Biologists find trash in belly of stranded baby dolphin

Biologists find trash in belly of stranded baby dolphin

ByTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A rare deep-water dolphin stranded on a Florida beach and later euthanized had a stomach full of trash.

Biologists said they found two plastic bags and a shredded balloon during a necropsy of the young rough-toothed dolphin after it washed ashore in Fort Myers Beach earlier this week.

Biologists said they found two plastic bags and a shredded balloon

Animal experts said the rough-toothed dolphin was emaciated and in poor health. Florida Today reports such a young dolphin should have still been with its mother but somehow wound up far from her deep-water home. Biologists and bystanders worked to help the struggling animal, but wildlife official decided to euthanize the dolphin on-site.

Scientists are still trying to find a cause of death but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the finding highlights the need to reduce single-use plastic and to not release balloons into the environment.

Sea Of Plastic Discovered In The Caribbean Stretches Miles And Is Choking Wildlife

ALDI To Implement 100% Recyclable or Compostable Packaging by 2025

ALDI To Implement 100% Recyclable or Compostable Packaging by 2025

The affordable grocery chain ALDI announced that they are planning to go 100% recyclable or compostable by 2025. This isn’t surprising, because the store is already known for it’s sustainable practices.

What has ALDI already accomplished for sustainability?

ALDI has already enacted several environmental initiatives including charging money for plastic bag use, recycling material, and donating uneaten food. Not only this, but they also keep track of their environmental footprint and focus on lowering their emissions from food miles. 

Moving towards compostable and recyclable packaging is a great move, because we produce over 300 million tons of plastic every year. Decreasing this number is extremely important, as our oceans a full of plastic

Starting with plastic bags was a great start, as ~500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide annually. This equates to over one million plastic bags every minute. Additionally, over 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans annually. Also, some 100.7 billion plastic beverage bottles were sold in 2014 alone. However, ALDI is making bigger moves for 2025. 

As per CEO of ALDI U.S., Jason Hart, “the commitments [ALDI’s] making to reduce packaging waste are an investment in our collective future that we are proud to make”. They’re also “pleased that [ALDI has] helped keep billions of plastic grocery bags out of landfills and oceans” and that they “want to continue to do more”. 

Their sustainability goals for the future include:

  • 100 percent of ALDI packaging, including plastic packaging, will have reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging by 2025;
  • Packaging material of all ALDI-exclusive products to be reduced by at least 15 percent by 2025;
  • 100 percent of ALDI-exclusive consumable packaging to include How2Recycle label by 2020;
  • Implement an initiative to make private-label product packaging easier for customers to reuse by 2020;
  • Guide continuous improvement of product packaging by internal expertise and external evaluations

Since ALDI’s product sourcing is over 90% ALDI-exclusive, they have extreme influence over how their products are sourced, produced, and brought to shelves. Hopefully other grocery stores will catch on to ALDI’s wave and progress to be more sustainable in the future.

There’s just no getting away from microplastic contamination

There’s just no getting away from microplastic contamination

And we still don’t know where a huge portion of our plastic waste even ends up.

Microplastics may be having a moment in the spotlight, as the public is increasingly aware of their presence in the environment around us. But as more evidence of their presence comes to light, it’s becoming clearer that we don’t yet have a handle on how big or bad the problem is. A huge amount of small plastic particles end up in the sea, but recent research has also found them in lakes and mountain river floodplains, and even as airborne pollution in megacities.

A new paper in Nature Geoscience reports finding microplastics in a region that should be pristine: the French Pyrenees Mountains. The researchers estimated that the particles could have traveled from as far as 95km away, but they suggest that it could be possible for microplastics to travel even farther on the wind—meaning that even places relatively untouched by humans are now being polluted by our plastics.

Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic are produced. In 2016, this figure was estimated to be around 335 million tonnes. We have no idea where most of this ends up. 

The mystery of the disappearing plastic

Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic are produced. In 2016, this figure was estimated to be around 335 million tonnes. We have no idea where most of this ends up. The amounts that are recovered in recycling plants and landfill don’t match the amount being produced. Some of it stays in use, sometimes for decades, which explains part of the discrepancy. An estimated 10 percent ends up in the oceans. Although these numbers could change with further research, there’s still a gap.

Wherever that plastic is ending up, we know that it’s breaking down over time, disintegrating into micro particles less than 5mm in size, and some even breakdown to the nanoscale at less than one micrometer. (For context, the micrometer is a unit that’s often used to discuss bacteria and cells—the human sperm head is around 5 micrometers in length.) The effect that these particles will have on a global scale as they continue to accumulate is not even remotely understood.

A huge part of getting a handle on the consequences is just understanding where all the plastic ends up. The Pyrenees are an ideal place to assess how far it might travel, as they’re sparsely populated, difficult to get to, and have no industrial activity or large-scale farming. So for five months, a team of researchers gathered samples from the Bernadouze meteorological station, 6km (~3.7 miles) away from the closest village. The samples were from “atmospheric fallout”—anything falling from the sky, either wet or dry, ranging from dust to rain and snow.

