A blog set out to explore, archive & relate plastic pollution happening world-wide, while learning about on-going efforts and solutions to help break free of our addiction to single-use plastics & sharing this awareness with a community of clean water lovers everywhere!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Seabin Project - Ocean Cleanup Technology

Published in techmalak by Matthew Barnes / Dec. 29. 2015

The Seabin Project is designed to make ocean cleanup a simple automated project that cleans our harbors, water ways, ports and yacht clubs of the garbage we humans discard into the water without much thought.

Founders of the Seabin project Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski, have put together what they call is the “Seabin”.

Its process is very simple as it sits in the waters and gathers any trash that floats into the bin aided by natural wind currents.

Water passes through a a catch bag which is made of natural materials, and the flows from the bottom of the bin up through a tube into a water pump that sits on a floating dock above.

This water pump can separate water and oil particles, returning the filtered water back into the ocean further benefiting marine life by cleaning the water.

Seabin Project Ocean Cleanup
All of this operates on a 24/7 365 days a year cycle. All a worker needs to do, is to collect the insert within the bin and properly dispose of the waste.

And according to the project creators, even when the Seabin is full, it still works by pulling garbage and keeping it against the sides of the bin.

With these Seabins in every port, we could do much in the way of moving towards cleaner waters for generations to come.

This ocean cleanup project is starting in and around marines and yacht clubs where lots of garbage can be collected. But it can be used anywhere in large bodies of waters.
Since the Seabin is easy to use and environmentally friendly, it aids in a broader effort to help cleanup our oceans and waterways.

Pete Ceglinski Andrew Turton Ocean Cleanup Project
As stated on the company’s website, the goal of this clean up project is:
  • To help rid the oceans of plastics and pollution.
  • To have a Seabin production in place by mid to end of 2016 and start shipping.
  • To create Seabins from the most sustainable materials and processes available.
  • To have the lowest carbon footprint possible in the production of the Seabins by means of alternative materials and processes. Also by reducing shipping and having the Seabins manufactured in the countries of installation.
  • To create and support local economies with the production, maintenance and installation of the Seabins world wide.
  • To have future models of Seabins for specific locations.
  • To educate people and cultures about being more responsible with the use and disposal of plastics.
  • To setup educational programs for students in schools.
  • To convert our captured plastics into energy.
  • To reuse or recycle our Seabins for other uses and or applications.
  • To have pollution free oceans with no need for the Seabins.
We can all agree that the worlds oceans have taken tremendous amounts of abuse since the industrial age.

Toxic chemical spills that have leaked out into our waters do nothing but harm the ecosystem which in the long run has an effect on us.

Many people don’t give a second thought to dashing pieces of rubbish into the middle of the ocean somewhere not realizing the harmful effects it has on the wildlife.

We see birds and fishes get caught and sometimes die in plastic meshes left because of carelessness.

The mission of Seabin Pty Ltd, is simple. Improving one of the Earth’s most precious resources which:
  • Covers 71% of our planet
  • Provides the majority of the worlds protein for human consumption in fish
  • Houses roughly 90% of life on Earth
  • Is no more than 10% explored
Anyone interested in supporting the project can do so through the Seabin INDIEGOGO crowdfunding campaign.

Currently as of this writing with well over five thousand backers, Seabin has reached 86% of its $230,000 goal to which the want to start shipments in the middle part of 2016.

Futuristic Oceanscapers are Floating Villages 3d Printed from Algae and Plastic Waste

Aequoreas, Vincent Callebaut, energy consumption, energy eslf-sufficiency, floating architecture, ecosystems, organic farming, desalinization, algae, 3d printed architecture, 3d printing
The project aims to resolve long-lasting tensions between Western governments and African countries when it comes to global energy consumption. Thanks to Archibiotics, a discipline pioneered by Callebaut, a new type of architecture would be born-one that combines renewable energies and information and communication technologies (NTIC) in order to offer energy independence to each state in the world and end oil-related conflicts.

Aequoreas, Vincent Callebaut, energy consumption, energy eslf-sufficiency, floating architecture, ecosystems, organic farming, desalinization, algae, 3d printed architecture, 3d printing

The inhabitants of these utopian structures, called the People of the Seas, would invent new underwater urbanization processes to mitigate ocean acidification and pollution, while living in a self-sufficient way. They would recycle 100 percent of ocean plastic waste to create a sustainable habitat called Aequoreas. Once built, these ecosystems would continue to grow on their own, using calcium carbonate contained in water to form an external skeleton, semi-permeable membranes to desalinate seawater and microalgae to produce energy for heating and climate control.

