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Microplastics found in human blood for first time

Microplastics found in human blood for first time


The discovery shows the particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs


Microplastic pollution has been detected in human blood for the first time, with scientists finding the tiny particles in almost 80% of the people tested.

The discovery shows the particles can travel around the body and may lodge in organs. The impact on health is as yet unknown. But researchers are concerned as microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory and air pollution particles are already known to enter the body and cause millions of early deaths a year.

Huge amounts of plastic waste are dumped in the environment and microplastics now contaminate the entire planet, from the summit of Mount Everest to the deepest oceans. People were already known to consume the tiny particles via food and water as well as breathing them in, and they have been found in the faeces of babies and adults.



The scientists analysed blood samples from 22 anonymous donors, all healthy adults and found plastic particles in 17. Half the samples contained PET plastic, which is commonly used in drinks bottles, while a third contained polystyrene, used for packaging food and other products. A quarter of the blood samples contained polyethylene, from which plastic carrier bags are made.

“Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – ​it’s a breakthrough result,” said Prof Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands. “But we have to extend the research and increase the sample sizes, the number of polymers assessed, etc.” Further studies by a number of groups are already under way, he said.

“It is certainly reasonable to be concerned,” Vethaak told the Guardian. “The particles are there and are transported throughout the body.” He said previous work had shown that microplastics were 10 times higher in the faeces of babies compared with adults and that babies fed with plastic bottles are swallowing millions of microplastic particles a day.

“We also know in general that babies and young children are more vulnerable to chemical and particle exposure,” he said. “That worries me a lot.”

The new research is published in the journal Environment International and adapted existing techniques to detect and analyse particles as small as 0.0007mm. Some of the blood samples contained two or three types of plastic. The team used steel syringe needles and glass tubes to avoid contamination, and tested for background levels of microplastics using blank samples.

Vethaak acknowledged that the amount and type of plastic varied considerably between the blood samples. “But this is a pioneering study,” he said, with more work now needed. He said the differences might reflect short-term exposure before the blood samples were taken, such as drinking from a plastic-lined coffee cup, or wearing a plastic face mask.

“The big question is what is happening in our body?” Vethaak said. “Are the particles retained in the body? Are they transported to certain organs, such as getting past the blood-brain barrier?” And are these levels sufficiently high to trigger disease? We urgently need to fund further research so we can find out.”


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Farmers cover a field with plastic films in Yuli county, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northern China. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

‘DISASTROUS’ PLASTIC USE IN FARMING THREATENS FOOD SAFETY – UN


The “disastrous” way in which plastic is used in farming across the world is threatening food safety and potentially human health, according to a report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

BABY POOP IS LOADED WITH MICROPLASTICS


An alarming new study finds that infant feces contain 10 times more polyethylene terephthalate (aka polyester) than an adult’s.


The new research was funded by the Dutch National Organisation for Health Research and Development and Common Seas, a social enterprise working to reduce plastic pollution.

“Plastic production is set to double by 2040,” said Jo Royle, founder of the charity Common Seas. “We have a right to know what all this plastic is doing to our bodies.” Common Seas, along with more than 80 NGOs, scientists and MPs, are asking the UK government to allocate £15m to research on the human health impacts of plastic. The EU is already funding research on the impact of microplastic on foetuses and babies, and on the immune system.

A recent study found that microplastics can latch on to the outer membranes of red blood cells and may limit their ability to transport oxygen. The particles have also been found in the placentas of pregnant women, and in pregnant rats they pass rapidly through the lungs into the hearts, brains and other organs of the foetuses.

A new review paper published on Tuesday, co-authored by Vethaak, assessed cancer risk and concluded: “More detailed research on how micro- and nano-plastics affect the structures and processes of the human body, and whether and how they can transform cells and induce carcinogenesis, is urgently needed, particularly in light of the exponential increase in plastic production. The problem is becoming more urgent with each day.”

Source:

Damian Carrington at The Guardian




Scientists Develop Breakthrough Method for Recycling Industrial Plastics at Room Temperature in 20 Minutes

Scientists Develop Breakthrough Method for Recycling Industrial Plastics at Room Temperature in 20 Minutes


A new and simple method for upcycling plastic waste at room temperature has been developed by a team of British researchers.


The researchers at the University of Bath hope the new process will help recycling become less energy intensive, and thus more economically viable.

