Recycling Is Not Enough. Zero-Packaging Stores Show We Can Kick Our Plastic Addiction

Zero-packaging stores show, in their own small way, a viable and healthier alternative to the current system. Both for ourselves, local economies and the planet. Wrapped, sealed, boxed, cling-filmed and vacuum packed. We have become used to consumables being packaged in every way imaginable. The history of “packaging” goes back to the first human settlements. First leaves, gourds and animals skins were used. Then ceramics, glass and tin. Then paper and cardboard. But with the invention of plastic and the celebration of “throwaway living” since the 1950s, the environmental costs of an overpackaged world have become manifest.

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American Beauties

The story of the plastic bag—the kind that is so ubiquitous in grocery stores, in gutters, in the branches of trees—is a story of persuasion, one that began with a battle between paper and plastic in the hearts of the American people. “People are fond of the old paper bag,” Peter Bunten explained to the New York Times in 1984. “It’s as American as the flag and apple pie and all those other red, white, and blue clichés.” At the time, Bunten worked for American Paper Institute, and the plastic bag, first introduced to grocery stores in 1979, was ready to challenge the paper bag’s supremacy over how people carted home groceries—a $600 million market at the time.

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Amsterdam’s Most Beneficent Tourist Activity Is Fishing For Plastic

There’s really nothing as exhilarating as taking in the sights and sounds of Amsterdam from the water aboard a scenic canal cruise.

And in a city that champions inclusivity while boasting a concentric network of 17th century canals that spans 65 miles, there’s naturally a cruise option for everyone. And we mean everyone: romantic candlelit dinner cruises, kid-friendly cruises, foodie cruises, booze cruises, comedic cruises, cannabis-fueled cruises, cruises that serve unlimited pancakes and, last but not least, cruises that involve plucking plastic garbage from waterways.

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There’s An Unexpected Downfall To Banning Plastic Straws. Here’s What To Consider.

Nobody likes waste, but sometimes in our rush to eliminate it, we don’t think through the consequences of our actions. Take, for example, the push to ban plastic straws. As of July 1, restaurants in Seattle are banned from giving customers non-recyclable plastic utensils or straws. Restaurants can still provide customers with a number of durable or compostable utensils or straws upon request. Other cities that have banned or restricted the use of straws include Edmonds, Washington; Miami Beach and Fort Myers Beach, Florida; Monmouth Beach, New Jersey; and a slew of California towns including Alameda, Berkeley, Carmel, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond, and San Luis Obispo…

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Scientists Accidentally Develop ‘Mutant’ Enzyme That Eats Plastic

Researchers in the UK and the U.S. have inadvertently engineered an enzyme that eats up plastic. The enzyme is able to digest PET (polyethylene terephthalate)—the same material used in the ubiquitous plastic bottle that’s clogging up landfills, coastlines and oceans around the world. Amazingly, this discovery only happened by chance. Scientists from the University of Portsmouth in the UK and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) were examining the structure of a natural enzyme, Ideonella sakaiensis, found in 2016 at a Japanese waste recycling center. This enzyme could already break down PET plastic—it just doesn’t do it very quickly. To understand how Ideonella sakaiensis evolved, the research team “tweaked” the structure of the enzyme by adding some amino acids, according to John McGeehan, a Portsmouth professor who co-led the work.

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I Kept All My Plastic For A Year – The 4,490 Items Forced Me To Rethink

We all know, in theory, that we ought to use less plastic. We’ve all been distressed by the sight of Blue Planet II’s hawksbill turtle entangled in a plastic sack, and felt chastened as we’ve totted up our weekly tally of disposable coffee cups. But still, UK annual plastic waste is now close to 5m tonnes, including enough single-use plastic to fill 1,000 Royal Albert Halls; the government’s planned elimination of “avoidable” plastic waste by 2042 seems a quite dazzling task. It was reported this week that scientists at the University of Portsmouth have accidentally developed a plastic-eating mutant enzyme, and while we wait to see if that will save us all, for one individual the realisation of just how much plastic we use has become an intensely personal matter.

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Campaigner Calling For The Final Straw

By Hannah Wilkinson for JMU Journalism – A Wirral man who has devoted his career to helping and protecting sealife is calling on businesses to help in the fight to keep local waterways safe and clean. While there is growing public awareness that the use of plastics is having a major detrimental impact with dangerous materials making their way out to sea, marine mammal medic, Chris Cureton, is a man on a mission. Last month, the JD Wetherspoon pub chain too the decision to remove plastic straws from its 900 UK bars, and Chris is hoping to encourage other firms to do the same. Mr Cureton told JMU Journalism: “I’m very focused on marine plastic pollution and its impact on marine life both locally and globally. “After seeing some campaigns around the world attempting to reduce the use of single use plastic straws, I decided to kick off the campaign locally focusing on New Brighton and Wallasey.” He only started his campaign at the beginning of September, but 13 local Wallasey and New Brighton businesses have already agreed to completely remove plastic straws from their venues. Other outlets have agreed to not automatically put straws in glasses, but will still have them on offer. ‘The Last Plastic Straw’ is a worldwide campaign striving to educate the public about the problems associated with of single use plastic, its effects on health, the environment, and the oceans.

