Plastic Waste

Microplastics from laundry machines found in the arctic
Esmarkbreen,Isfjorden, Spitsbergen
Esmarkbreen,Isfjorden, Spitsbergen Credit: Gunvor Røkke (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Polyester fibres traced from laundry machines in North America and Europe have been discovered in Arctic seawater. The microplastics are thought to have drifted into the Arctic from the Atlantic ocean.

Scientists do not yet know the impact of these microplastics on the Arctic, its marine life, and the communities that live there.

Climate & Environment
Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé have been named top plastic polluters for 3rd year in a row
Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé have been named top plastic polluters for 3rd year in a row
Credit: / Dustan Woodhouse

The organization Break Free From Plastic has released its annual audit, stating that Coca-Cola is the number one plastic polluter in the world followed by Nestlé and Pepsi. 15,000 volunteers had previously identified littered plastic around the world. In total 346,394 pieces of plastic had been found of which 63% had a clear consumer brand on it.

In total 13,834 pieces had the Coca-Cola brand on them, 8,633 Nestlé and 5,155 Pepsi.

Climate & Environment
German Bundestag votes for law banning plastic bags from 2022 on
German Bundestag votes for law banning plastic bags from 2022 on
Credit: / Christopher Vega

German Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) has stated that "The plastic bag is the epitome of a waste of resources" following the decision to ban plastic shopping bags in supermarkets from 2022 on.

The ban will affect plastic shopping bags with a wall thickness of 15 to 50 micrometers - these are the standard bags usually available at the cash register. The only exceptions are the thin plastic bags that for example are found in the fruit and vegetable department.

Scientists have developed a new technique to detect microplastic in human organs
Scientists have developed a new technique to detect microplastic in human organs
Credit: / Marc Newberry

Rolf Halden at Arizona State University has stated that "we are now providing a research platform that will allow us and others to look for what is invisible – these particles too small for the naked eye to see" as the health risk "really resides in the small particles".

The impact of microplastics in organs on human health is not yet known, but the researches expect to find it in future patients. They now developed a technique to detect chemical traces and tested it on samples of organs such as the lung, liver and kidney. The researchers were able to detect the microplastics in all 47 samples.

Future studies on the health effects of "these non-biodegradable materials" will be conducted according to Varun Kelkar of Arizona State University.

Climate & Environment
Prime Minister of Canada announces ban of single-use plastic by 2021
Prime Minister of Canada announces ban of single-use plastic by 2021
Credit: / Jasmin Sessler

The Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau has announced that Canada will ban single-use plastic "such as plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates, and stir sticks" in 2021 "and take other steps to reduce pollution from plastic products and packaging".

In a press release, the Government states that less than 10 percent of the plastic in Canada gets recycled and that by reducing plastic waste a reduction of "1.8 million tonnes of carbon pollution" could be achieved, as well as the creation of assumed 42,000 jobs and "billions of dollars in revenue" as a result of investments in new and innovative technologies.

Climate & Environment
Japan implements mandatory fee for plastic bags
Japan implements mandatory fee for plastic bags
Credit: / Brian Yurasits

The Japanese government has implemented a mandatory rule for all retail outlets to charge costumers for plastic bags. The previously free plastic bags will now only be handed out for a fee.

The goal is to reduce plastic waste as the bags often end up in oceans and decompose there into microplastics which enter the food chain.

Climate & Environment
Ocean Voyages Institute removes 103 tons of fishing nets and consumer plastic from Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Plastic fished out of the ocean on a ship
Plastic fished out of the ocean on a ship Credit: Ocean Voyages Institute

The Ocean Voyages Institute has more than doubled their previous record during the 48-day expedition and removed 103 tons of finish nets and consumer plastic from the ocean before returning to Honolulu, Hawaii. The executive director and founder of the group, Mark Crowley has stated that he is "so proud of our hard working crew" and that they exceeded their "goal of capturing more than 100 tons of toxic consumer plastics and derelict ‘ghost’ nets—and in these challenging times, we are continuing to help restore the health of our ocean, which influences our own health and the health of the planet".

Climate & Environment
Germany and Netherlands to ban disposable plastic in 2021
Germany and Netherlands to ban disposable plastic in 2021
Credit: Twentyfirstidentity (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The State Secretary Van Veldhoven of the Netherlands has announced that the country will ban disposable plastic such as cups and cutlery from July 3, 2021.

The ban is part of a directive by the European Union which requires all EU countries to put similar measures in place to reduce plastic waste. Germany had already announced similar measures.

Lifestyle • Travel
Carnival Corp. fined $20 million after dumping trash into ocean from cruise ship
Cruise Ship "Carnival Horzion"
Cruise Ship "Carnival Horzion" Credit: Elliott Bryson III / CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The cruise company Carnival has been fined with a fine of $20 million after repeatedly dumping waste into the ocean. Carnival admitted that it violated the terms of a probation conviction from 2017 for improper waste disposal. The subsidiary company Princess Cruises has released food waste and plastic into the ocean in addition to not accurately documenting waste disposals and measures to fix issues on the ships before third-party inspections in order to prevent negative reports and without disclosing the fixes to such inspectors.

Climate & Environment
Kenya: Single-use plastic ban takes effect on Friday
Plastic bottle on beach
Plastic bottle on beach Credit: @seefromthesky

Kenya forbids single-use plastics in the country's protected areas like national parks, forests and beaches. These include water bottles, straws and other single-use packaging. This ban was first announced three years ago and takes effect on June 6th, World Environment Day.

Climate & Environment
Taiwan's Green Island introduces project for waste reduction
Sign for a water refill station
Sign for a water refill station Credit: Thomas

Green Island, a small volcanic island and tourist attraction east of Taiwan, is introducing a plan to reduce plastic waste. To counteract the use of bottled water, the island will grant access to 33 potable water facilities in public locations where travellers can refill their own water bottles.

Science • Nature
Researchers found highest recorded level of microplastics on seafloor
Underwater particles reflecting light
Underwater particles reflecting light Credit:

A team of researchers found the highest levels of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor with up to 1.9 million particles per square meter.

Each year over 10 million tons of plastic waste finds its way into the oceans, though only 1% is found in shallower waters while 99% is thought to occur in the deep oceans, where microplastics and plastic fragments get transported by deep-sea currents where they are concentrated in 'microplastic hotspots'.

Climate & Environment
French company Carbios creates enzyme that recycles plastic bottles in hours

While current recycling technologies are only able to break plastic bottles down to chemical building blocks that are suitable for reuse in clothing and carpets, the new enzyme makes it possible to recycle plastic bottles and make new bottles out of them. The French company Carbios cooperates with companies like Pepsi and says that it is aiming to bring the new recycling technology to industrial size within five years.