While recycling rates are growing across Europe, traditional methods remain limited because the harsh remelting conditions reduce the quality of the material each time they’re recycled.

But this new rapid chemical recycling process for polycarbonates can be completed in 20 minutes at room temperature.

Using a zinc-based catalyst and methanol, they were able to completely break down commercial poly(bisphenol A carbonate) (BPA-PC) beads that make up a widely-used class of thermoplastics commonly utilized in construction and engineering.

The waste can then be converted into its chemical constituents, namely bisphenol A (BPA) and dimethyl carbonate (DMC), helping to preserve its quality for reuse over an infinite number of cycles.

Also important, BPA recovery prevents leakage of a potentially damaging environmental pollutant, whilst DMC is a valuable green solvent and building block for other industrial chemicals.

Promisingly, the zinc catalyst is also tolerant to other commercial sources of BPA-PC (e.g. CD) and mixed plastic sources, increasing industrial relevance, whilst being amenable to other plastics, like poly(lactic acid) (PLA) and poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), at higher temperatures.

The team has also demonstrated a completely circular approach to producing several renewable plastic derived from waste PET bottles—poly(ester-amide)s (PEAs) and their terephthalamide monomers. These materials have excellent thermal properties and could potentially be used in biomedical applications, for example drug delivery and tissue engineering.

Lead researcher Professor Matthew Jones, at the University of Bath’s CSCT, said, “It’s really exciting to see the versatility of our catalysts in producing a wide range of value-added products from plastic waste.

“It’s crucial we target such products, where possible, to help promote and accelerate the implementation of emerging sustainable technologies through economic incentives.”


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HARDER THAN CONCRETE BUT MUCH MORE ECOLOGICAL: BYFUSION TURN TONS OF NON-RECYCLABLE PLASTIC INTO BUILDING BLOCKS


As much as we fight against single-use plastics, millions of tons continue to be produced. Some are reused, but there is a large amount of plastic that cannot be recycled. Fortunately, there are some solutions to reuse this huge amount of material.

THE NEW RAW’S 3D-PRINTED BEACH FURNITURE GIVES MARINE PLASTIC WASTE A NEW LIFE


The Dutch studio’s limited-edition collection titled The Elements, showcasing wave-like 3D encoded beach furniture, is digitally manufactured from 80 per cent recycled plastic.


First author of the paper, Jack Payne from the CSCT, said, “Whilst plastics will play a key role in achieving a low-carbon future, moving forward, it’s imperative we source plastics from renewable feedstocks, embed biodegradability/recyclability at the design phase and diversify existing waste management strategies.”

“Such future innovation should not be limited to emerging materials but encompass established products too.

“Our method creates new opportunities for polycarbonate recycling under mild conditions, helping to promote a circular economy approach and keep carbon in the loop indefinitely.”

Presently, the technology has only been demonstrated on a small scale, however, the team is now working on catalyst optimization and scaling up the process (300 mL) with collaborators at the University of Bath.

Source:

Good News Network



75% of people want single-use plastics banned, global survey finds

75% of people want single-use plastics banned, global survey finds


Three in four people worldwide want single-use plastics to be banned as soon as possible, according to a poll released on Tuesday, as United Nations members prepare to begin talks on a global treaty to rein in soaring plastic pollution.


The percentage of people calling for bans is up from 71% since 2019, while those who said they favoured products with less plastic packaging rose to 82% from 75%, according to the IPSOS poll of more than 20,000 people across 28 countries.

Activists say the results send a clear message to governments meeting in Nairobi this month to press ahead with an ambitious treaty to tackle plastic waste, a deal being touted as the most important environmental pact since the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015.

“People worldwide have made their views clear,” said Marco Lambertini, WWF International’s director general. “The onus and opportunity is now on governments to adopt a global plastics treaty … so we can eliminate plastic pollution.”

Nearly 90% of those surveyed said they supported a treaty, but it remains to be seen whether any such deal will focus on waste collection and recycling or take more radical measures such as curbing production and use of throwaway plastics. read more

Reuters revealed last week that big oil and chemical industry groups were devising strategies to persuade conference participants to reject any deal that would limit production of plastic, which is made from oil and gas and a key source of their revenues. read more


Scientists created biodegradable food packaging that will eliminate harmful bacteria build-up in foods

SCIENTISTS CREATED BIODEGRADABLE FOOD PACKAGING THAT WILL ELIMINATE HARMFUL BACTERIA BUILD-UP IN FOODS


Recently, scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US have developed bacteria-killing biodegradable food packaging that addresses two major concerns of the food industry today – food waste and eco-friendliness.