The problem with microplastics being (potentially) everywhere is that contamination becomes a concern. Plastic fibers from clothing, containers, and equipment could all hypothetically make their way into the sample. To guard against this, the researchers took precautions like wearing cotton clothing as they approached the sample collection devices, approaching from downwind, and storing everything in glass. They also collected and processed “blank” samples taken from closed containers left at the field site to double-check that any plastics found in the real samples had really made their way there through the atmosphere.

The plastics are blowin’ in the wind

Microplastics were found in every sample the researchers gathered—on average, 365 particles per square meter were deposited every day. The most common kind of plastic was polystyrene, followed by polyethylene (the kind of plastic used in plastic bags and single-use packaging).

The number of particles being deposited correlated strongly with wind speeds, with more particles being found following higher winds. Precipitation—both wind and snow—were also strongly linked. The researchers looked at the wind speeds and directions that had been recorded throughout the study, and they used this to calculate how far particles of the sizes they found could have been transported, estimating that the plastics could have come from nearly 100km away.

That’s a “highly simplified assessment,” the team notes—it doesn’t take into account all the different atmospheric variables that could change the numbers. With evidence that dust particles (which are well within the range of sizes of plastic particles) can travel up to 3,500km (~2,175 miles), it’s possible they could come from even farther away.

Research that analyzes the size of the plastic particles it finds shows that there’s a trend toward finer particles over time. As particles get smaller, their ability to be dispersed far and wide increases. Microplastics have now been found everywhere from drinking water to city air, and there’s evidence of plastic particles in fish liver, suggesting that they could pass through organ systems. All of this makes it clear that tiny, invisible plastic dust is becoming ubiquitous on our planet. We’re only just starting to understand what the effects of that will be.

Paper Straws vs. Compostable Plastic Straws (PLA) – Which are better for the environment?

Paper Straws vs. Compostable Plastic Straws (PLA)

Which are better for the environment to use?

Single-use plastics are on the way out – what is the best replacement when it comes to straws?

The main reason cited for eliminating plastic straws is their negative impact on our oceans and marine wildlife. Plastic in the ocean is a huge problem — look no further than trash island, or the viral video of a turtle suffering as a result of ocean pollution, to understand that. The call to eliminate single-use plastic straws is here, how will your restaurant, bar, or café move forward?

Why are straws a big target? The problem is their size. They are small and inconspicuous. So much so that people often forget they are plastic and do not recycle them.

Straws that do get recycled often don’t make it through the mechanical recycling sorter because they are so small and lightweight. So they contaminate recycling loads or get disposed of as garbage.

It is estimated that the average person uses 1.6 straws per day. That means that if 25,000 people stop using straws, we would eliminate 5,000,000 straws and prevent them from entering oceans and harming wildlife.

So, knowing that most straws, recycled or not, are likely to end up in our oceans, and knowing the amount of straws being used every day, individuals cutting back on use can make a difference.

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Alternatives to Plastic Straws
Some states, like California, that have recently introduced straw provisions have thought about these situations and instead of an all-out ban, they are proposing only having them available on request.

And business owners who live in places with bans will also need to adapt to providing more sustainable options for their customers (while making sure that there are options for all their customers).

The original draw of plastic was how cheap it is to produce products on a mass scale. With the new bans, businesses that once used cheap plastic straws are now having to adjust financially to the pressure from their customers and the world to provide alternatives.

Boba Tea & Bubble Tea

Diagonal-cut or flat-bottom paper straws made specifically for Boba Tea & Bubble Tea.

PLA "Compostable" Plastic Straws

Compostable straws
The straw option you’ll likely start seeing the most in restaurants and from major food corporations is compostable straws that look and feel similar to the plastic straws you’re used to.

It is important to note that emerging research suggests that compostable plastic straw alternatives are not as ecofriendly as we thought. This is mainly chalked up to the fact that compostable straws do not biodegrade any quicker than traditional plastic straws, unless they are disposed of in a commercial composter.

Compostable straws do not biodegrade any quicker than traditional plastic straws

OkStraw Polka Dots Paper Straws

Paper straws, such as all OkStraw products, decompose in 45–90 days and provide an ecofriendly alternative to plastic straws

Paper straws
Before there were plastic straws, there were paper straws. In fact, Marvin Stone created the very first straw by wrapping pieces of paper around a tube and gluing the pieces together. Paper straws, such as all OkStraw products, decompose in 45–90 days and provide an ecofriendly alternative to plastic straws.

Another draw of paper straws is that companies have started printing different designs on the straws to create more variety and themes for consumers.

So what is the best option for your business and the environment? 

While we are obviously biased here at OkStraw, we think the compostability of our premium strength paper straws make them the ideal choice for your restaurant, bar, or cafe. The fact that “compostable” plastic straws (PLA) are likely to end up in the same place as plastic straws and cannot actually decompose makes the decision easy. 

Join the cause for paper straws!

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