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April 01, 2011

Hawaii-sized Recycled Island to be Built from Ocean Garbage Patch

Mother Nature Network 4.1.11

PatchDutch architect Ramon Knoester has an ambitious design that will turn the 7 billion pounds of plastic trash swirling in the Pacific Ocean into the world's most eco-friendly society. That's right. He wants to create a 100 percent sustainable floating island for interested inhabitants. The island made from collected debris will bob somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. And although the idea may seem unthinkable, Koester's firm, WHIM architecture, is already in the process of designing a prototype for the fittingly named "Recycled Island," reports Discovery News.

Check out the project's website for more information about Recycled Island, or learn about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch here

Click here to read the full article.

Image: Ingrid Taylar/ Flickr

Bulgarian Government Pushes Fee on Plastic Carrier Bags

Plastics & Rubber Weekly 4.1.11

Zx500y290_997092 Beginning as early as July of 2011, the Bulgarian Government will impose a tax of 0.15 on Bulgaria's leva  (Bulgarian currency - €0.07) per plastic bag, increasing to 0.35 leva (€0.18) next year, to 0.45 leva (€0.23) in 2013, and up to 0.55 leva (€0.28) a year later, reports PRW. The progressive legislation is designed to help Bulgaria, which has one of the highest per capita uses of plastic bags in the European Union, with the growing waste problem and proliferation of plastic packaging waste. The country’s environmental ministry hopes the fee will deter the widespread consumption of plastic overall.

Similarly, the Bulgarian parliament has also amended other refuse related orders, including regulations on packaging waste, automotive waste, the treatment and transportation of waste from batteries and accumulators and the treatment of end of life electrical and electronic equipment.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: John Nyberg/sxc.hu

 

March 30, 2011

Turtle Found that Pooped Plastic for a Month

Mother Nature Network 3.30.11

Main_turtle_16 One of the more disturbing effects of our over-indulgence and reliance on use-and-toss disposables rests in the significant health risks it poses to animals via marine pollution. Of the issues being discussed this week at the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, one report that has experts talking is the appalling story of a sea turtle that ingested a large piece of plastic that became lodged in its gastrointestinal tract, preventing the turtle from normal digestion. After researchers dislodged the shard of plastic, the animal proceeded to defecate 74 foreign objects over the next month!

According to the report, which was issued by Seaturtle.org's Marine Turtle Newsletter (pdf), about half of all surveyed sea turtles have ingested plastic. 

See what shocking items this turtle ingested by reading the full article here. To access advice and follow conference events, visit the group's website here.
Image: Mnn.com

Republicans Scrap 'Compostable' Utensils in House Cafeterias

Los Angeles Times 3.25.11

60390430 After gaining control of the House, Republicans are piling their plates with a controversial issue that's separating lawmakers significantly along party lines.

According to Republicans, the use of "compostable" cups and utensils was "neither cost-effective nor energy-efficient," as reported by the L.A. Times. Notorious plastic utensils and flimsy polystyrene cups are back, and Democrats have a mouthful to say about it. Modifying utensils in the cafeteria, which serves approximately 230,000 meals a month, was an essential part of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Green the Capitol initiative.  Some lawmakers are advocating the wisdom of reusables by bringing mugs from home and suggesting metal spoons and forks as a solution to the issue.
 
Take a look at our disposable lunch item facts for information regarding cutlery and lunch waste.

Read the full article here.

Image: Jim Young / Reuters

Some Grocers Abandon Rebates for Reusable Bags

USA Today 3.25.11

20110316__USGroceryPushingReusables~1_VIEWER Grocery store chains including Kroger and Safeway are beginning to move away from the pennies-per-bag rebates they once supplied, saying they don't do enough to prevent customers from forgetting reusables in their cars or at home. In order to avoid plastic-bag bans and taxes, which could potentially cost supermarkets or their customers more money, many chains opted for rebates (credits), but they didn't produce the results owners hoped for.

Company officials said customer feedback indicates most want to use reusable bags, but it’s a matter of making it a habit. Kroger is utilizing plastic bag recycling containers and sprinkling parking lots with signs asking, "Are your reusable bags still in the car?" Kroger also holds bag design contests and giveaways and sends shoppers coupons for reusable bags.

Read about our stance on the downsides of cheap reusables here.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: USA Today

Plastic: Too Good to Throw Away

New York Times 3.23.11

18opedimg-popup Persistently avoiding plastic may seem key to combating over-consumption and the production of plastic-based materials, but, in reality, the issue is far more complex. In a recent Op-Ed piece, Susan Freinkel, a New York Times contributor and author of the forthcoming book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, dispels the common misconception that suggests shunning plastic and settling for bag bans and fees will drastically alter the ethos of our culture.