Aequoreas, Vincent Callebaut, energy consumption, energy eslf-sufficiency, floating architecture, ecosystems, organic farming, desalinization, algae, 3d printed architecture, 3d printing

The villages move like submarines and ships and can accommodate up to 20,000 people. The main access is located on the surface of the water and leads through four marinas covered with a mangrove rooted on a floating dome 500 meters in diameter. All residential units are modular and accompanied by co-working spaces, fablabs, recycling plants, science labs, educational hotels, sports fields and aquaponic farms.

Aequoreas, Vincent Callebaut, energy consumption, energy eslf-sufficiency, floating architecture, ecosystems, organic farming, desalinization, algae, 3d printed architecture, 3d printing

Algae, plankton and mollusks rich in minerals, proteins and vitamins are grown for food and maintained as “nurseries for the aquatic fauna and flora”. Produce from on-board organic farms, orchards and vegetable gardens are distributed in bulk, in reusable, biodegradable containers. Even the furniture is made from bio-based materials glued together with materials synthesized from mussels.

Aequoreas, Vincent Callebaut, energy consumption, energy eslf-sufficiency, floating architecture, ecosystems, organic farming, desalinization, algae, 3d printed architecture, 3d printing

Aequoreas villages are not only an architectural proposal. The architect devised an economic system to complement its energy self-sufficiency. A horizontal egalitarian model envisioned by Callebaut is based on ” eco-conscious individual entrepreneurship” acting as the social and economic backbone of a utopian society.

+ Vincent Callebaut Architectures

Monday, December 28, 2015

Congress Bans Plastic Microbeads, Bill Heads to President Obama’s Desk

Microbeads Continue to Menace the Ocean


On Friday, December 18th history was made. The Senate approved a bill - which is now awaiting the President's support - to phase out personal-care products such soaps, body washes, toothpaste and more, containing plastic microbeads in 2017.

(note from Melanie:  The bill phasing out the manufacture of beauty products with plastic microbeads by July 1, 2017, and the sale of such products by July 1, 2018. The Microbead Free Waters Act (H.R. 1321) bans all plastic microbeads in beauty products, including those made from so-called “biodegradable plastics,” the majority of which do not biodegrade in marine environments.)

This comes on the heels of the House of Representatives' decision, just one week earlier, to pass a bill to ban microbeads too, including so-called "biodegradable" plastic microbeads.

Why is everyone working to "ban the bead?" Super tiny, but insidiously dangerous, these long-lasting micro-plastic particles wash down our drains, and because they are too tiny to be filtered by municipal sewer systems, they travel directly into the ocean. That is when the real damage begins.

Often mistaken as fish eggs, marine life "eat" the microbeads, which are known to absorb toxins. But things don't stop there. The toxin-filled microbeads travel up the food chain to us, as we're likely to then eat seafood that have ingested these microscopic bits of plastic.

Nine states have already outlawed microbeads and it is great to see a ban being considered at the federal level. But some are questioning if the laws are moving fast enough. The federal bill, if it becomes law, isn't slated to go into effect until 2017 and California, one of the largest states to pass a law, which happens to be one of the most stringent, is set to start in 2020.

Even with all this progress, the question that must be asked is, "What damage will occur before the microbead bans go into effect?"

Here are some facts to consider:

1. Researchers at State University New York, Fredonia calculated an average of 17,000 microbeads per square kilometer in Lake Michigan.

2. A report published by the College of Science at Oregon State University found that eight billion microbeads are sent into aquatic environments each day in the U.S. This number translates to approximately 2.9 trillion beads per year, which according to an article written by Oregon State University is "enough to wrap the Earth more than seven time if lined up end to end."

3. Science Alert equates the eight billion microbeads sent into our waters each day as "enough to cover more than 300 tennis courts."

4. Litter, including plastics and microbeads, are already costing each one of us. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that 95 communities in California have already spend $428 million per year to prevent litter from becoming pollution. Imagine what total cost would be for all of California, or the rest of the United States! By avoiding waste in the first place, this money could be put toward other issues. We just need to make better choices when it comes to avoiding single-use plastics and microplastics in the first place.

For these reasons, there is no need to wait for laws to pass and be enacted. Each of us can stop microbeads from entering our waters today. It's simple. Do not buy products - ranging from toothpaste to body scrubs to face wash - that contain them. It's time to start checking your labels. If you see the words "polyethylene" or "polypropylene," which represent microbead materials, choose another item.

While each of us take personal action to become more thoughtful consumers and shoppers, the Surfrider Foundation will continue to advocate for microbead regulation while we wait for President Obama to sign this bill into law. It's all hands on deck to rid the world of this senseless and avoidable form of plastic pollution.

National Microbead Ban Moves Forward in the House

Published in The Center for Effective Government / Dec. 10, 2015 by Ronald White

UPDATE (12/10/15): On Dec. 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which prohibits the manufacture of cosmetics containing microbeads as of July 1, 2017 and bans the sale of cosmetics with microbeads as of July 1, 2018. Rinse-off cosmetic nonprescription drugs are provided an additional year for both deadlines.

