The advertising around plastics highlights how recyclable it is, but in reality plastics are a pollutant that barely get recycled in a meaningful way (this is why the 3Rs are in a particular order: reduce, reuse, recycle). Plastics come in all sorts of densities, colours, and strength, but are traditionally made using petroleum. The source of most plastics is unsustainable and the waste generated by plastics after use is equally unsustainable. In fact, the waste produced by plastics has led Canada to categorize plastics as toxic!
By declaring plastics toxic more rules and regulations will need to be followed to ensure that the damage done to the plant (and people) are limited.
A 2020 government science assessment found ample evidence that plastic harms the environment, choking seabirds, cetaceans and other wildlife. The findings form the basis of the government’s decision, as substances can be considered toxic under CEPA if they harm the environment and biodiversity, human health, or both.
In October 2020, ECCC released a proposal to deal with the problem. Under the proposed rules, Canada will ban six single-use plastic items, like straws and six-pack rings, create incentives for companies to use recycled plastic, and force plastic producers to pay for recycling.
The world’s largest clothing retailer Zara has committed to going toxic-free. After pressure from the environmental-concsious group Greenpeace the company has joined a handful of other large corporations that are (or soon will be) disclosing what toxins go into their products and how those chemicals are dealt with.
Zara’s commitment to act more transparently is a milestone in the way clothing is manufactured. It’s an important step in providing local communities, journalists and officials with the information they need to ensure that local water supplies are not turned into public sewers for industry. Zara’s transparency revolution will be key to ensuring that as brands commit to Detox they then really follow through on achieving zero discharges by 2020. With so many businesses engaging in greenwashing, it’s important for consumers to know who they can trust.
Zara now joins Nike, Adidas, Puma, H&M, M&S, C&A and Li-Ning who have also committed to Detox but other top clothing companies still need to respond to the urgency of the situation and Detox. We tested clothing items from 20 leading brands this year and found hazardous chemicals in them that break down in the environment to form toxic pollution. But by working with their suppliers and switching to non-hazardous alternatives, the clothing companies can become part of the solution.
This is a pretty neat reuse of knowledge of material science from one of violence to one of saving the environment. Carbon cloth meant for the battlefield can be used to clean up toxic spills.
The textile is composed of tiny pores that adsorb organic molecules through weak Van der Waals forces. By adding ozone to the process, the fabric becomes even more effective at catalyzing the conversion of unwanted content into smaller molecules—or even carbon dioxide and water. In other words, the activated carbon cloth breaks pollutants down into less-harmful compounds.
In the future, oil spills could be partly cleaned up by bacteria that loves to eat all the dangerous goo in oil.
esearchers have discovered a new strain of bacteria that can produce non-toxic, comparatively inexpensive “rhamnolipids,” and effectively help degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs – environmental pollutants that are one of the most harmful aspects of oil spills.
Because of its unique characteristics, this new bacterial strain could be of considerable value in the long-term cleanup of the massive Gulf Coast oil spill, scientists say.
More research to further reduce costs and scale up production would be needed before its commercial use, they added.
The findings on this new bacterial strain that degrades the PAHs in oil and other hydrocarbons were just published in a professional journal, Biotechnology Advances, by researchers from Oregon State University and two collaborating universities in China. OSU is filing for a patent on the discovery.
“PAHs are a widespread group of toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic compounds, but also one of the biggest concerns about oil spills,” said Xihou Yin, a research assistant professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy.