Now that we are facing the immense problem of plastic waste overflowing our planet, we almost wish something would just magically take care of all the dangerous trash finding its way onto streets and ocean waters. Well, while this solution may not yet exist – scientists have discovered that waxworms have a peculiar taste for plastic! But there is no magic whatsoever to the marvel of those little caterpillars – only the wonders of biology.
Scientists have reported that waxworms (Galleria mellonella) consume plastic at “uniquely high speed” and are able to break down even the toughest of them. During research, these worms proved perfectly able to eat through the infamously hard to break down polyethylene and did it 1,400 times faster than other organisms! According to scientists, the worm’s talent for breaking down such difficult materials lies in the potent enzymes in its saliva or gut – enzymes the worm uses to break down beeswax, which is similar to plastic in its chemical bonds.
What makes the news even more interesting, is it was discovered purely by accident. A biologist and amateur beekeeper, Federica Bertocchini, placed the worms temporarily in a plastic bag while cleaning out her hives and quickly noticed the holes that were appearing in the bag. During the following tests at Cambridge, 100 waxworms were released onto a plastic bag and holes began to appear after just 40 minutes!
Researchers claim that this discovery could be turned into a solution to the plastic problem on an industrial scale through a reproduction in large quantities of the specific enzyme that is responsible for breaking down the plastic. As reported by Independent.ie, Paolo Bombelli from Cambridge University believes that the newly discovered enzymes could be used to adapt recycling plants to biodegrade mass quantities of plastic and one day the enzymes could even be sprayed directly onto landfill sites or sea plants.
This thrilling discovery makes us hopeful for a breakthrough in the issue of plastic waste and the future of dealing with unrecycled trash. But let us not forget that, however uncannily great at eating plastic these waxworms are, they will not simply end our plastic problem. We currently dump around 8.8 million tons of plastic in the oceans every year – and around 700 marine species are threatened with extinction as a result. While these waxworms could lend these animals a hand, the responsibility to make conscious choices and take care of the world around us is still ours.
First Suit Filed for an Injunction Against Trump’s Keystone XL Pipeline Permit by Indigenous Environmental Network, North Coast Rivers Alliance
WASHINGTON – The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and North Coast Rivers Alliance (NCRA) have filed suit in Federal District Court in Great Falls, Montana, challenging the Presidential Permit issued by President Trump allowing construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
IEN’s and NCRA’s Complaint challenging the State Department’s approval of a Presidential Permit for the KXL Pipeline is available here: http://www.ienearth.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Complaint_for_Declaratory_and_Injunctive_Relief.pdf
Stephan Volker, attorney for IEN and NCRA, filed the suit on Monday, March 27th. The suit alleges that the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (“FSEIS”) fails to (1) provide a detailed and independent Project purpose and need, (2) analyze all reasonable alternatives to the Project, (3) study the Project’s transboundary effects, (4) disclose and fully analyze many of the Project’s adverse environmental impacts, (5) formulate adequate mitigation measures, and (6) respond adequately to comments. In addition, the FSEIS was irredeemably tainted because it was prepared by Environmental Resource Management (“ERM”), a company with a substantial conflict of interest. The suit also alleges that Trump’s permit violates the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
“President Trump is breaking established environmental laws and treaties in his efforts to force through the Keystone XL Pipeline, that would bring carbon-intensive, toxic, and corrosive crude oil from the Canadian tar sands, but we are filing suit to fight back,” said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Indigenous peoples’ lands and waters are not here to be America’s environmental sacrifice zone. For too long, the US Government has pushed around Indigenous peoples and undervalued our inherent rights, sovereignty, culture, and our responsibilities as guardians of Mother Earth and all life while fueling catastrophic extreme weather and climate change with an addiction to fossil fuels. The time has come to keep fossil fuels in the ground and shut down risky extreme energy projects like the tar sands that are poisoning our families, wildlife, water sources and destroying our climate.”