SPERM IS BEING USED TO CREATE AN ECO-FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVE TO PLASTIC


A new eco-friendly plastic made from salmon sperm has been invented by scientists in China.


If the United Nations cannot agree on a deal to put the brakes on plastic pollution, there will be widespread ecological damage over the coming decades, putting some marine species at risk of extinction and destroying sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves, according to a WWF study released this month.

It is likely to take at least two years to finalise any treaty. But whatever is agreed at the Nairobi conference from Feb. 28 to March 2 will determine key elements of any deal.

The biggest support for single-use plastic bans in the poll came from the likes of Colombia, Mexico and India, developing countries at the sharp end of a waste crisis.

The IPSOS poll also showed that 85% of respondents globally want manufacturers and retailers to be held responsible for reducing, reusing and recycling plastic packaging, up from 80% previously.

Source:

John Geddie via Reuters



Dumping plastic in waterways is ‘criminal’, pope says in TV interview

Dumping plastic in waterways is ‘criminal’, pope says in TV interview


Dumping plastic in waterways is “criminal” and must end if humanity wants to save the planet for future generations, Pope Francis said in a television interview on Sunday.


In the hour-long interview on state broadcaster RAI’s Channel 3, Francis also reiterated some of the key themes of his papacy, condemning excessive spending on armaments, defending the rights of migrants, and condemning ideological rigidity by conservatives in the Church.

Francis, who has made defending the environment a cornerstone of his pontificate, recounted how Italian fishermen came to him one year and told him they had found many tons of plastic in the Adriatic Sea. The next time he saw them they said they had found twice as much and took it upon themselves to help clean some of it up.

“Throwing plastic into the sea is criminal. It kills biodiversity, it kills the earth, it kills everything,” he said.”

Pope Francis celebrates a mass to mark the World Day for Consecrated Life in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, February 2, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

“Looking after creation is an education (process) in which we must engage,” he said, citing a song by Brazilian singer Roberto Carlos in which a boy asks his father why “the river no longer sings” and the father responds that “we finished it off”.

Asked to elaborate on his taste in music, Francis, who made a surprise visit to a Rome record store last month, said he mostly likes classical music but also tango.

Asked if he had danced the tango as a young man in his native Argentina, Francis, 85, said “A porteño who does not dance the tango is not a porteño”. Porteño is the Spanish name for a resident of Buenos Aires, his home city.

In response to a question about war, Francis said: “Think about it. If we were to stop making weapons for one year, we could feed and educate the whole world. We have become accustomed to wars. It’s tough but it’s the truth.”

Francis did not elaborate on the source of the statistics he cited but in the past he has called for a total ban on nuclear weapons, saying even their mere possession for deterrence is immoral.

He also has called for armaments spending to be diverted to help the neediest and for research to prevent future pandemics.


THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA IS FILLED WITH PLASTICS THAT COME FROM ELSEWHERE


Almost every country in the Mediterranean Sea has at least one Marine Protected Area (MPA) where over half of its macroplastics originated from another country, according to a new study.

Farmers cover a field with plastic films in Yuli county, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, northern China. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

‘DISASTROUS’ PLASTIC USE IN FARMING THREATENS FOOD SAFETY – UN


The “disastrous” way in which plastic is used in farming across the world is threatening food safety and potentially human health, according to a report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.


Francis again called on the European Union to distribute migrants reaching Italy and Spain from North Africa to all EU countries so as not to put excessive social strain on a few countries.

The interview with the host of the popular Sunday programme Che Tempo Che Fa (What’s the Weather Like?) was conducted via a satellite link from RAI studios in Milan with the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican where the pope lives.

Francis has shunned the spacious but insulated papal apartments in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace used by his predecessors. He lives in modest suite in Santa Marta, where he usually eats in the common area and takes the elevator by himself.

Francis said he had chosen to live there because he was “not a saint” like his predecessors and needed to be around people as much as possible. He said he had “few but real” friends.