The bill was sent to the Senate on Dec. 8, where it will be reconciled with a similar bill introduced in May 2015 by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), which bans the sale of cosmetics containing microbeads as of Jan. 1, 2018.

In addition to Illinois, California recently adopted legislation banning the sale of cosmetics containing microbeads, including those made of so-called biodegradable plastics as well as synthetic plastics, as of 2020, and both Ohio and Michigan are considering similar legislation.

However, once national legislation is adopted, the federal law would supersede the state bans.

Examples of cosmetics and other consumer products that contain microbeads, as well as those that do not contain them, is available here.

UPDATE (6/23/14): Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) introduced legislation, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2014, on June 18 that would prohibit the sale or distribution of personal care products that contain synthetic plastic microbeads. The bill would ban the sale or distribution of cosmetics products containing plastic microbeads effective January 1, 2018.

“These tiny plastic particles that are polluting our environment are found in products specifically designed to be washed down shower drains,” said Pallone. “And many people buying these products are unaware of their damaging effects.

If we know that these products will eventually reach our waterways, we must make sure that they don’t contain synthetic plastic that does not biodegrade and ultimately pollute our waterways. We have a responsibility to put a stop to this unnecessary plastic pollution. By phasing out the use of plastic microbeads and transitioning to non-synthetic alternatives, we can protect U.S. waters before it’s too late.”


Illinois has become the first state to ban the manufacture and sale of consumer products containing synthetic plastic microbeads, frequently found in facial scrubs, body washes, and cosmetics. The state passed the ban to address an increasing water pollution problem in Lake Michigan and other waterways across Illinois.

On June 8, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed Senate Bill 2727, which amends the state Environmental Protection Act with new requirements for the elimination of synthetic plastic microbeads in personal care products. The new law restricts the manufacture of personal care products containing such microbeads effective Dec. 31, 2017 and bans the sale of personal care products containing the material beginning Dec. 31, 2018.

Microbeads are minute plastic beads that are used in consumer products such as toothpaste and cosmetic scrubs to produce a “feel-good factor.” After use, they are flushed into wastewater systems where, because of their small size and non-biodegradable composition, they escape into waterways.

A major concern with microbeads is that because of their very small size, they have a large surface area by volume, thus serving as highly efficient toxic accumulators. Once discharged into the water, they can be immediately ingested by tiny organisms at the bottom of the food chain, with toxins then accumulating in larger fish and other animals, posing both an immediate and long-term threat to the health of our lakes, rivers, and oceans and the seafood we eat.

While Illinois is the first state to enact a ban on the sale and production of microbead-containing products, the issue is gaining attention in other states. Similar bans are being considered in California, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and New York. A growing number of soap and beauty product manufacturers are voluntarily phasing out the use of microbeads.

According to the advocacy group Plastic Free Seas, Unilever, The Body Shop, Johnson & Johnson, Beiersdorf AG, L'Oreal, and Procter & Gamble have all agreed to discontinue their use of microbeads in consumer products over the next several years.

Scientists Alarmed as Tiny Plastic Ends up in Lakes

 Published in the Toledo Blade by Tom Henry / Nov. 2, 2015

Tiny bits of plastic known as microbeads are emerging as one of the more troubling forms of pollution in the Great Lakes, especially Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

So small that they pass undetected through sewage treatment plants, microbeads are part of the larger issue of plastic that has plagued oceans worldwide for years. Biologists fear that microbeads — which are ingested by fish that mistake them for eggs or zooplankton — could lead to a long-term impact on the Great Lake’s $7 billion fish industry and ultimately work their way into the human food chain.

Microbeads differ from traditional plastic litter in that they’re manufactured for more than 100 different varieties of soaps, facial scrubs, toothpastes, and similar hygiene and personal care items in response to a preference by consumers for better exfoliants to scrub away dirt and germs.

But that’s not the only source of them. They’re also found in some clothing, such as fleece.

Barely large enough to be seen by the human eye, microbeads are by definition no bigger than 5 millimeters in diameter and usually less than 2 millimeters. They’re small enough that dozens of them could occupy a human fingertip or cover a penny; a tube of facial cleanser has about 330,000 of them.

Microplastics, on the other hand, are fragments of soda bottles and shards of other plastic items.
Humans unknowingly rinse most microbeads down the drain, ultimately flowing into rivers and streams that flow into larger bodies of water.

Research on them is still in its infancy.

In a statement to The Blade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes problems associated with the general issue of plastic pollution, but said there “are no EPA regulations addressing microplastics or microbeads under the agency’s statutory authorities.”