“Oil, water and fish do not mix. KXL poses an unacceptable risk to the Missouri River and its fisheries, including the nearly extinct Arctic grayling,” said Frank Egger, President of the North Coast Rivers Alliance (NCRA). “No oil pipeline is safe. One major oil spill, and the Missouri River and adjacent aquifers would be polluted for generations.”
“Because President Trump has turned his back on the Native American community and protection of our clean water, endangered fisheries, and indeed, survival of the Planet itself, we have asked the Federal Courts to order him to comply with our nation’s environmental laws,” said Volker. “We are confident that the courts will apply and enforce the law fairly and faithfully, and protect our irreplaceable natural heritage from the risky and unneeded KXL Pipeline. Alternatives including renewable energy and conservation must be given full and fair consideration to protect future generations from the ravages of global warming.”
Additional documents pertaining to the litigation can be obtained from the Volker law offices.
Copyright © 2017 · All Rights Reserved · Global Justice Ecology Project
The Standing Rock protests, which lasted for nearly a year, have come to an end. For months, members of the Sioux Tribe, along with protestors from around the country, held firm in a small encampment off the banks of the Missouri River, where they had gathered to protest the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). At its peak, 10,000 people had gathered at the site in a show of solidarity, backed by 200 Native American tribes. Just north of the Sioux reservation lay burial grounds sacred to the tribe, which occupies land they claim was illegally sequestered in an 1886 treaty.
Driven by concerns that the pipeline might burst and contaminate local waters downstream, adjacent to the Standing Rock reservation, as well as pollute sacred sites to the North, the Sioux decried the pipeline’s construction, which had been undertaken without their consultation, technically illegal under U.S. law. Their numbers swelled throughout the summer, but as winter approached, conditions became dire. Despite a halt to the construction given by the Obama administration in September of 2016, the situation remained tense. Private security pepper-sprayed and allowed dogs to attack protestors, and several waves of arrests were made by local authorities. Enforcements were sent in to bolster the ranks of police on site, equipped with riot gear, military grade vehicles, pepper spray, beanbag bullets, and stinger balls.
Then, on the night of November 20, as protestors attempted to remove two trucks forming a barricade on a bridge, police responded by deploying tear gas, a hail of rubber pellets, and unleashing a water cannon on protestors in temperatures that dropped to well below freezing. Infuriated by the violence, 2,000 U.S. veterans pledged to travel to Standing Rock in order to offer their support and to act as human shields to ensure the safety of Sioux Tribe members and other protestors. Then, two weeks after the night of violence, the Army Corp of Engineers officially denied the final easement to Dakota Access, LLC, which, if given, would have allowed for the final completion of the pipeline. This was the major victory that protestors had been fighting for. Their work done, people left the camp in droves until only a few remained. Within days of President Trump’s election, however, executive orders were given to revive both the DAPL and the previously stalled Keystone Pipeline, effectively overturning everything that had been accomplished.
Their numbers dwindled, the Sioux Council willingly passed a resolution to close down the protest camps, not only due to eminent flooding now that the winter snows were beginning to melt, but also due to the burden the large influx of people had on nearby reservation towns. But the final order of eviction came from the Army Corp of Engineers, who gave the remaining protestors until February 22 of 2017 to leave; ten people were later arrested for failure to do so, marking the end and ultimate defeat of the protests that had taken place there.
With the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline now eminent, what do we potentially have to lose?
How Common Are Oil Spills?
The day after Trump signed executive orders to revive the Keystone Pipeline and expedite the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the very thing protestors had feared occurred in a small town in rural Iowa, where a pipeline carrying diesel fuel burst and began leaking onto farmland.
Though the pipe was only 12 inches in diameter, the contents of these pipes are under pressure, meaning that massive amounts of oil can spill out into the environment in a very short amount of time. This particular spill leaked upwards of 138,000 gallons of oil into the surrounding area. Nor was this an isolated event; the company that owns the pipeline, Magellan, has had several similar incidents in the last seven years alone.