Instead, Freinkel advocates for shifting the public perception of plastic as cheap and worthless to durable and profitable by eliminating its presence in disposables.

 Check out our "I'm not a . . ." or "Thank you" series, which offer affordable, sustainable alternatives to use-and-toss disposables like plastic bottles and bags.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: www.nytimes.com

March 22, 2011

Bangalore: Plastic Bag Ban Remains Ineffective

Expressbuzz.com 3.17.11

2011031763900301 Bangalore, a city in south central India, recently implemented a ban on plastic bags of less than 40 microns that seems to have little effect on Bangaloreans. According to the notification from Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), March 15 was the deadline for banning such bags; but city folks were seen carrying bags of even less than 20 microns despite the ordinance. 

“Since a 40-50 micron bag costs more than a 20 micron-thick plastic bag, demand is always higher for the latter from medicine shops and small retailers,” according to a small scale plastic manufacturing unit owner as reported by Sohini Das

The previous provision focused on a thickness limit of 20 microns, but now the recent Plastic Handling Rules of 2011 mandates that manufacturers do not produce plastic below 40 microns in thickness. Without proper enforcement and continual awareness, shop-owners and consumers remain resistant to the newly modified ban.

Check out the full article here

Check out our stance on fees vs. bans here.

Image: Hindu.com

Japan's Wind Turbines Provide Power After Disaster

Treehugger.com 3.18.11

20110318-japan-wind-turbine Since last week, the scale of destruction caused by the Japanese trifecta disaster of earthquake-tsunami-nuclear power plant crisis, and the unfortunate casualties, has captivated individuals worldwide. As Japan struggles to recooperate, they're relying on a familiar, green power source.

Japan's wind turbines are currently producing 175 MW of Japan's approximate total wind capacity of 275 MW, according to the Huffington Post as reported by Kelly Rigg. Operators are being asked to increase operations where possible to assist with electricity shortfalls, and while shares in the Tokyo stock market have fallen during the crisis, the stock price of Japan Wind Development Co. Ltd. has risen from 31,500 yen on 11 March to 47,800 yen on 16 March, according to the Huffington Post.

To read the full article, click here

Image: Treehugger.com

 

China, Malaysia and Czech Republic Become Latest Nations to Ban BPA

GreenBiz.com 3.15.11

Detskelahvegrafika China, Malaysia and the Czech Republic have joined the list of countries setting bans on the notorious endocrine-mimicking chemical Bisphenol-A, which has been linked in lab tests to a wide range of health issues. However, the rationale behind the ban is arguably diminished by an erroneous compromise: Baby bottles will go, but cups, plastic food containers, receipts and the linings of tin cans containing BPA will remain available to the public. Only items with a higher probablility of exposure in children and infants are being targeted.

China's Ministry of Health announced it plans to ban any BPA-containing baby bottles or other food and drink items for children, but has no start date as of now, reported Shanghai Daily. Malaysia's ban on baby bottles made with BPA begins next March; and in order to comply with a European directive, the Czech Republic must recall polycarbonate baby bottles containing BPA as of June 1, 2011.

The Centers for Disease Control says 93-percent of us have BPA in our bodies.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: czechposition.com 

March 15, 2011

TED talk: Using Nature's Genius in Architecture

TED.com 02.11

How can architects fuel sustainable architecture and eliminate raw materials? Peering into the beautiful, organic world of molecular plant structures and insect biology, developers are looking at nature for answers. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn illustrates how biomimicry could potentially revolutionize the way humans develop and sustain resources.

This extraordinary science and art of emulating nature's complex biological systems to solve human issues involves three habits of nature: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun. Take a look at why Pawlyn suggests that adopting these habits is not only possible, but critical if we are to encourage sustainable design.

 

New Trade Organization for Sustainable Packaging

TreeHugger.com 3.10.11

Cola Packaging In order to facilitate sustainable packaging, prominent companies such as Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Kellogg's and others have formed a trade organization that will help the packaging industry maximize initiatives through relevant research and data collection. The Michigan-based institution, American Institution for Packaging and the Environment (Ameripen), will advocate science-based decision making by partnering with academic institutions, trade associations, non-profits and government agencies, according to Environmental Leader.

Earth911.com reports that packaging and containers contribute to approximately 56 percent of all plastic waste and about 75 percent of waste from residential households. As some of the most ubiquitously used product lines adopt more eco-friendly practices, we are one step closer to becoming a more sustainable economy.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: Treehugger.com

Plastic bag manufacturers sue Marin County over plastic bag ban

Plasticbaglaws.org 2.26.11

S-PLASTIC-BAG-BAN-REJECTED-large Following California's attempts to implement a statewide legislation to reduce consumption and distribution of plastic bags, Marin County and others continue to battle over effective methods of local regulation. Meanwhile, opposition groups like the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition pose a challenge.