The Ohio EPA does not regulate them, agency spokesman Heidi Griesmer said.
“The science is catching up to the policy here,” according to Marc Gaden, spokesman for the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which is comprised of fish industry policymakers from each of the eight Great Lakes states.

But while stating the commission is eager “to find out the extent of the risk,” Mr. Gaden also said microbead pollution simply “doesn’t pass the basic sniff test of Great Lakes stewardship.”

Jeff Tyson, Lake Erie fisheries program manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, agreed.

“That’s primarily because there isn’t a lot of research out there,” Mr. Tyson said. “It’s not that there’s inconclusive research. It’s just not out there.”

What little research that has been done to date — mostly by the State University of New York at Fredonia and the University of Michigan — has gained a lot of traction.

In a report issued last April by the New York State Attorney General’s Office, Sherri “Sam” Mason, a SUNY Fredonia chemistry professor, collaborated with Jennifer Nalbone, an environmental scientist in that office, to assess how wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to filter out microbeads.

According to Ms. Mason, each of the 34 facilities studied had some form of plastic in their treated effluent, whether it was plastic fibers, fragments, or pellets.

“Every facility we looked at had plastic coming out of it,” she said.

Their report shows 25 of the 34 had microbeads.
“Treatment plants are not designed to remove microbeads from the wastewater stream, and treatments potentially effective at removing microbeads are unproven.

Even if effective treatment technologies are found to be available, the potential cost and time necessary to retrofit wastewater treatment plants with such technology is likely to be substantial,” the report states.

In an interview with The Blade, Ms. Mason said her lab — using open lake water highly filtered by fine mesh screens between 2012 and 2014 — found Lake Ontario to be the No. 1 spot in the Great Lakes region for microbeads and Lake Erie to be No. 2.

That was not a surprise, given the population densities along those shorelines and the fact that microbeads are light and buoyant.

They are believed to migrate from the Upper Lakes down to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario with water that flows out to the St. Lawrence Seaway, and from there into the Atlantic Ocean.
Scientists want to know how much microbeads have become part of the fish diet and what it may be doing to them.

One theory is that in addition to the petrochemicals of plastic itself, the material may be absorbing free-flowing pesticides and other chemicals in the water.

They don’t dissolve or break down, at least not for years.

“In our waters, microbeads persist for decades, acting as sponges for toxic chemical pollutants,” another report issued by the New York State Attorney General’s Office said. “Mistaken for food by aquatic organisms, microbeads serve as a pathway for pollutants to enter the food chain and contaminate the fish and wildlife we eat.”

Although Ms. Mason’s research is preliminary — so fresh it has not been written up, peer-reviewed, or published yet — she said all 25 fish species her team has studied to date have plastics in them.

So did double-crested cormorants, which eat a lot of fish.

“Every single species has had plastic in it,” she said.

Microbeads present an extra challenge because of their size.

“Smaller pieces of plastic are harder to control,” Ms. Mason said. “We could actually be eating plastic when we have fish frys on Fridays.”

In response to growing concerns, several manufacturers have voluntarily taken microbeads out of their products.

Illinois became the first state to ban sales of such products in 2014.

Several other states have followed suit or are in the process of considering bans, including Ohio and Michigan.

In Ohio, Senate Bill 193, introduced earlier this year by Ohio senators Mike Skindell (D., Lakewood) and Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) calls for a ban on sales of anti-bacterial soaps, hand soaps, bar soaps, liquid soaps, body washes, lotions, moisturizers, facial and body cleansers, facial masks, exfoliating facial scrubs, sunscreens, acne products, shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, shaving creams and gels, and foot-care products that contain microbeads.

The bill was assigned to the Ohio Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee on Sept. 17.

Experienced fishermen such as Paul Pacholski, Lake Erie Charter Boat Association president, worry that microbeads will clog fish intestines.

Groups such as the Alliance for the Great Lakes urge manufacturers to use crushed almonds, oatmeal, or pumice as natural exfoliants.

In testimony before a U.S. House subcommittee on May 15, Molly Flanagan, the alliance’s vice president of policy, urged members of Congress to pass a federal ban on microbeads.

“We have enough issues we’re facing now,” Mr. Pacholski said. “It’s a vanity product that has no other purpose than a slightly better facial scrub.”

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2015/11/02/Scientists-alarmed-as-tiny-plastic-turns-up-in-lakes-could-harm-fish.html#bBdecs3O88KMdpyT.99

Monday, December 21, 2015

These 3D-Printed Sneakers Are Made From The Trash We Throw Into The Ocean

Published in IFL Science - December 15, 2015 | by Robin Andrews
Photo credit: The release of the design coincided with the Paris climate change agreement announcement. adidas
Coinciding with the historic Paris climate change agreement, sporting goods giant adidas has shown off its new sneakers. Made of a combination of plastic found in the ocean, recycled polyester, and fishing nets, these sustainable shoes were 3D printed. For now, they’re just a prototype, but this collaborative effort with Parley for the Oceans shows what can be done with all the man-made waste drifting in our seas.