In October of 2016, a Magellan pipeline transporting ammonia burst, killing one person and causing 23 households to be evacuated. In 2010, Magellan was required to pay $46,200 in reparations for a 5,000 gallon diesel spill that had leaked into a nearby stream, violating the Clean Water Act (a recent provision to the Clean Water Act is currently being attacked by the Trump administration). They were fined another $418,000 the same year for another oil spill in Oklahoma.
And that’s just one company. As of 2015, there are over 73,000 miles of crude oil pipeline in the United States. Since 2000, over 970,000 gallons of oil have leaked due to spills, 370,000 of which was unrecoverable by cleanup crews. Since 2010 alone, there has been a total of 4,269 pipeline incidents reported, 64 of which resulted in at least one fatality.
What Happens to the Oil That Remains in the Environment?
Crude oil spills are toxic to several types of living organisms, and while oils spills in marine and aquatic ecosystems cause the most damage, they can have severe deleterious effects on land as well. Contact with oil can negatively impact the degree to which mammals can insulate themselves, leading to hypothermia and death. Even a slight amount of oil on a bird’s feathers is enough to cause death as well. Several types of adverse effects can by caused by inhalation of fumes by animals, such as damage to the liver and lungs as well as the central nervous system. If an oil spill makes its way into a nearby body of water, such as a lake or river, it can cause massive die offs and pollute the drinking water of nearby residents.
Oil spills also pose a threat to endangered species, such as the whooping crane, whose wintering habitat was compromised in 2014 due to an oil spill in Galveston Bay. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 12 endangered species will be threatened by the Keystone Pipeline alone, including the American burying beetle, interior least terns, northern swift foxes, and pallid sturgeons.
With the Dakota Access Pipeline slated to be up and ready for operation by April 1, it’s likely that the NODAPL protests have come to an end. But what the Sioux Tribe and other protestors accomplished was no small feat; by standing up for the environment and the rights of Native people, a disparate group of protestors made their voice heard and got the federal government to halt the completion of the pipeline along its scheduled path.
Even though that decision has been overturned, it brought national awareness to the issue and a momentum that can be used to fight against future projects. As the new head of the EPA begins to dismantle existing regulations put in place to protect the environment, the most helpful thing everyone can do is raise their voice. Contact your representatives to voice your concerns and vote in state, local, and federal elections.
Lead image source:Mike Shooter/Shutterstock
Carrying our groceries in plastic bags, drinking water from plastic bottles, how often do we really stop and think about where those convenient things came from and – more importantly – where they go once we are done using them? Unfortunately, most of the plastics we use end up in the oceans where it is driving around 700 marine species toward extinction. Seeing as we produce around 300 million tons of this material every year, if we hope to help these animals, we need to cut plastic – and STAT.
Luckily, public awareness about the problem of plastic is now greater than ever and social media, especially, is doing wonders for our collective environmental consciousness. Or, to be specific, it is the people behind such social media accounts that make all the difference – like the creators of Plastic Menace.
Plastic Menace is an organization whose mission it to get people to learn the truth about plastic. In order to help relay their message to the masses, Plastic Menace has an Instagram account full of stunning graphics illustrating important, and often unknown, facts about the production, use, and waste management of plastic.
The graphics draw attention to the many dangers of using PET bottles – something that is often completely overshadowed by convenience. Polyethylene Terephthalate, abbreviated as PET, is the most common material utilized for containers and bottles.
PET plastic contains harmful chemicals that tend to migrate from the plastic itself into the container’s contents, like our juices and sodas. That makes plastic bottles not only harmful for the environment but also very directly dangerous to our health.
Using plastic is a matter of convenience – but is it worth it? Once you know about the dangers associated with plastic, you will probably be more likely to choose better right? The problem is this information is rarely given due attention.
Plastic never really disappears – after hundreds of years it gets broken down into smaller parts, but it does not biodegrade. That means that once we throw plastic away, it is going to stay there, polluting our planet, virtually forever.