Source:

By Philip Pullella and Giulia Segreti via Reuters



Scientists uncover ‘missing’ plastics deep in the ocean

Scientists uncover ‘missing’ plastics deep in the ocean


About 51 trillion microplastics are floating in the surface waters of oceans around the world. Originating from various types of plastics, these tiny fragments (less than 5 millimeters in length) pollute natural ecosystems.


Hundreds of studies have surveyed plastic debris on the surface or near surface of the ocean. However, these studies only “scratch the surface,” and do not provide a complete inventory of what’s lurking beneath.

A study led by Florida Atlantic University is the first to unveil the prevalence of plastics in the entire water column of an offshore plastic accumulation zone in the southern Atlantic Ocean and implicates the ocean interior as a crucial pool of ‘missing’ plastics.

Results, published in the journal Global Change Biology , demonstrate that small microplastics are critical, underexplored and integral to the oceanic plastic inventory. In addition, findings show that weak ocean current systems contribute to the formation of small microplastics hotspots at depth, suggesting a higher encounter rate for subsurface particle feeders like zooplankton.

“Our study highlights the urgency for more quantification of the deep-ocean microplastics, especially the smaller size fraction, to better understand ecosystem exposure and to predict the fate and impacts of these microplastics,” said Tracy Mincer, Ph.D., senior author and an assistant professor of biology at FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and FAU Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College.

To gain a better mechanistic understanding of how plastics sink from the ocean surface beyond the mixed layer and ultimately to abyssal depths of the ocean, the researchers sampled plastic particles in the South Atlantic Subtropical Gyre using in-situ high-volume filtration, Manta net and MultiNet sampling, combined with micro-Fourier-transform-infrared imaging.

They found that abundances and distribution patterns of small microplastics varied geographically and vertially due to the diverse and complex redistribution processes interacting with different plastic particles. They also observed large horizontal and vertical variations in the abundances of small microplastics, displaying inverse vertical trends in some cases. Small microplastics abundances in pump samples were more than two orders of magnitude higher than large microplastics concurrently collected in MultiNet samples.

Credit: Florida Atlantic University

“Small microplastics are different from large microplastics with respect to their high abundance, chemical nature, transport behavior, weathering stages, interactions with ambient environments, bioavailability and the release efficiency of plastic additives,” said Shiye Zhao, Ph.D., first author and a post-doctoral fellow at FAU Harbor Branch. “These distinct characteristics impact their environmental fate and potential impacts on marine ecosystems.”

Higher density polymers such as alkyd resins, used in most commercial oil-based coatings such as ship hull paints and polyamide, commonly used in textiles like clothing and ropes and fishing nets, made up more than 65 percent of the total pump sample count in the study. This finding highlights a discrepancy between polymer compositions from previous ocean surface-based surveys, which are typically dominated by buoyant polymers such as polyethylene used for packaging film and grocery bags and polypropylene used for plastic containers and reusable water bottles.


THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA IS FILLED WITH PLASTICS THAT COME FROM ELSEWHERE


Almost every country in the Mediterranean Sea has at least one Marine Protected Area (MPA) where over half of its macroplastics originated from another country, according to a new study.

FILIPINO SCIENTIST TAKES FIRST EVER JOURNEY TO THIRD DEEPEST OCEAN TRENCH ON EARTH, FINDS PLASTIC


When Dr Deo Florence Onda found himself more than 10,000m below the surface, in the third deepest trench on the planet, he was on the lookout for mysteries hidden in the darkness.


Compared with net-collected large microplastics, small microplastics particles are more highly oxidized and appear to have a longer lifetime in the water column, suggesting increased marine ecosystem health risks through possible bio-uptake of plastic particles and associated chemicals and potential impacts to global biogeochemical cycles.

“As plastic particles disintegrate into smaller size fractions, they can become harmful in different and unpredictable ways that are only now beginning to be understood,” said Mincer. “These micron-size microplastics can move across the gut epithelium, become trapped in biomass, and have the potential to transfer through marine food webs, posing an unknown ecological risk and biogeochemical impacts.”

As commercial fishing efforts scale up to harvest marine species for human consumption, the researchers say that studies focusing on smaller microplastics ingestion are urgently needed to assess the extent of plastic contamination in biomass.

The combined analysis procedure used by Mincer, Zhao and collaborators from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute provided a more integrative view of the distribution, abundance, dimensions and chemical nature of plastic particles in the interior of an ocean gyre.