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition (a plastics industry front group) filed suit against Marin County Feb. 24 over the plastic bag ordinance that the county's Board of Supervisors adopted in January, according to Plasticbaglaws.org. However, Marin County isn't the only one being targeted. The STPB has threatened and/or sued every California city that adopted a plastic bag ordinance after statewide legislation failed, leaving counties to consider their own bag fees and bans.

To read the full article, click here

Check out our stance on fees vs. bans here.

March 04, 2011

Hawaii County Council advances plastic bag ban bill

Hawaii Tribune-Herald 2.17.11

HawaiiCouncil-250x159 The Hawaii County Council advanced a bill that would make the island of Hawaii the third island to prohibit retailers from distributing plastic bags to consumers for free. However, the bill has been met with controversy as councilmen and retail merchants battle over penalty provisions and enforcements. In Kauai County, its council is already revising its bag ban less than a month after it went into effect in order to address complications that surfaced.

Despite controversy, Maui and Kauai implemented plastic bag bans January, 11, 2011, which have been praised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for reducing waste and preventing plastic from accumulating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, potentially harming turtles and other marine life.

Read more about out stance on fees vs. bans here.

Read the full article from Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

Image:Change.org

 

January 13, 2011

Italy bans the bag in 2011

Treehugger.com 1.3.11

Italy-Ban-Plastic-Bags Earlier this month Italy took a dramatic step to reduce its consumption of single- use, non-biodegradable plastic bags – use of such bags is now banned as of New Year’s Day. According to several reports, Italy was one of Europe’s top plastic bag consumers – using about 1/5th of the 100 billion bags used annually across Europe.  

Despite opposition from some retailers who argue that biodegradable bags are too expensive and not as durable, similar bans in other countries have proven successful. According to Treehugger, China’s bag ban has kept 100 billion bags out of the landfill since its inception two years ago.

Bag fees have also proved successful over the years – from Washington DC’s recent 5 cent fee to Ireland’s PlasTax back in 2002.

While we applaud Italy’s effort to curb wasteful consumption of plastic shopping bags, we continue to advocate plastic bag fees and taxes over bans for the following reasons:

  1. Fees are market-based solutions that get people to change their consumption habits – and with a nudge not a shove. Even small, 5-cent fees make a huge impact.
  2. Fees are practical for the consumer.
  3. There is evidence that fees can be adopted in the U.S., and they work! We have an example of a major city (D.C.) reducing consumption of use-and-toss bags by 80% with a small fee.
  4. The money collected from fees can go directly toward addressing the problem.
  5. If you don’t like the idea of your money going to fatten government coffers, no problem. Bring your own bag, and they don’t get a dime.

Read more about our stance on fees vs bans here.

Read the full Treehugger article here.

Image: Guardian

December 07, 2010

BPA exposure may lead to pregnancy difficulties

Mouse-science-diabetes Discovery 12.2.10

A study published this month in Environmental Health Perspectives focuses on the affect endocrine-disrupting chemical(and popular water bottle/receipt additive) Bisphenol-A has on the reproductive abilities of mammals over the course of their lifetime. While the study focused on mice, researchers believe the results may lead to further concern for humans in contact with the ubiquitous substance.

The study involved allowing a selection of female mice to become pregnant. At that point, the pregnant mice were separated and given BPA-containing solutions. The concentration of BPA in these solutions ranged from miniscule amounts to a mouse-sized version of the human dose. A control group was given none.

These different groups of mice were then allowed to continue breeding throughout their lifespan to see how the amount of BPA would affect their ability to breed.

Within four months, litters of those given the BPA solution had shrank by 25%, and the frequency of pregnancies was also notably lower.

Read more about it at Discovery.

November 19, 2010

Another good reason to wash your hands...

Serving-hands Science News 12.4.10

French scientists recently published three alarming new studies on how Bisphenol-A enters the human body.

Their research supports the idea that BPA can pass through the skin with relative ease. One study focused on about 400 pregnant Cincinnati residents, and found that those with the highest levels of BPA worked as cashiers. Cashiers handle receipts, and many receipts that do not use ink to print contain BPA.

In order to confirm this, the researchers took several live skin samples from pig and human subjects, and then brushed the dry skin samples with varying amounts of BPA. Three days later, more than half of the endocrine-disrupting chemical had been absorbed.

Read more on the study at Science News.

TED talk: Are mushrooms the new plastic?

TED.com 10.4.10

In July, Eben Bayer gave a speech at an Oxford TED conference detailing how his company turns agricultural waste into truly biodegradable packing material. How biodegradable? It's literally grown from a fungus.