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Seattle To Ban Plastic Straws, Utensils At Restaurants Next Year

By Lorraine Chow for Eco Watch – Starting next year, Seattle restaurants will no longer provide plastic straws and plastic utensils to its patrons after a 2010 ordinance finally takes effect. “As of July 1, 2018, food services businesses should not be providing plastic straws or utensils,” Sego Jackson, the strategic advisor for Waste Prevention and Product Stewardship for Seattle Public Utilities, told Q13 FOX. “What they should be providing are compostable straws or compostable utensils. But they also might be providing durables, reusables, or encouraging you to skip the straw altogether,” he added. Jackson said the city’s effort to ban disposal plastic food service ware had been in the books since 2010 but was stalled because compostable alternatives were not viable yet. “Early on there weren’t many compostable options,” he explained. “And some of the options didn’t perform well or compost well. That’s all changed now.” The exemption that allowed eateries to dispense plastic straws and utensils is set to expire and will not be renewed. The ban only applies to restaurants serving food, as plastic straws and utensils can still be purchased at city grocery stores. Restaurants that do not comply will be warned and eventually fined but eateries will be given assistance with the transition.

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A Campaign To Eliminate Plastic Straws Is Sucking In Thousands Of Converts

By Darryl Fears for The Washington Post – Straws are among the most common plastic items volunteers clean from beaches, along with bottles, bags and cups, conservationists say. Americans use half a billion straws every day, at least according to an estimate by Be Straw Free, based on information from straw manufacturers. That many straws could wrap around the Earth 2½ times. The slightest wind lifts plastic straws from dinner tables, picnic blankets and trash dumps, depositing them far and wide, including in rivers and oceans, where animals often mistake them for food. And they are ubiquitous. Nearly every chain restaurant and coffee shop offers straws. They’re in just about every movie theater and sit-down restaurant. Theme parks and corner stores and ice cream shops and school cafeterias freely hand them out. But they are starting to disappear because of the awareness campaign Cress and dozens of conservation groups are waging. Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom bans them, as do the food concession areas of Smithsonian Institution museums. Keith Christman, a managing director for plastics markets at the American Chemistry Council, which promotes plastics manufacturers and fights attempts to ban plastic, said in a National Geographic article two months ago that the group would do the same for attempts to eliminate plastic straws.

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Fishing The Plastic Out Of The Ocean

By Jessica Murray for True Activist – An Amsterdam-based company called Plastic Whale is embarking on a positive initiative to combat plastic pollution by reusing plastic bottles in an innovative and simple way. The company work to retrieve numerous plastic bottles, along with other debris from various canals around the city. Once they have collected a large amount, they then transform the plastic material into a boat, which is cleverly then used to fish for more plastic bottles in the canals, according to reports. Thereby producing an answer to a problem within another solution. The main goal of Plastic Whale is to dramatically reduce plastic pollution and thereby clear the world’s waters of the damaging material. Plastic Whale, which describes itself as the world’s first plastic fishing company, is currently working to solve a huge global problem, with recent statistics estimating around 8 million tons of plastic trash entering waterways every year. The company’s founder and captain, Marius Smit, told EcoWatch that he imagines the world where waters are completely free of plastic…

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Mexican Corp Turns Plastic Into Eco-Friendly, Affordable Homes

By Amanda Froelich for True Activist – There are many problems on this planet in need of remedy, two of which are plastic pollution and extreme poverty. Every year, enough plastic is thrown away to circle the globe four times. Much of this makes its way into the oceans (an estimated 10-20 tons) from landfills and continues to swirl in garbage patches, leaking toxins into the oceans and killing off wildlife that consumes it unsuspectingly. In addition, roughly 1.2 billion people now live in extreme poverty worldwide or subsist on less than $1.25 per day.

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Oceans Will Soon Contain More Plastics Than Fish By Weight

By Staff of Ellen McArthur Foundation – Applying circular economy principles to global plastic packaging flows could transform the plastics economy and drastically reduce negative externalities such as leakage into oceans, according to the latest report by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with analytical support from McKinsey & Company. The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics provides for the first time a vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste, and outlines concrete steps towards achieving the systemic shift needed.

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Forget Foam — Now We Can Grow Better Takeout Containers

We live in a material world, people — synthetic material, that is, with all the attendant mess that makes. But how can a society addicted to Ziploc baggies, Styrofoam coffee cups, and cheap building materials do without?

Lucky for us, green-minded entrepreneurs are developing sci-fi worthy replacements for these problem materials. Many of these were showcased at a conference in New York City last December, called Biofabricate — apparently “the world’s first summit dedicated to the biofabrication for future industrial and consumer products” — which, you know, cool! Here are some worthy teasers from Fast Company. . .

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Sick Seabirds Warn Of Plastic Pollution In The Oceans

It’s a late May night on Lord Howe Island, and the moon gleams across the volcanic mountains and white sand beaches of this six-mile long isle off the east coast of Australia. While most people are tucked inside their houses or hotels, conservation biologist Dr. Jennifer Lavers and her colleague, naturalist Ian Hutton, don headlamps and bike to the flesh-footed shearwater colony on the northeast side of the island. Lord Howe Island is one of the two main breeding areas for this seabird in the southwest Pacific Ocean (the other is in northern New Zealand). Tonight the colony bustles with 90-day-old chicks flapping their wings as they prepare for their first 6,500-mile flight north to the Bering Sea. Even though many seabirds are affected by plastic pollution, the plight flesh-footed shearwater illustrates how widespread the problem is.

Lavers and Hutton set up a makeshift research station in the colony, and handpick chicks to weigh, measure, and take feather samples. They also undertake a lavage process, guiding a tube down each bird’s throat to flush out its stomach contents. This part may seem gruesome, but the lavage provides important information about shearwater diet and nutrition. If a fledgling’s parents fed it well, it will regurgitate natural food sources like squid and fish. But more often than not, chicks will cough up something that does not belong in their stomachs – plastic.

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