area was excavated, ancient rubbish was found piled in and around the tombs, houses and shops. Photograph: Allison Emmerson

Pompeii was a city of elegant villas and handsome public buildings, open squares, artisan shops, taverns, brothels and bathhouses. It included an amphitheatre that hosted gladiatorial games for audiences of up to 20,000.

When volcanic dust from Vesuvius “poured across the land” – as one witness wrote – enveloping the city in darkness, at least 2,000 people died. In 1748, a group of explorers discovered the almost perfectly preserved city under a hardened carpet of ash and pumice. Even a loaf of bread was found preserved by later archaeologists.

Pompeii is now a Unesco world heritage site and – in normal times – attracts 2.5 million visitors each year.

Emmerson and her colleagues used soil samples to trace the movement of rubish across the city. “The soil that we excavate differs based on where the garbage was left originally,” she said. “Garbage dumped in places like latrines or cesspits leaves behind a rich, organic soil. In contrast, waste that accumulated over time on the streets or in mounds outside the city results in a much sandier soil.

“The difference in soil allows us to see whether the garbage had been generated in the place where it was found, or gathered from elsewhere to be reused and recycled.”

Some walls, for example, included reused materials such as pieces of tile and broken amphorae, and lumps of mortar and plaster. “Almost all such walls received a final layer of plaster, hiding the mess of materials within,” she said.2589

Afresco depicting the distribution of bread from a tablinum at Pompeii. Photograph: DEA/L Pedicini/De Agostini via Getty

“The idea has been that all this garbage resulted from that earthquake – consisting of rubble that had been cleared out of the city and dumped outside the wall to remove it from daily life. As I was working outside Pompeii, I saw that the city extended into developed neighbourhoods outside the walls … So it didn’t make sense to me that these suburbs were also being used as landfills.”

Modern approaches to waste management focus on removing rubbish from our daily lives, she added. “For the most part, we don’t care what happens to our trash, as long as it’s taken away. What I’ve found in Pompeii is an entirely different priority, that waste was being collected and sorted for recycling.

“The Pompeians lived much closer to their garbage than most of us would find acceptable, not because the city lacked infrastructure and they didn’t bother to manage trash but because their systems of urban management were organised around different principles.

“This point has relevance for the modern garbage crisis. The countries that most effectively manage their waste have applied a version of the ancient model, prioritising commodification rather than simple removal.”

Allison Emmerson, who teaches classical studies at Tulane University, New Orleans, is the author of Life and Death in the Roman Suburb to be published next month by Oxford University Press.Topics

Support The GuardianContributeSubscribeBack to top© 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

New Research on the Possible Effects of Micro-and Nano-plastics on Marine Animals

iaea.org

Jennet Orayeva, IAEA Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications 3 minutes


According to the UN Environment Programme, 8 million tonnes of plastic end up the world’s oceans every year, often carried there by rivers. If the trend continues, by 2050 our oceans could contain more plastic than fish.

Environmental plastic pollution has become a major ecological and societal concern. Plastic pollutants vary widely in size, from large debris, such as fishing nets and single-use plastic bags, to invisible nano-sized plastic particles. While the visible impact of large plastic debris, so-called macroplastics, in marine environments has been well documented, the potential harm caused by microplastics and even more by nanoplastics is much less clear.

Plastic particles below 5 mm in length are called microplastics. The smaller ones, with a size equal to or less than 100 nm (1/10 000 mm) are called nanoplastics. They are so tiny that one cannot see them with naked eye or even with an ordinary optical microscope.

Microplastic particles are accidentally consumed by marine organisms, which are then consumed by predator fish. Nanoplastic particles are even more toxic to living organisms as they are more likely to be absorbed through the walls of digestive tracts and thereby transported into the tissues and organs. Consequently, such plastic particles can interfere with various physiological processes, from neurotransmission to oxidative stress and immunity levels of freshwater and marine organisms.

Over the last decade, the global scientific community has invested substantial work into advancing the knowledge of the impact of plastic debris on diverse aquatic organisms. However, monitoring methods for small microplastics and nanoplastics are still in the development phase, which means that their exact concentration in the oceans remains unknown.

“This is where nuclear technology can play an important role,” added Metian. “Nuclear and isotopic techniques are already successfully used to study pollution processes. Their advantage is that they are highly sensitive and precise and can be used similarly to study small microplastic and nanoplastic movement and impact.”

At the same time, from a toxicology perspective, it is important to distinguish the toxicity of plastic particles per se from the toxicity associated with the contaminants that can become attached to them. To date, research into the effects of virgin micro and nano-sized plastic particles in freshwater and marine fish is still limited, hence the increased focus on investigating the toxicity of virgin plastics at the IAEA.

Entertainment that’s Educational Free for a Limited Time on National Geographic

Why the largest-ever Arctic ozone hole just closed

The weather helped close the largest-ever Arctic ozone hole. Author: John Roach (AccuWeather) Published: 5:37 PM EDT April 29, 2020

Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, ECMWF

An ozone hole over the Arctic that was the largest ever recorded there has closed, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). And its beginning and end have nothing to do with climate change, global warming or a reduction in air pollution because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It has to do simply with the weather. null

CAMS monitored the rather unusual ozone hole that formed over the Arctic this spring and was reported closed April 23. Ozone holes are more common over the Antarctic every year, according to CAMS, but “the conditions needed for such strong ozone depletion are not normally found in the Northern Hemisphere.”

The Arctic stratosphere is usually less isolated than its Antarctic counterpart because the presence of nearby land masses and mountain ranges disturbs the weather patterns more than in the Southern Hemisphere, CAMS reports. The total column ozone field (in Dobson Units) from CAMS on 29 March 2020 showing values below 250 DU over large parts of the Arctic. (Source: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, ECMWF) Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, ECMWF

This year, however, a particularly strong polar vortex helped create the Arctic ozone hole, in which most of the ozone typically found around 11 miles into the stratosphere was depleted, according to CNN. The last time such a strong depletion was observed in the Arctic was almost a decade ago.

So, why did it occur this year?

“The behavior of the ozone and the stratospheric polar vortex during the winter into spring is supported by a couple of research papers,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck. “They state that the coldest and strongest polar vortex in the stratosphere and the lowest concentration of ozone over the Arctic are more likely to occur when you have a combination of a solar minimum, which we are in now, and a westerly QBO [quasi-biennial oscillation, meaning lower stratospheric westerly winds over the equator], which we had from last summer through most of this winter.

“These are all naturally occurring processes,” Smerbeck said.

A polar vortex that remained above the polar region without weakening and a strong positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) were among a combination of factors that led the contiguous U.S. to experience higher-than-normal temperatures from December 2019 through February 2020. null

“When you have a strong polar vortex that remains in the polar region, it tends to keep frigid air pent up so that it is difficult for long-lasting outbreaks of frigid conditions to reach the middle latitudes, including portions of the Midwest and Northeast,” said AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok. null https://d-3112960409381993533.ampproject.net/2004240001480/frame.html