Polystyrene (or styrofoam, as many know it) is commonly used to pack delicate hardware and breakables for shipping; When it degrades in nature, it releases carcinogens. If adopted for widespread use, Bayer's packing material could reduce the production and disposal of polystyrene immensely.

 

November 18, 2010

ACC Helps Block BPA Legislation

 New York Times  11.17.10         

Just yesterday, the American Chemistry Council successfully mobilized Republicans to block a pending food safety bill attempting to limit the use of BPA in baby bottles and dinking cups.

The bill would allow a six-month grace period for baby item manufacturers to cease use of the endocrine-disrupting chemical.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, expressed consternation, positing that the ACC’s choice to block the bill placed potential monetary gain over the health of our nations infants.

Read the whole article at The New York Times.

Spreading the word, one vacuum at a time

Electrolux-Concept-Vacs-x2-178x178 10.18.10 MSNBC

Stockholm-based appliance company Electrolux AB recently produced a custom set of five vacuum cleaners made from water-bourne plastic trash.

The refuse was collected from different oceans and seas across the globe, with each locale’s most prevalent trash dictating its vacuum’s unique look.

Though the vacuums are not for sale, they do work. Electrolux hopes these fashionable, functional pieces of art will begin a discussion about the growing problem of water-bound plastic pollution and perhaps even move people away from the use-and-toss culture that led to the current situation.

Read more at MSNBC.

November 16, 2010

"Pollution in China" Documents industrial toll on the environment

Chinahush Lu Guang, a freelance photographer from the People's Republic of China, won the 2009 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography. He shot a series of images illuminating the environmental devastation resulting from an industrial society more concerned with the quantity of exports produced than the quality or global impact.

While this photography is almost a year old, we thought it was powerful enough to pass along.

Warning: You may find many of these images disturbing and/or graphic.

See the images collected at China Hush.

Cheap Chain Store Reusable Bags Contain Lead

80314_111510-walmart-black
11.16.2010 Tampa Bay Online

Illustrating in no uncertain terms the dangers of cheap, low-quality reusables, recent studies have found that the inks illustrating reusable bags sold at some chain stores contain alarming levels of lead. Stores involved include Winn-Dixie and Publix.

Read about our stance on the dangers of cheap reusables here.

Check out the complete New York Times piece here.

Update: And for those interested, here is the original article that broke the story.

October 28, 2010

Study Quantifies The Sins of Greenwashing

Posters Terrachoice.org 10.26.10

A report released by marketing company TerraChoice is claiming that at least 95% of products marketing themselves as environmentally-friendly or "green" are guilty of some kind of greenwashing.


The sweeping study analyzed the claims of 2,583 Canadian products, 1,960 American products, and 753 products found in both markets for a grand total of 5,296. It focuses on "environmental claims made by the North American consumer market" and has broken down greenwashing into seven common marketing patterns which they have dubbed "The 7 Sins of Greenwashing.

Some of these include "Sin of Irrelevence," "Sin of No Proof" and "Sin of Fibbing."

One of their more shocking findings is a condemnation of green claims from the toy and baby product industry. They found some form of greenwashing in 99.2 to 100% of such labels.

Read the complete study at the Sins of Greenwashing Website.

October 19, 2010

Washington DC Bag Fee Update

CNNmoney.com 10.5.10

Ten months after it was imposed, the fee on disposable bags in Washington, DC still makes sense, although it's not bringing quite the revenue boost that the district was hoping for.

 

Before the tax went into effect, the district's Chief Financial Officer was projecting income of $3.6 million dollars. But so far income has only amounted to $1.3 million.

 

This is reason to celebrate; it means the fee works. Because people are required to pay for bags upfront, people are using half as many plastic bags as before.

 

Under the tax, district residents are charged 5 cents for each disposable bag they got at the store. One penny goes to the shop while the other four cents go to the city. The four cents going to the city go toward cleaning up polluted rivers. Those in charge of cleaning up those rivers claim that they have already noticed a reduction in bag pollution.

 

Read the complete article at CNN Money.

Canada First to Proclaim BPA a Toxic Compound

Reuters 10.14.10

With little fanfare, Canada added BPA to a list of potentially harmful compounds.

They banned the endocrine-disrupting chemical from plastic baby bottles in March, with this announcement being just the latest anti-BPA measure for the progressive country. 

Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defense, believes it is only a matter of time before more is done; "The risk assessment of BPA put together by our federal government is very strong in terms of its conclusions, so I think it's a foregone conclusion that it will drive further action rather quickly," Smith said.

Read more about it on Reuters.

 

 

 

New Exhibit Turns Polluted Beaches Into Art

IMG_3392-2 Treehugger 10.18.10

From fish to birds and beyond, countless animals die each day from ingesting beach and ocean-bound plastic.