Plastic Menace also highlights how dangerous this material is to marine life. Around 8.8 million tons of plastic gets thrown into the oceans every year. Consequently, around 700 marine species are in danger of becoming extinct because of the various risks of plastic waste, like entanglement and ingestion.
Plastic waste is one of the most serious issues we have to face today, but thanks to groups like Plastic Menace, the facts and solutions are becoming more well-known to the public. Since spreading awareness is a key to mobilizing change, we hope that those fascinating graphics will reach as many people as possible! To keep up with Plastic Menace on Instagram, click here.
If you’re ready to start removing plastic from your daily routine, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign for tips on how to do it!
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Back in 1991, Shell Oil released a public documentary video which raised serious concerns about anthropogenic global warming. This hasn’t prevented The Guardian from trying to claim it is all part of the oil industry coverup.
‘Shell knew’: oil giant’s 1991 film warned of climate change danger
Public information film unseen for years shows Shell had clear grasp of global warming 26 years ago but has not acted accordingly since, say critics.
The oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered.
However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave…
View original post 566 more words
A new policy plans to eliminate massive amounts of waterside vegetation. The policy was enacted to fight bushfires, but would put endangered species at risk and reduce water quality. Take a stand for conservation and demand a repeal of this policy.
Enbridge, the company responsible for the biggest inland oil spill in the U.S. and part owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, wants to double the capacity of tar sands coming to the US from Canada on its Alberta Clipper pipeline. Submit a public comment!
Johnson & Johnson’s half-hearted switch from plastic to paper cotton buds isn’t good enough
Katherine Martinko (@feistyredhair)
February 17, 2017
It’s only happening in half the world. The rest of us can keep using plastic sticks. (Don’t they know about ocean currents?)
This week, in response to consumer pressure, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson changed its outdated recipe for cotton buds (also know as cotton swabs). From now on, some of them will be made with paper sticks, instead of plastic. This is an important change because there is no proper way to dispose of cotton buds. They cannot be recycled, so after use they’re either tossed in the trash or flushed down the toilet, ultimately ending up in waterways and along shorelines – forever.
According to the Marine Conservation Society, which conducts annual beach clean-ups in the UK, plastic cotton buds were the sixth most common plastic waste item found on British beaches in 2016.
Johnson & Johnson has recognized the unnecessary damage caused by its plastic sticks. Group marketing manager Niamh Finan told The Independent:
“We recognise that our products have an environmental footprint, and that’s why we’re working hard to continually improve and champion best practice in sustainability, in line with our company’s founding principles.”
Scottish environmental group Fidra, which has long campaigned against plastic cotton buds, heralds the decision as a great success. Stated in a press release published on its Cotton Bud Project website:
“The fact that cotton buds continue to be flushed down the toilet and escape through sewage works into the environment means it remains a problem. Switching cotton bud stems from plastic to 100% paper could provide a solution to this problem, combined with campaigns to raise consumer awareness about correct disposal methods. Paper stems should not be flushed but those that do reach the sewage system will become waterlogged and settle out of wastewater, never reaching our beaches.”
plastic cotton bud sticks
© The Great Nurdle Hunt/Facebook — Results of a beach cleanup day
There is something very strange, however, about Johnson & Johnson’s decision. The company is only switching from plastic to paper sticks in half the world. So stores in Europe will get paper-only sticks, but it seems that Australia, North America, and Asia will continue to stock plastic. Currently there is no mention of whether or not the change will be happening elsewhere.
It is an oddly localized response to a serious global crisis. Ocean plastic pollution is a problem of the commons – something for which we all must take responsibility, no matter where we live. In fact, responding naïvely by region doesn’t even work because places like the UK receive plastic trash from all parts of the globe. (Watch A Plastic Tide documentary to learn the tragic story of a community in Scotland where Asia’s garbage washes up daily.)
The other irritating thing is that cotton buds, whether plastic or paper, are an example of a utterly superfluous product – something we don’t even need to manufacture in the first place. Doing away with them altogether would be a better way of professing concern for the planet – not only for the oceans, but also for the cotton fields that soak up most of the world’s agrochemicals.