3D printing these days is incredibly advanced, with medical scientists even able to print 3D heart structures using off-the-shelf technology, so it should come as no surprise that the midsoles of a pair of sneakers can be manufactured using this process.

Earlier this year, adidas and Parley for the Oceans showcased a shoe made entirely from recycled ocean plastic and illegal, deep-sea gillnets. The 3D-printed midsole is the new development being showcased this month; it is an offshoot of adidas’ Futurecraft 3D, a technique of 3D-printing midsoles designed to suit the need of any specific individual.
Image credit: The 3D-printed midsole. Adidas

“World leaders forging an agreement is wonderful, but we shouldn't need to be told to do the right thing,” Eric Liedtke, adidas Group Executive Board member responsible for Global Brands, said in a statement, referring to COP21. “The industry can't afford to wait for directions any longer. Together with the network of Parley for the Oceans, we have started taking action and creating new sustainable materials and innovations for athletes.”

Parley for the Oceans is an organization that seeks to permanently end ocean plastic pollution. Through education and activism, they hope to use high-profile projects like this to draw attention to the detrimental effects that humanity is having on the world’s marine environments. Adidas is a founding member of the group.

Plastic is, for the most part, not biodegradable. If it makes its way into the ocean, it will remain there for an extremely long time. Plastic bags take up to 20 years to decompose, whereas a plastic beverage bottle takes up to 450 years. Humanity has flushed and dumped so much plastic into the sea that it is accumulating at an astonishing rate in huge whirlpools known as “gyres.”

Two in the North Pacific, for example, are collectively called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – appropriately named, as it contains enough surface plastic to spread out across an area roughly twice that of the continental United States, by some estimates. This trash represents a huge threat to marine life, which can become entangled in or consume the stuff.

More info. from Take Part, published Dec. 12, 2015:  

Between 10.5 billion and 28 billion tons of plastic were released into the oceans in 2010, according to a study released in February. Not only does that debris harm birds, turtles, and fish, but—between cleanup costs and pollution’s negative impact on tourism and human health—it also end up costing about $13 billion a year.

Adidas executives hope their recycling project educates consumers while at the same time creating a sustainable product.

Some experts are concerned that incorporating plastic into a shoe could be counterproductive. Harmful microfibers in shoes could shed in washing machines and eventually wind up back in the oceans.

But Adidas officials note that gathering ocean plastic is just one part of their plans for becoming environmentally friendly. The company has already begun phasing out the use of plastic bags in its retail stores and is working to eliminate the use of microbeads in its body care line.

For now, the German-based sports brand has just unveiled a prototype, but it’s hopeful that one day it can bring the shoes into stores.

“That’s the dream,” Liedtke told Women’s Wear Daily. “We haven’t figured everything out yet, but we continue to move forward.”

World’s Most Comprehensive Study Shows More Plastic in Our Oceans Than Scientists Thought

Published in Eco Watch by Marcus Eriksen - Dec. 15, 2015

The 5 Gyres Institute co-authored this study which is the most comprehensive estimate of small plastics in the world’s oceans. There were two other papers published earlier, one by Cozar (2014) and Eriksen (2014) using separate data sets.

The paper published last week in Environmental Research Letters, A Global Inventory of Small Floating Plastic Debris, uses three ocean models and every dataset published since the 1970s. With 10 authors contributing to it, it’s the best so far. This new study suggests there are 15 to 51 trillion microplastic particles in the world’s oceans, weighing somewhere between 93 and 236,000 metric tons. This is roughly seven times more than what we thought before.
Photo credit: 5 Gyres
Why is it more? It has more data and more recent data. It combines the efforts of three different ocean models, so the resolution is a lot better. There’s also a lot more plastic in the ocean. Consider that in 2013 the plastics industry reported 300 million metric tons of new plastic produced in that year and a lot of it used for single-use throw away products sent to countries that have poor waste management. That combo is a recipe for trashed seas.

What is the end game for all of the plastic out there? Research shows that if we can turn off the tap, most of it will sink or wash ashore. The ocean is very dynamic and turbulent, constantly throwing things out, tearing it apart and sinking it. Humanity will have to live with this geologic layer on the ocean floor and beaches worldwide. Call it the Plasticene. Plastic is the index fossil that marks in geologic time that humans were here.

What can we do about it? We’ve got to turn off the tap using two big ideas.
1. Waste management around the world must improve and that means getting away from burning and burying our waste. Diverging waste to responsible management schemes, like compost facilities and recovery and recycling, must improve.