In an effort to raise awareness of this issue, volunteers from the Artula Institute are collecting beach trash, and fashioning it into giant sculptures of birds, fish, and whale bones.

 

Read the whole Treehugger Article, check out the Washed Ashore project website, and take a look at Chris Jordan's photography, which one of the project's organizers cited as an inspiration.

October 14, 2010

The Great Atlantic Garbage Patch

WHOI 8.20.2010

Scientists with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Sea Education Association have been collecting data concerning the presence of plastic in the Atlantic Ocean for several decades. They've recently published a pair of studies analyzing the data. Here are a few highlights from the writeup in Oceanus:

Assessing 22 years of data collected by SEA ships ... researchers found that more than 60 percent of the tows contained detectable plastic debris. Average densities rivaled those reported from the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” ranging from 1,400 pieces per square kilometer in the Caribbean to more than 20,000 pieces per square kilometer in the Sargasso Sea.

Yes, you read that right. Average density of plastic debris in large areas of the Atlantic "rivaled" the Pacific Garbage Patch. If that's not scary enough, it shattered the Pacific Patch's record in other areas.

...the highest value recorded during the 22-year period was 580,000 pieces per square kilometer at 24.6°N east of the Bahamas. The region, where 83 percent of all the plastic debris was collected, is known as the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, a part of the ocean bounded by a series of wind-driven currents, such as the Gulf Stream, that collectively flow clockwise around the subtropical North Atlantic.

In areas of the North Atlantic, we've recorded plastic present at 30 times the amount of the now-legendary Pacific Patch.

Additionally the research has lead SEA and WHOI to a few answers and a number of intriguing new questions; If PET plastic bottles litter our beaches and continue to make their way into the ocean, why have we found almost no trace of them in the oceanic samples?

Learn more by reading the complete Oceanus article here.

FTC Combats Greenwashing

Ftc-issues-new-labelling-guidelines-for-ecofriendly-products-bkt_5488 Inc. 10.7.2010

The Federal Trade Commission recently revised guidelines for products being labelled as "degradable," "eco-friendly," or "recyclable."

This is part of an effort to put an end to the disparity between what companies and consumers consider an environmentally-friendly product. Any label making such claims will have to be able to back up such declaration with "competant and reliable scientific evidence."

The FTC will be able to take action if it considers a company's marketing to be deceptive or flat-out untrue. This would initially come in the form of a cease-and-desist order, which becomes a fine with further violations.

Check out the whole article on Inc.com.

 

September 21, 2010

A Safe New Way to Dispose of BPA

White-rot-fungus-1 Scientific American 5.10.2010

A new strategy for disposing of plastic containing the pollutant Bisphenol-A was recently published in the journal Biomacromolecules.

Researchers experimenting with fungus already used for bioremediation pre-treated plastic with ultraviolet light and heat. They buried the treated plastic and used untreated plastic as a control group, exposing both to a variety of microorganisms already used for bioremediation (cleaning up polluted sites by way of intentional exposure to certain life forms--fungus in this case).

One year later the control plastic remained untouched, while the treated plastic had been completely broken down by the microorganisms, leaving no trace of the endocrine disruptor.

Check out the abstract in Biomacromolecules or the Scientific American Podcast that brought it to our attention.

American Samoa Bans the Bag

USA Today 9.2.10

U.S. territory American Samoa has signed a law banning stores from handing out plastic shopping bags.

The law will take effect Feb. 23, and excludes biodegradable shopping bags and compostable plastic bags.

This ban was signed only a few days after California rejected a very similar law, although a growing number of California cities have taken steps to ban bags at a local level. Some of these cities include San Francisco, Palo Alto, Malibu, and others.

Read the full article here.

Our Take: We like their commitment to reducing consumption, however it's fees - not bans - that are the best way to go. Ireland's PlasTax reduced plastic bag consumption by 90% in its first year alone.

Dutch Plan to Turn Waste Into Living Space

Ventnor Blog - 6.30.10

A group of scientists from Holland are planning to construct an "Eco Island" by collecting and recycling just under 100 million pounds of plastic bottles from the Pacific Ocean.
 
The plan is to create a completely habitable island and populate it with about 500,000 people. The proposed island would be the size of Hawaii, self-sufficient for food, and would use solar and wave power to supplement its power supply.

Read the full story here.

Our Take: This is a clever way to raise worldwide awareness of a plethora of issues concerning waste. The project touches on everything from land usage, carbon footprint reduction and power consumption to plastic waste and the polluted state of our oceans.
 
Sadly, the amount of plastic to be used in the proposed island would be less than 20% of the amount disposed of by the US in just 2008, and we've already called plenty of attention to the folly of trying to solve the plastic bag problem through recycling.