Source:

Gisele Galoustian, Florida Atlantic University via phys.org



Harder than concrete but much more ecological: ByFusion turn tons of non-recyclable plastic into building blocks

Harder than concrete but much more ecological: ByFusion turn tons of non-recyclable plastic into building blocks


As much as we fight against single-use plastics, millions of tons continue to be produced. Some are reused, but there is a large amount of plastic that cannot be recycled. Fortunately, there are some solutions to reuse this huge amount of material.


That’s what Los Angeles-based company ByFusion does. Through a vaporization and compression process, they shape the plastics into blocks that they call ByBlocks and can be used for construction as they have a resistance as high as concrete.

More than 100 tons of plastic have already been turned into blocks

Byfusion plastic blocks

ByFusion blocks are strong enough to be used in any type of construction. We talk from houses to bus stops, passing through walls and other types of barriers. Its base size is 16 x 8 x 8 inches, which is about 40 x 20 x 20 centimeters .

As described by the company, the blocks are lighter than their equivalent in cement. Approximately 4.5 kilos less. But they claim they are just as durable.

The true innovation of this company is not the blocks, but the machine that allows them to be compacted. These machines are called Blockers. Blockers can turn tons of plastic into blocks without the need to classify or clean them.

ByFusion currently has one of these machines installed at its headquarters with the capacity to process up to 450 tons of plastic per year. The intention is to have up to 12 of these machines before the end of the year. To date, the company claims that it has already compacted 103 tons of non-recyclable plastic.

House made of plastic blocks

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BREAKTHROUGH IN SEPARATING PLASTIC WASTE: MACHINES CAN NOW DISTINGUISH 12 DIFFERENT TYPES OF PLASTIC


In contrast to common perceptions, plastic is in no way near one material. Rather, it is a combination of many materials (polymers) with different chemical compounds and additives such as pigments or fibers, depending on its use. It is very difficult to tell the difference between different types of plastics, and this is what makes it difficult to separate and recycle them.

THE NEW RAW’S 3D-PRINTED BEACH FURNITURE GIVES MARINE PLASTIC WASTE A NEW LIFE


The Dutch studio’s limited-edition collection titled The Elements, showcasing wave-like 3D encoded beach furniture, is digitally manufactured from 80 per cent recycled plastic.


This company intends to distribute its machines on a large scale so that companies and municipalities can reuse all the non-recyclable plastic.

Among the uses that have been given to these blocks is the construction of a house. Of course, as part of these plastics can be susceptible to sunlight, the company explains that they must be covered with resistant paint designed for exteriors.

In the creation process, no type of glue or addition is incorporated. If we have 20 kilos of garbage, the material will be enough to make 20 kilos of blocks. An ingenious solution that can be an interesting patch to take advantage of all those plastics that should disappear, but unfortunately they are still very present.

Source:

OnePexel



The Mediterranean Sea is filled with plastics that come from elsewhere

The Mediterranean Sea is filled with plastics that come from elsewhere


Plastics are all over, especially in protected areas.


Almost every country in the Mediterranean Sea has at least one Marine Protected Area (MPA) where over half of its macroplastics originated from another country, according to a new study. The findings highlight that plastic pollution is an international problem and we need international collaboration in order to tackle it, the researchers argue.

Slowly but surely, plastic pollution has become one of the major environmental issues of our times, comparable to the climate crisis and overfishing. While much recent research focused on microplastics, this new effort looked at how macroplastics (plastic bits bigger than five millimeters) affect the marine ecosystem, as organisms ingest or become entangled in plastic litter — often with dramatic consequences. 

Plastic pieces (especially small ones) can travel very long distances and end far from their original sources. They come in unseen for multiple, often distant sources, threatening wildlife and their habitats in marine areas. Previous studies in the Arctic, the Pacific and the Atlantic have shown MPAs are very affected by plastic pollution. 

In the new study, a group of researchers focused on the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most polluted regions globally which also happens to be an important biodiversity hotspot. It’s shared by numerous countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia, which brings big differences in terms of governance, politics, and cultures — which makes it difficult to implement common regulations of marine ecosystems. 

About 229,000 tons of plastic leak every year into the Mediterranean Sea, according to a report by IUCN from 2020, equivalent to 500 shipping containers. Roughly speaking, it’s like dumping a container and a half of plastic straight into the sea. Egypt, Italy, and Turkey were identified as the countries with the highest plastic leakage rates into the Mediterranean, mainly because of mismanaged waste and large coastal cities.