2. Product design is a mandatory part of the solution. The single use throwaway product concept is trashing our oceans. No waste management scheme is going to effectively clean up the proliferation of poorly designed products and packaging, like plastic bags, plastic straws, microbeads, water bottles, etc. Go to our microbeads campaign to see how we’re holding companies accountable for putting millions of microplastic fragments in your facial cleansers and toothpastes.

These two solutions—waste management and product design—must happen simultaneously. We cannot expect countries to take out huge loans to pay to improve their waste management. It would be grossly unfair to create that economic burden, while the poorly designed products and packaging continue to trash our land and sea. We need the plastics industries that make and manufacture single-use throw away products to step up and design for a better future.

The Ocean Is Contaminated by Trillions More Pieces of Plastic Than Thought

Published in Take Part by Taylor Hill - Dec. 15, 2015
New research shows that the plastic problem is growing, but the full impact on marine life remains unknown.

(Photo: Rosemary Calvert/Getty Images)
Somewhere between 15 trillion and 51 trillions pieces of plastic litters the world’s oceans, a new study has found. That’s three to 10 times more plastic than scientists had previously estimated.

The study, led by climate scientist Erik van Sebille at London’s Imperial College and coauthored by researchers at nonprofit group 5 Gyres, built on the findings of two papers published last year. The scientists tapped every data set on plastic pollution published since the 1970s and ran the numbers through three computer models
The total weight of small plastic pieces that accumulated in 2014 alone is estimated to be between 93,000 and 236,000 metric tons, “which is only approximately one percent of global plastic waste estimated to enter the ocean” annually, the researchers wrote.

The study only focused on microplastics (those less than 200 millimeters in size) that could be captured by trawling nets pulled along the ocean surface. Thus the researchers’ estimates do not count plastic waste that ends up sinking to the ocean floor or is ingested by fish and other marine species.

Each American throws away as much as 185 pounds of plastic a year. In the last decade, the total weight of plastic products entering the market has risen from 225 million tons in 2004 to 311 million tons in 2014, according to industry group association Plastics Europe.

“These estimates are larger than previous global estimates, but vary widely because the scarcity of data in most of the world ocean,” the researchers wrote. Studies estimate that large amounts of plastic go undetected because they sink to the ocean floor or are eaten by fish.

In one study, deep-sea fish in the North Pacific gyre were estimated to have ingested between 12,000 and 24,000 metric tons of microplastics annually.

According to the new study, the wide range in the estimated amount of plastic entering the world’s oceans every year “reveals a fundamental gap in understanding.”

But the data available shows that the North Pacific Ocean, often referred to as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” has the highest density of plastic thanks in part to the region’s circular ocean currents and wind patterns.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Boyan Slat One Step Closer to Launching World’s Largest Ocean Plastic Cleanup

Published in EcoWatch Nov. 13, 2015 by Lorraine Chow

Boyan Slat’s plan to rid the world’s oceans of plastic with his revolutionary ocean-cleaning system is set for real-life trials next year after last week’s successful tests in the Netherlands of a scaled-down prototype at Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN), the Guardian reports.

The 21-year-old Dutch is the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, an ambitious operation involving a massive static platform that passively corrals plastics with wind and ocean currents. The array features a floating V-shaped boom so that fish and other marine life can swim underneath.

Further trials will take place off the coasts of Japan and the Netherlands, and if all goes to plan, the project will officially launch in 2020 and be the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean.
The Ocean Cleanup describes itself as the “world’s first feasible concept to clean the oceans of plastic,” but the journey hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

“Testing for this is no simple matter,” The Ocean Cleanup wrote in blog post from MARIN. “The oceans are an environment with unpredictable, powerful forces that defy perfect simulation. Waves come from a variety of directions at once, and currents below the surface complicate matters even more.”

Hydrodynamic engineer Mark Paalvast said in the blog post that the tests at MARIN will determine the feasibility of the project.

“The MARIN offshore basin is one of the best facilities in the world to do these tests,” he said. “It can send currents and waves from many different angles simultaneously, and at varying speeds. We will do lots of simulations and then use the data for additional computer modeling too.”

There have been other road blocks as well. Some critics have written off the idea, and Asma Mahdi, a spokeswoman for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told the Guardian there’s the potential for harming sea life caught in the project’s cleanup barrier.

“By skimming floating debris off the surface, we may be doing more harm than good for marine surface-dwellers,” she said. “This includes the microscopic plankton that are the base of the marine food web and responsible for nearly half of the oxygen production that occurs on our planet.”