BPA Wiping Out Lobster Population

Lobster-die-offs Treehugger 8.11.10

Scientists at the University of Connecticut recently linked a major decline in the population of lobsters native to the New York coast with a rise in a few pollutants, including bisphenol A(BPA) from plastic waste.

The three-year, $3 million dollar study claims that a specific group of pollutants are working as endocrine disruptors. This lengthens the maturing lobsters' molting cycle, leaving them without chitinous armor for weeks at a time. This further results in deformities, increased susceptibility to disease, and in many cases, death. The coastal lobster population has declined 85% in the last twelve years.

Read the whole article here.

Our Take: Most of us have heard about BPA leaching from some plastic bottles. This article just offers further cause for worry. This data confirms the no-brainer advice we've been giving for years - avoid BPA as much as possible. And remember, it's not just plastics that pose a risk. Cans are another important source of BPA

Catastrophes like this come from decades of mindless waste and pollution. Buy high-quality reusables; they won't wind up floating in the ocean and they don't contain toxins like BPA to begin with.

Plastiki Completes Voyage

S-PLASTIKI-large The Huffington Post - 7.23.10

The Plastiki has been sailing the Pacific Ocean since mid-March and recently reached the destination of its maiden voyage. The journey lasted four months and spanned approximately 8,300 miles from San Francisco to Australia.
 
The expedition aimed to raise awareness of plastic over-consumption. The Plastiki's hull was constructed of more than 12,000 empty plastic bottles. The Plastiki website estimated that over the course of the intercontinental excursion, the United States used more than 8.7 billion plastic bottles.

Read the full article here.

Our Take: Interesting way for an eccentric heir to draw attention to the problem of water-bound plastics and illustrate how plastic garbage can be reused in innovative ways. For more, read our article on plastic's impact on oceans.

Greener Polycarbonate Production

BPAfreeBottles Researchers from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore have developed a new method of polycarbonate production that could be used to manufacture BPA-free bottles in the near future.

The bottles would be non-toxic and leach-free, plus the production method would literally take greenhouse gasses out of the air and use them as ingredients to create the bottles. The new polycarbonate can contain 40% C02 by volume. Read the full article here.

Our Take: While this new technology is only in its infancy, the adoption of such green-friendly practices by companies such as Eastman-Tritan(link to Eastman Tritan FAQ) would mark notable progress to reducing our carbon footprint, and another reason to feel good about using a high-quality reusable bottle.

September 08, 2010

California lawmakers reject bag bans

ABC.com 9.1.10

This September, lawmakers rejected AB 1998, a measure that would ban single-use grocery bags in grocery stores and pharmacies throughout the state of California. The law included a provision that stated shoppers could buy one for 4 to 6 cents during check-out.

Those opposing the bill crossed partisan lines, with both Democrats and Republicans claiming the bill would take too much freedom out of the hands of the everyday consumer.

Read more about it on ABC.com.

June 09, 2010

McDonald's Recalls 12 Million Toxic $2 Cups

GreenBiz.com 6.4.10

Shrek's not the only one turning green over McDonald's recent recall of 12 million Shrek Forever After-themed glasses due to the existence of the toxic metal cadmium in the paint. GreenBiz reports, "As part of the voluntary recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warned consumers to stop using the glasses immediately.

The $2 glasses feature characters from “Shrek Forever After” and could cause a danger to children if they come into extended contact with the paint, the cadmium leaches into their skin and they touch their mouths.

McDonald's said that it will provide refunds for the glasses, and will be posting instructions on June 8 on a website set up for the recall."

Read the article here.

Our Take: For years we've warned against the use of cheap reusables. From giveaway bags that fall apart to cheap bottles from unknown origins, the risks associated with these products is far greater than the savings associated with them. We hope this is a lesson people take to heart - you get what you pay for. 

May 27, 2010

Peter Gleick discusses Our Obsession With Bottled Water

6a00d8341c670d53ef0111688740b1970c-200wi NPR 5.17.10

Peter Gleick, freshwater expert and author of Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, recently sat down with NPR to discuss the plague of bottled water in the United States. He contends that most bottled water comes from municipal water supplies which makes us wonder - how is this a multi-billion dollar global industry? 

Stop getting scammed. Bring your own bottle and spare the landfills. 

Read more here, and listen to the interview below.

April 17, 2010

Plastiki Reports from the Middle of the Ocean

The New York Times - 3.30.10

IPlastikiSiten mid-March, the Plastiki set sail from San Francisco, making its way through the North Pacific Garbage Patch toward its final destination - Sydney, Australia. The mission of the journey is to draw attention to the growing pollution and problems caused by our reliance on disposable plastic items. The ship, made in part of recycled plastic bottles, embodies another part of the team's mission, demonstrating a possibility for creative reuse of what would otherwise be waste.

Read the entire NYT article here.