“Our study shows that specific sites, important for the conservation of biodiversity, concentrate high amounts of plastics,” Dr Yannis Hatzonikolkis, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “Although marine protected areas are protected by restrictions from other threats as tourism, plastic acts like an ‘invisible’ enemy.” 

Plastics and the Mediterranean

Image credit: The researchers.

The researchers carried out a three-year simulation (from 2016 to 2018) of the distribution of plastic particles in the Mediterranean Sea. They used a particle drift model that considers the main dispersion processes such as winds and currents, incorporating three land-based sources of plastic particles – wastewater discharge, rivers, and cities. 

The findings showed that coastal zones were the hardest hit, both by macroplastics and microplastics (plastic pieces smaller than five millimeters). As MPAs tend to be closer to coastal zones, they accumulated more plastic waste than sites in offshore waters. Most plastics were traced back to land-based sources, which means the issue has to be tackled at source.


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FILIPINO SCIENTIST TAKES FIRST EVER JOURNEY TO THIRD DEEPEST OCEAN TRENCH ON EARTH, FINDS PLASTIC


When Dr Deo Florence Onda found himself more than 10,000m below the surface, in the third deepest trench on the planet, he was on the lookout for mysteries hidden in the darkness.

Ship paint fragments were found to make up most of the samples the scientists found - SWNS

SCIENTISTS STUDYING MICROPLASTICS IN ANTARCTICA DISCOVER… IT ALMOST ALL CAME FROM THEIR SHIP


Scientists studying the origins of microplastics in Antarctica have discovered that 89 per cent of the samples they analysed came from the paint on their own ship.


The average concentration of macroplastics in inshore waters was larger than five kilograms per squared kilometer, while offshore waters had over 1.5 kilograms. Meanwhile, average microplastics concentration in inshore waters was higher than 1.5 million particles per squared kilometer, and 0.5 million particles in offshore waters. 

“The most effective way to reduce plastic pollution in protected areas is by reducing marine litter at the sources. A management plan including litter reduction at its sources can occasionally be successfully implemented locally,” the researchers wrote, suggesting the use of a floating barrier installation and a pre-filtering device. 

Source:

Fermin Koop at ZME Science



Breakthrough in separating plastic waste: Machines can now distinguish 12 different types of plastic

Breakthrough in separating plastic waste: Machines can now distinguish 12 different types of plastic


In contrast to common perceptions, plastic is in no way near one material. Rather, it is a combination of many materials (polymers) with different chemical compounds and additives such as pigments or fibers, depending on its use. It is very difficult to tell the difference between different types of plastics, and this is what makes it difficult to separate and recycle them.


In collaboration with Vestforbrænding, Dansk Affaldsminimering Aps, and PLASTIX, researchers from the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering at Aarhus University have now developed a new camera technology that can see the difference between 12 different types of plastics (PE, PP, PET, PS, PVC, PVDF, POM, PEEK, ABS, PMMA, PC and PA12). Together, these constitute the vast majority of household plastic types.

The technology makes it possible to separate plastics based on a purer chemical composition than is possible today, and this opens up for completely new opportunities to recycle plastics. The technology has been tested at pilot scale and is planned to be implemented at PLASTIX and Dansk Affaldsminimering Aps in spring 2022.

“With this technology, we can now see the difference between all types of consumer plastics and several high-performance plastics. We can even see the difference between plastics that consist of the same chemical building blocks, but which are structured slightly differently. We use a hyperspectral camera in the infrared area, and machine learning to analyze and categorize the type of plastic directly on the conveyor belt. The plastic can then be separated into different types. It’s a breakthrough that will have a huge impact on all plastics separation,” says Associate Professor Mogens Hinge, who is heading the project at Aarhus University.

The study has been published in the scientific journal Vibrational Spectroscopy.

Plastics are currently separated using near-infrared technology (NIR) or via density tests (floats/sinks in water). These methods can separate certain plastic fractions (for example PE, PP, and PET), but not with the same accuracy as the new technology, and therefore not with the chemical purity in the composition, and this is vital for becoming able to increase the recycling rate of waste plastic.

“The technology we’ve developed in collaboration with the university is nothing short of a breakthrough for our ability to recycle plastics. We look forward to installing the technology in our processing hall and starting in earnest on the long journey towards 100% utilization of waste plastic,” says Hans Axel Kristensen, CEO of PLASTIX.