Slat responded, “The current flows underneath the barriers, taking away everything with neutral buoyancy—like plankton and other fish—while the positively buoyant plastic, up to a certain threshold, remains in front of it.”
The operation involves a static platform that passively corrals plastics as wind and ocean currents push debris through 2,000 meter booms. Photo credit: The Ocean Cleanup
He has taken his other critics head-on with a 530-page feasibility report composed of 70 scientists and engineers. The report concluded that the concept “is indeed likely a feasible and viable ocean cleanup technique.” Their conclusion has also been peer-reviewed by external experts, Slat attested in a blog post.

Another problem is the economic sustainability of the project. While half of The Ocean Cleanup’s €30m ($32 million) budget was raised through crowdfunding and from wealthy donors, the company hopes to stay afloat financially through a ocean plastic retail line, the Guardian reports.

“We’ve analyzed the quality of the plastic which was surprisingly good,” Slat said. “We did some tests and the material is very recyclable. Tens of companies—large corporations—have shown an interest in buying up the plastic and that is our holy grail; funding the clean-up using revenues created by the plastic we extract.”

Slat, a former aerospace engineering student, proposed this ocean plastic-capturing concept when he was only 17, making headlines about his plan to clean half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within a decade.

Over the years, Slat and his Ocean Cleanup team have taken several ocean research expeditions and discovered after a trip to the Pacific earlier this year that the plight of plastic pollution was much worse than they imagined.

“The previous studies estimated 10 kilos of plastic per square kilometer but we found it was in the hundreds of kilos per square kilometer,” Slat said.

Plastic pollution is a clear threat to aquatic life and marine ecosystems. About 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans annually.

A recent study found that 90 percent of seabirds have mistakenly eaten plastic and the numbers will rise if plastic pollution worsens.


Biodegradable is Bunk: World’s ‘Ocean Waste Baskets’ Still Filled With Plastic Trash

Such products ‘will not bring about a significant decrease either in the quantity of plastic entering the ocean or the risk of physical and chemical impacts on the marine environment,’ UN report states.

Published in enewspf New York –November 20, 2015
Pieces of plastic litter a black rock beach on the island of Hawaii in 2008.  (Photo: LCDR Eric Johnson, NOAA Corps./via flickr/cc)
Plastics in the world’s oceans, whether floating or resting at the bottom, is a problem that’s on the rise, and is said to have “reached crisis proportion.”

And while they may be assumed to be more eco-friendly, plastics labeled “biodegradable” still pose a threat to marine environments, a new United Nations study has found.

The report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, Concerns and Impacts on Marine Environments (pdf), explains how these products still fail to tackle the growing problem.

The agency’s executive director, Achim Steiner, underscored the magnitude of the problem. “Recent estimates from UNEP have shown as much as 20 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans each year. Once in the ocean, plastic does not go away, but breaks down into microplastic particles.”

The report notes that just what proportion of this plastic is biodegradable versus non-biodegradable has yet to be analyzed.

One of the problems, the report states, is that in order for some of the plastic debris to be completely broken down, conditions found in industrial compositing units that can achieve prolonged temperatures of above 50°C are needed. Yet those conditions “are rarely if ever met in the marine environment.”

And while some have the inclusion of a pro-oxidant, which would induce degradation, “[t]he fate of these fragments (microplastics) is unclear, but it should be assumed that oxo-degradable polymers will add to the quantity of microplastics in the oceans, until overwhelming independent evidence suggests otherwise.”

Contributing to the problem, the report says, is evidence suggesting the biodegradable label could make the public more likely to litter.

The report concludes that “the adoption of plastic products labelled as ‘biodegradable’ will not bring about a significant decrease either in the quantity of plastic entering the ocean or the risk of physical and chemical impacts on the marine environment, on the balance of current scientific evidence.”

Peter Kershaw, one of the authors of the study, put the problem in blunt terms.

“Essentially the ocean is being used as a waste basket and the waste basket is getting fuller and fuller, and so the impacts of that plastic litter are just going to keep on increasing,” he told CBC News.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Source: www.commondreams.org

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Microplastics: What is in your water?

Published by On The River Nov. 17, 2015

On The River is a 3,500 mile, 13-state education-linked, canoe adventure. In July 2015, our route started on the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park, MT and headed east, down smaller creeks and rivers to the Missouri River. We will continue down the Missouri River to the Mississippi River and eventually to the Gulf of Mexico.  Be part of the adventure by tracking our progress, reading our blog posts, or getting involved.

Along our route the On The River team will connect with schools through classroom visits,  curriculum integration including On The River videos, and river visits to use real-world experiences to engage, inspire, and educate young people along the river. Educators can learn more about our programs and sign-up to begin planning.

Canoers experience first hand the threats to our rivers. On The River tells the story of the river to raise awareness, foster respect, and inspire creative solutions. As part of our commitment to conservation, On The River is collecting water samples to be analyzed by Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, as part of a worldwide study on the extent of microplastic pollution in our water.