Ocean plastic pollution is a problem of the commons – something for which we all must take responsibility, no matter where we live.
One good thing to come out of the decision is reducing plastic production overall. Fidra’s press release cites research by British supermarket chain Waitrose, estimating this change will save 21 tons of plastic a year. But seriously, that’s “a mere drop in the ocean compared to the 4.8-12.7 million tons of total plastic waste that researchers calculate are entering our oceans every year.”
I haven’t bought cotton buds in nearly a decade; I suspect it’s similar for most people who care deeply about avoiding single-use disposables. Suffice it to say, this regional corporate decision doesn’t impress me all that much. Why can’t Johnson & Johnson, at the very least, make the transition to all-paper buds world-wide? That would be some real progress.
Related on TreeHugger.com:
“A Plastic Tide” film depicts shocking plastic pollution worldwide
Artist depicts humans entangled in plastic ocean waste
‘The Smog of the Sea’ is Jack Johnson’s new film about plastic pollution
Tags: Corporate Responsibility | Cosmetics | Cotton | Oceans | Plastics | Pollution | Waste
COPYRIGHT © 2017 NARRATIVE CONTENT GROUP. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
An oil pipeline has ruptured, spilling 600,000 gallons of toxic oil into the environment. This massive spill is destroying the ecosystem, which may never fully recover. Demand that the oil company responsible for the spill be held accountable.
A toxic chemical known to cause thyroid diseases, high cholesterol and cancer is now used in manufacturing plants in China by an American company after the United States banned the dangerous chemical. Sign this petition to demand that this company end its use of this toxic chemical worldwide.
There are several petitions for the Environment and Animal Welfare you can sign one or all…
Source: Saving Life on Earth: Current Actions
The Senate is about to vote on a measure that would block common-sense limits on the amount of dangerous methane gas leaking into the air. Tell your senators to stand against handouts to the oil & gas industry!
February 1, 2017
From The Cloud Gate (most of you may know it as the giant bean) to it’s iconic Frank Loyd Wright skyline, Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. The only thing that could mar this city’s impressive features is a bunch of trash getting blown around the streets by its equally famous counterpart – the wind. However, Chicago has taken this problem in hand and on February 1st, a $.07 tax per disposable bag – plastic and paper – went into effect at all retail locations in the city.
To further incentivise consumers, the city is handing out 25,o00 reusable “Chi Bags” outside of several Chicago Transportation Authority stations across the city. Retailers in the city are also helping ease shoppers into this new tax. Target is handing out reusable bags to the first 200 customers at each of its 16 locations in the city and Whole Foods has guaranteed to give the first 1,000 people in each its 12 Chicago locations a reusable tote. The city hopes that this tax will dissuade shoppers from using these disposable bags – and empirical evidence shows the tax will be effective.
California and Michigan both instituted a ban on plastic bags last year and both states met with success. Across the pond, Britan banned plastic bags with a stunning effect – they saw a 50 percent reduction in the consumption of plastic bags. These bans are not just for aesthetic reasons, plastic bags are incredibly harmful to marine environments around the globe.
Every year, we consume 100 billion plastic bags and while we may only use them for a few minute, they stick around in the environment for much, much longer than that. After being thrown out, most plastic bags make their way into our oceans where they choke, entrap, and strangle marine life. Plastic bags combine with the rest of the 8.8 million tons of plastic waste we toss in our oceans annually to create a huge problem for our oceans’ ecosystems. Currently, over 800 species are threatened by plastic pollution and over 50 percent of sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs.
This is why plastic bag bans like the one in Chicago are so important. But even if you’re not in Chicago you can help to keep plastic out of our oceans and save marine life! Bring a disposable tote with you when you every time you go shopping and you will effectively keep 330 plastic bags from entering the ocean. For more tips on how to keep plastic out of your life and our planet’s waterways, join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign.
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.