Floating Garbage Bins Succeed in Toronto

Toronto just announced that the Seabin trial project was a success and now they are expanding the program. Seabins are floating garbage cans that use a solar power pump to collect debris in the water, currently the Toronto ones collect about two kilos of waste per day. It’s crazy to think how much waste ends up in local waters of a city, but at least this project is happening now in the hopes that we’ll eventually taking out more garbage than we’re currently putting in.

To ensure that the Seabins also serve a research and education function, PortsToronto has taken the added step of partnering with the University of Toronto Trash Team on a student-research project led by Dr. Chelsea Rochman, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. As part of this collaborative initiative, students from the Rochman Lab will collect and analyze the plastics and microplastics captured by the Seabins to determine the origination of some of these materials. This process will, in turn, better inform the Trash Team’s solutions-based research and community outreach program which ultimately seeks to increase waste literacy and prevent plastics and microplastics from entering waterways in the first place.

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It’s OK to Not Wash Your Clothes

Want to save the planet? Reduce how often you wash your clothes, you don’t need to wash your shirt that you wore for only one day. This is something you can start doing today to help make a better tomorrow.

When it comes to your wardrobe overall you can alter what clothes you buy to ensure that you barely need to do laundry at all. There are new companies and clothing lines that focus on making clothes which are designed to survive multiple wears without getting dirty. I think it would be great to never have to launder anything again!

Decades of marketing from the cleaning industry has conditioned many people to throw their clothes in the laundry after one day’s wear, even though this is rarely necessary. So one of the biggest challenges for brands pitching clothes that don’t need to be washed frequently is to convince people that they will not be gross, smelly, or dirty if they aren’t constantly doing loads of laundry.

Bishop, for his part, decided to create wool blends with other materials, including nylon and linen to achieve different effects. Synthetic fibers, for instance, are able to make clothes more durable because they are hardier. This was a difficult decision, because while wool and other natural fibers are biodegradable, nylon, polyester, and other synthetics are plastic-based so they will not decompose, but sit in landfills forever. “We had some difficult decisions to make when it came to sustainability,” Bishop says. “But we decided that our goal as a brand was to make it easier for people to own fewer clothes, and keep them for longer. So we decided to incorporate synthetics.”

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Desalination Plants can Turn Their Waste into Solutions

Water

We all need water to live and we’re using our fresh water reserves faster than they can be replenished. South Africa knows this all too well, which is why there is an increased interest in desalination. Currently turning seawater into drinkable water is expensive and produces a lot of waste (like brine). Researchers around the world are looking to decrease the cost and waste of desalination systems so we can better manage our local water ecosystems. This month some research came out which proves desalination plants can convert byproducts of the process into on site useful chemicals.

The approach can be used to produce , among other products. Otherwise known as caustic soda, sodium hydroxide can be used to pretreat seawater going into the . This changes the acidity of the water, which helps to prevent fouling of the membranes used to filter out the salty water—a major cause of interruptions and failures in typical reverse osmosis desalination .

“The desalination industry itself uses quite a lot of it,” Kumar says of sodium hydroxide. “They’re buying it, spending money on it. So if you can make it in situ at the plant, that could be a big advantage.” The amount needed in the plants themselves is far less than the total that could be produced from the brine, so there is also potential for it to be a saleable product.

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Europe Bans Single Use Plastics

money

Plastics last a long time before breaking down, which makes them a major problem for the natural environment. This year we’ve seen a big push to ban “single use” plastics due to the environmental damage they bring. Plastic bag bans have been implemented in reasonable places and now the European Union is doing even better: they’re banning the ridiculous use of plastics in consumer goods.

The directive targets some of the most common ocean-polluting plastics.

The list of banned items such as cutlery and cotton buds was chosen because there are readily available alternatives, such as paper straws and cardboard containers.

Other items, “where no alternative exists” will still have to be reduced by 25% in each country by 2025. Examples given include burger boxes and sandwich wrappers.

MEPs also tacked on amendments to the plans for cigarette filters, a plastic pollutant that is common litter on beaches. Cigarette makers will have to reduce the plastic by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.

Another ambitious target is to ensure 90% of all plastic drinks bottles are collected for recycling by 2025. Currently, bottles and their lids account for about 20% of all the sea plastic, the European Parliament report said.

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Oysters Are Saving New York’s Waters

ocean shore

There are many fans of oysters who eat them for their failure; however, I’m a fan of oysters because of what they eat. Back in 2011 we looked at the idea of using oysters to clean waters while harbouring other species – with the bonus impact that the oysters then get served at local restaurants. Since 2011 the concept has grown around New York City so much so that the oysters have basically saved the city from some effects of climate change. Go oysters!

Then, the oysters begin doing what oysters do — which, it turns out, is quite a lot. Oysters are natural water filters; each one cleans 30 to 50 gallons of water a day. They also provide food and shelter for all sorts of marine creatures, supporting biodiversity. “Oyster reefs provide great marine habitat, similar to coral reefs, with nooks and crannies to protect juvenile fish, and are active food for some species. They help to create a thriving ecosystem,” Wachtel says.

But the biggest draw for many coastal states such as New York, especially in an era of rising sea temperatures and eviscerating hurricanes, is that oysters can provide natural breakwaters. Oyster reefs can protect against a hurricane’s wave velocity, which can destroy a city’s infrastructure. The New York Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery has partnered with Billion Oyster Project to install oysters on its $74 million Living Breakwaters Project, which aims to reduce and reverse erosion and damage from storm waves, improve the ecosystem health of Raritan Bay and encourage environmentally conscious stewardship of nearshore waters.

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