You can also track the Plastiki's journey here or join the pledge to stop using disposable water bottles.

Our Take: For more, read our article on plastic's impact on oceans.

April 16, 2010

Santa Cruz county Green-lights Plastic Bag Ban

KSBW.com 4.13.2010

"Santa Cruz County supervisors have given the green light to a shopping bag ordinance that would ban the use of plastic bags and impose a surcharge on paper bags. Before the new ordinance goes into effect, however, an environmental study must be conducted, which could delay the new law by more than a year. The ban would have shoppers in the county provide their own bags to take groceries home - or pay a 10-cent fee for paper bags."

Read the article here.

Our Take: It's always good news when a municipality takes action on the plastic bag issue - and it's a smart twist to charge for plastic bags. However, instead of bag bans, bag fees designed to curb consumption are smarter, market-based solutions. Ireland's PlasTax, for example, reduced plastic bag consumption by more than 90% in the first year alone.

Werner Herzog bags a bizarre voiceover roll

The Guardian Online 4.8.10

"The last of the great auteur directors voices the role of a plastic grocery bag in a philosophical short film by much-tipped director Ramin Bahrani."

Read the article here.

Watch the video in our blog.

Our Take: A great reminder that those free plastic bags are never actually free. It closely follows the three phases of a plastic bag's life, and corresponding costs, in our Real Cost of Free Plastic Bags.

The Story of Bottled Water

Huffington Post - 3.22.10

Annie Leonard, the woman behind The Story of Stuff, describes the inspiration behind her newest eye-opening short film - bringing home the truth behind the wasteful bottled water industry and the fears that keep people buying in. 

Leonard describes the video as "a seven-minute animated film that, like The Story of Stuff, uses simple images and words to explain a complex problem caused by what I call the 'take-make-waste' economy. In this case, we explain how you get Americans to buy half a billion bottles of water a week when most can get it almost free from the tap in their kitchen. The answer, of course, is you manufacture demand--make people think they need to spend money on something they don't actually need or already have."

Read the article here.

Watch the video.

Our Take: Annie Leonard is right on the money again. We've been drawing attention to the sham of bottled water since our launch in 2003, and not only is it a waste of money, it is a trend that's doing incredible damage to our environment and natural resources. Instead, use high-quality reusable bottles and fill them yourself!

April 15, 2010

Tapped Faces Opposition on the Road

Getoffthebottle-white Halfway through their month-long tour celebrating the release of their controversial documentary, the makers of Tapped have run into plenty of opposition from bottled water companies as they try to promote their Get Off the Bottle message.

The crew was banned from one of their favorite talk shows, despite the host's desire to promote the film, because Pepsi is her largest advertiser. Opposition from other companies raking in millions of bottled water dollars (Nestle and Coke, just to name a few) has made getting the word out about the film and the tour a struggle. 

Determined to get the word out about the world water crisis and the perils of plastic, the Tapped crew has rallied their supporters to email Oprah and urge her to have them on her show when they stop in Chicago.

Check out the Tapped website to see when they're coming to your city, and take the pledge to Get Off the Bottle.  You can check out the trailer, and find out how to promote Tapped on our blog

Our Take: We're big fans of this important film and encourage our readers to help get the word out. High-quality reusable bottles are a simple way we can all cut back on this wasteful habit.

March 10, 2010

EPA Faces Criticism But Says They Will Act Soon on BPA

FresnoBee.com - 3.9.10

"Responding to criticism that the Environmental Protection Agency delayed action on regulating the chemical bisphenol A, Administrator Lisa Jackson said Monday that her agency is planning to "finalize an action plan on BPA in the very near future."

"For those who are worried about whether we've backed away from this, they shouldn't be worried at all," she said at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington.

Jackson's agency has come under fire in recent weeks for delaying action on the chemical eight days after Obama administration officials met with chemical industry lobbyists to talk about BPA."

Read the entire article here

Our Scoop: Study Finds High-Quality Reusable Bags Best for the Environment

Green Cities California - 3.10

A recent study by ICF International compared the environmental impact of single-use paper and plastic bags, biodegradable bags and reusable bags on a number of factors including resources, public services, land use planning, waste reduction and energy systems. The analysis concluded that reusable bags (even more so, high-quality reusable bags) are the best option for the environment. The report's findings may be used to influence future policies regarding bans and fees for single-use bags in California. The study points to Ireland's successful bag fee as a way to reduce use of single-use bags by up to 90%.

Read the executive summary here or the entire report here.