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THE NEW RAW’S 3D-PRINTED BEACH FURNITURE GIVES MARINE PLASTIC WASTE A NEW LIFE


The Dutch studio’s limited-edition collection titled The Elements, showcasing wave-like 3D encoded beach furniture, is digitally manufactured from 80 per cent recycled plastic.

THE LEGO GROUP REVEALS FIRST PROTOTYPE LEGO® BRICK MADE FROM RECYCLED PLASTIC


The LEGO Group today unveiled a prototype LEGO® brick made from recycled plastic, the latest step in its journey to make LEGO products from sustainable materials.


Plastic must be at least 96% pure by polymer type to be recycled in conventional industry. This means that the plastic has to be separated to an almost pure product in terms of chemical composition.

“Using the new technology, we are now a big step along the way,” says Associate Professor Mogens Hinge, who stresses that the technology is continuously being developed and that data indicates it may be possible to differentiate even further between polymer types and additives before long.

The hyper-spectral camera technology has been developed via cross-disciplinary collaboration, including BSc and MSc engineering students and researchers at the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering at Aarhus University as well as experts from the participating companies.

The research is part of Denmark’s Re-Plast project. The project is headed by the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering at Aarhus University. Other participants are the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Aarhus University, Vestforbrænding, Dansk Affaldsminimering and PLASTIX.

Source:

Aarhus University via Tech Xplore



Scientists created biodegradable food packaging that will eliminate harmful bacteria build-up in foods

Scientists created biodegradable food packaging that will eliminate harmful bacteria build-up in foods


Recently, scientists at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US have developed bacteria-killing biodegradable food packaging that addresses two major concerns of the food industry today – food waste and eco-friendliness.


Using this packaging can help keep food items stay fresh for a long period without getting spoiled.

In one experiment, the team wrapped fresh strawberries in the new packaging and compared their freshness against strawberries packaged in conventional plastic boxes.

The strawberries stay fresh for seven days before developing mold in the new packaging, while the strawberries that were kept inside the plastic boxes went only four days before turning moldy.

The packaging is made from a corn protein called Zein, starch, and other naturally derived compounds. 

These materials were infused with a cocktail of natural antimicrobial compounds such as the oil from citric acid, and thyme. Unlike regular plastics, these materials are biodegradable.

When the material detects any rise in enzymes and humidity levels from harmful bacteria in the food, the fibers will release a tiny amount of antimicrobial compounds that will eliminate those bacteria. Thus keeping the food fresh.

Dangerous microbes such as E. Coli and listeria from the foods are the major cause of food poisoning, intestinal tract, and diarrhea. 

The antimicrobial compounds contained in this packaging can kill these bacteria and common fungi that cause foods to turn bad quickly.

So, this packaging will ensure increased food safety too.

Scientists created biodegradable food packaging that will eliminate harmful bacteria build-up in foods
New biodegradable food packaging that will eliminate harmful bacteria build-up in foods

“Food safety and waste have become a major societal challenge of our times with immense public health and economic impact which compromises food security,” said Professor Philip Demokritou, Adjunct Professor of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School.

One of the most efficient ways to enhance food safety and reduce spoilage and waste is to develop efficient biodegradable non-toxic food packaging materials,” he added.

According to Professor Mary Chan, the director of NTU’s Centre for Antimicrobial Bioengineering, this packaging can be used for holding food items like fruits, vegetables, fish, raw meat, and other ready-to-eat meals.

“Vegetables are a source of wastage because even if they are refrigerated, they will continue to respire, leading to spoilage after a week or two,” said Professor Mary Chan. 

“With the anti-microbial packaging, there is a chance to extend their shelf life… and also make the vegetables and fruits look fresh with time,” she said. 

Multiple benefits

Even if this new packaging material is in its development phase, the researchers behind the packaging are already excited about what their invention could do for the food industry.

First of all, the packaging directly addresses the problem of food waste, with an extra two or three days of shelf life potentially offering both businesses and consumers the opportunity to save money and food.

In addition to this, the packaging is also praised as a strong alternative to plastic boxes, bags, and cartons because it is biodegradable – especially when used in scales.

As it stands, the world’s climate and pollution problems are heavily contributed by the use of plastics, including plastics used to package and transport food.