5-cent Bag Fee Proposed for Maryland

The Baltimore Sun - 3.10.10

"While Baltimore lawmakers appear to be backing away from regulating disposable bags in the city, some legislators in Annapolis want to require merchants statewide to charge customers a nickel per bag for most throwaway sacks they now get for free to carry away their purchases..The fee would not apply to bags for certain goods, such as produce, candy, meats, flowers, carryout food from a restaurant and small hardware items.  Merchants could keep one cent of the fee for their trouble collecting it - and another two cents if they offer customers credits for bringing in their own reusable bags.   Any bags distributed by stores would have to be recyclable - 40 percent post-consumer if paper, or polyethylene code 2 or 4 if plastic."

Read the entire article here.

To Pay or Not to Pay for Bags in US

Associated Press - 2.22.10

This widely-circulated article looks at whether the U.S. will see bag fees become a larger trend following the recent bag fee passed in D.C.

"While one major city, San Francisco, has banned plastic bags, Washington's law is the first of its kind in the United States. It is being carefully watched by activists who hope that one strong success will prove the tipping point for a program aimed at reducing litter, pollution and waste.

'Whichever state is going to pull this is off is going to have the potential to be seen as the one that has cracked this problem,' said Vincent Cobb, founder of reuseit.com"

Read the entire article here.

February 08, 2010

Plastiki to set sail soon

The New York Times - 2.7.10

Plastiki
"Typhoons. Hurricanes. Cyclones. Tidal waves. Sharks. As if designing a boat to cope with all that on the 11,000-mile voyage from San Francisco to Sydney isn't daunting enough, this one also has to be environmentally irreproachable. That's the point of 'The Plastiki,' which is due to set sail next month after three years of planning, research and construction. the aim of the voyage is to raise awareness of global waste and, to practice what it preaches, the 60-foot, or 18-meter, boat has been made from some 13,000 recycled plastic water bottles..."

Read the entire article here.

Our Take: Interesting way for an eccentric heir to draw attention to the plastic waste issue. After a few delays, we're ready to see the ship set sail!

February 03, 2010

Johsua Allen Harris' Inflatable Bag Monsters

YouTube 7.08

We discovered Harris' haunting art back in 2008. This video shows more of his plastic bag work - and some insights from the artist himself.


Or, watch it here.

Our Take: Very cool - this is still the most creative use of plastic bags we've seen!

WSJ editorial blasts BPA threat

The Wall Street Journal - 1.30.10

 Wall_street_journal_logo
In light of recent news that the FDA will conduct more research on the safety of BPA, a skeptical editorial questions whether the chemical is really worthy of all the fear and controversy it has created. "Because of the public anxiety the publicity has generated over BPA, it's disconcerting that the FDA plans to seek 'further public comment and external input on the science surrounding BPA' in advance of a reassessment. That means the FDA reassessment will be subject to as much political pressure as activists can produce.

If the FDA wants to further investigate BPA for health effects, then the agency should make sure that it evaluates real science. In the BPA war, that isn't easy. But that's what a public made uneasy by scare stories deserves."

Read the entire editorial here.

Our Take: This whole editorial sounds like something written by someone cozy with the plastics industry. Being concerned for our health and the health of our children isn't paranoia, it's good sense. It's time the government takes the threat of BPA seriously, like it did with lead years ago.

January 18, 2010

FDA Shifts its Position and Expresses Concern About BPA

New York Times - 1.15.10

"Government evaluations of BPA have had a contentious history. The drug agency wrote a draft report calling it safe in 2008. But shortly after that, the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, said BPA was cause for “some concern,” citing the same issues that the drug agency is now agreeing to: potential effects on the brain, behavior and prostate in fetuses, infants and children.

Then the drug agency asked an independent panel of scientific advisers to review its draft report, and the panel gave it a scathing review. It accused the F.D.A. of ignoring important evidence and giving consumers a false sense of security about the chemical. The drug agency promised to reconsider BPA, and the announcement on Friday fulfilled that pledge.

“We are for the first time saying we believe there is some concern about the substance’s safety, and we’ve closed the gap between N.I.H. and F.D.A.,” Dr. Sharfstein of the F.D.A. said in an interview."

Read more here.

January 13, 2010

BPA exposure linked to heart disease

U.S. News & World Report - 1.13.10

 Usnews
"A previously reported link between exposure to the plastics chemical bisphenol A and heart disease stands, reports a new study published online January 12 in PLoS ONE.

Click here to find out more!
Added to previous work, the finding provides a third prong of evidence implicating the chemical in cardiovascular and metabolic problems, notes Richard Stahlhut of the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology at the University of Rochester in New York. “It’s becoming a coherent picture that really does fit together,” says Stahlhut, who was not involved in the research. “If these all connect, we really do have a problem...

Stahlhut cautions that there is still a lot about BPA that warrants investigation. Chlorinated BPA is detectable in the fat tissue of women and children, scientists from Spain reported in 2007 and 2008. “This plus this, plus this, means we better chase this,” Stahlhut says.”

Read the entire article here.