Scientists created biodegradable food packaging that will eliminate harmful bacteria build-up in foods
Traditional plastic is harmful to the environment

As per the university’s statement, 55 percent of Singapore’s household waste is made up of plastic and one-third of it comes from food packaging.

As such, it’s pretty obvious that the new material could help to alleviate some of the problems associated with food packaging today.

It was even more impressive to note that these compounds were released only when necessary – a feature that minimizes the risk of antimicrobials being consumed by consumers.


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“The smart release of antimicrobials only when bacteria or high humidity is present provides protection only when needed, thus minimizing the use of chemicals and preserving the natural composition of foods packaged,” said Mary Chan, director of the NTU Center for Antimicrobial Bioengineering.

“This invention would serve as a better option for packaging in the food industry,” said Professor Mary Chan.

Their research has been published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

This bacteria-killing biodegradable food packaging development is a part of NTU’s 2025 Strategic plan to promote sustainable food and technological solutions.

They’re also currently working on developing other ways of creating biopolymer-based smart food packaging materials, with food safety and quality retention the main goal.

This is a promising development, and one of hopefully many more alternatives to regular plastic packaging. However, it may be a while before their creation becomes commercially available.

Source:

whats good today



Scientists studying microplastics in Antarctica discover… it almost all came from their ship

Scientists studying microplastics in Antarctica discover… it almost all came from their ship


Scientists studying the origins of microplastics in Antarctica have discovered that 89 per cent of the samples they analysed came from the paint on their own ship.


The researchers had initially been shocked to find such large concentrations of microplastics in such a remote expanse of water in the Southern Ocean.

However, when they studied the samples in a laboratory they were able to confirm that a large percentage came from flakes of paint from their own vessel.

Microplastics are small plastic pieces, less than five millimetres long, and are known to be extremely harmful to ocean and aquatic life.

The team of researchers, from the University of Basel and the Alfred-Wegener Institute (AWI) at the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, were studying water from the Weddell Sea.

Area where Endurance got trapped

It is the same area where, in 1915, Ernest Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, got trapped and crushed by pack ice.

Over the course of two expeditions with the research vessel Polastern during 2018 and 2019, the researchers took a total of 34 surface water samples and 79 subsurface water samples.

They then filtered about eight million litres of seawater and discovered microplastics in it – albeit in very small quantities.

Earlier studies of microplastics in Antarctica were conducted in regions with more research stations, shipping traffic and people, but this one solely focused on a remote body of water.

The research team, led by Professor Patricia Holm and Dr Gunnar Gerdts from the AWI, thought that the remote Weddell Sea would have substantially lower concentrations of microplastics.

Prof. Dr. Patricia Holm (left) and Clara Leistenschneider on the research vessel Polarstern - SWNS
Prof. Dr. Patricia Holm (left) and Clara Leistenschneider on the research vessel Polarstern – SWNS

However, their measurements showed that microplastic concentrations were only partially lower than in other regions in Antarctica.

Clara Leistenschneider, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Environmental Sciences, said: “Establishing that microplastics are present in a given region is one thing.

“But it’s also important to know which plastics appear, in order to identify their possible origin and in the best case to reduce microplastic emissions from these sources.”

In order to find out where these plastics came from, the team analysed the composition of the particles.

The team found that a significant proportion of the particles were in fact microplastics that were used as a binding agent in marine paint.

Other microplastic particles were identified as polyethylene, polypropylene and polyamides. These were used in packaging materials and fishing nets, among other things.

More than half of all the sample fragments were also visually similar to the ship paint on the vessel on which the team was travelling.


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Identifying paint fragments

At the Centre for Marine Environmental Sciences (Marum) at the University of Bremen, the researchers analysed these fragments in more detail, by X-raying fluorescence (XRF) to identify pigments and fillers.

They were analysed in forensics, along with their plastic content, in a process normally used to identify cars in hit and run-type accidents.

In a circumstance like this one, paint slivers left at the accident site are the same as a vehicle’s fingerprints.

The analysis showed that 89 per cent of the 101 microplastic particles that were studied in detail came from the Polastern.

The remaining 11 percent came from other sources.

Ms Lesitenschneider added: “Developing alternative marine paint that is more durable and environmentally friendly would make it possible to reduce this source of microplastics and the harmful substances they contain.”

The findings were published in the journal Environmental Sciences and Technology.

Source:

Will Bolton at Yahoo! News