During our trip we have teamed up with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (http://www.adventurescience.org/microplastics) to collect samples of water to be tested for microplastics. This week on the river we learn what microplastics are and how we study them.
Grades: 4-8
  • MS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
Supplemental Work:
  • Look at the map at www.adventurescience.org/microplastics and see if a sample has been taken near your home. Did it have plastic? What does that mean to you?
  • Organize a trash pick-up. Share with your community how you helped and why it is important.
  • Write a protocol and see if others can follow it.

About Microplastics

Microplastics—or plastic particles smaller than five millimeters in size--likely pose a massive environmental and human health risk when they enter our waterways.

Toxins including DDT and BPA adhere to the particles, and then enter the food chain when ingested by aquatic life, accumulating in birds, fish, marine mammals and potentially humans.

Microplastics have several sources: They're laundered from nylon clothing; they wash down the drain with many cosmetics and toothpastes; and they weather from debris like bottles and bags.

ASC's microplastics scientist has found microplastics in the vast majority of marine samples we've collected, from places including Maine, Alaska, Argentina, Thailand and Antarctica. We expanded our research to fresh water in early 2015 to further identify the inputs of this pollution.

Our goal is to compile a comprehensive microplastics dataset and use that information to effect change, turning off the inputs of microplastics pollution at their source. 
Join us.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Indigenous Community Protects the Environment While Learning About 3D Printing

Published in 3D Print by Clare Scott · November 6, 2015

In the central North Pacific Ocean, there is a giant floating patch of garbage known, appropriately, as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Mostly comprised of plastic waste, it was formed, scientists believe, by ocean currents that gradually pulled discarded garbage into a floating clump.

The mass of garbage has had a tragic effect on ocean wildlife, and has affected humans as well, who ingest the plastic chemicals when they eat fish that have swallowed bits of plastic. The only solution to this problem is simply to stop throwing away so much plastic, which unfortunately is much easier said than done.

One thing that 3D printing has provided is an excellent means for recycling plastic, and 3D printing companies such as Fila-Cycle are making great strides towards reducing waste as much as possible by turning plastic waste into filament. But it’s not just corporations that are capable of transforming trash into printing materials.


The island of Milingimbi sits off the coast of Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory. It is home to the indigenous Yolngu community, the members of which have just learned about 3D printing. Lisa Somerville, project coordinator for the Arnhem Land Progress Association, came up with an initiative earlier this year to simultaneously clean up the island’s trash, teach children about technology, and give them a reason to be excited about learning.
“We wanted to create an incentive for kids who go to school 100 per cent of the time and build on that,” Somerville said.
recycleThe program, which the community has dubbed “Plastic Fantastic,” has engaged the whole community, not just the children. Leandra Dhurrkay and Jason Wandji, Milingimbi school officers, have been working with students, council workers, and other community members to collect the numerous pieces of plastic waste lying around the island. While gathering the material, the participants learn about recycling and the various types of recyclable plastic.
“There is lots of plastic around the community,” Dhurrkhay said. “At every camp and in every street there are plastic bottles lying around. It is good that we are using all that.”
The plastic is then shredded, melted, and extruded into filament, which is then used in the school’s 3D printer. Students learn about 3D printing and digital design while making sunglasses, iPhone holders, and small plastic toys. According to Somerville, the children have been having a great time with the program. One of the major goals was to give the kids an incentive to want to go to school, which has, so far, been a success.  It has been educational for the adults, as well.
“I have just learned a little bit about using the computer and 3D program. This is the first time I have used computers,” said Wandji. “It’s good for elders to sit with children, care for them, and teach them this way.”
Just a few weeks ago, Project Plastic Fantastic was presented the Environmental Innovation Award for turning plastic rubbish into 3D printed toys.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

There are probably tiny pieces of plastic in your table salt

Table salt
Your table salt could contain plastic Credit: Alamy
First they came for bacon, then we were warned wild salmon might not be what you think it is, and now new research has revealed there are, most likely, tiny pieces of plastic littering your table salt.
The research, published in the Environmental Science and Technology Journal, found that supermarket salt contains tiny plastic particles, likely from ocean pollution.

Researchers from East China Normal University found micro-sized particles of water bottle plastic, cellophane and a wide variety of other plastics in the 15 brands of salt they tested.
Sea salt
Sea salt can contain up to 1,200 pieces of plastic per pound of salt Credit: Alamy
They found sea salt contained the most plastic, with up to 1,200 pieces found per pound of salt, while lake salts had around 800 particles and rock salt from wells contained up to 450 pieces.

The researchers stressed that most plastic pieces were so small you wouldn't realise they were there. However, in some cases the plastic was large enough to be seen by the naked eye.

They added that people who adhere to the recommended daily intake of salt would end up eating around three pieces of plastic a day.

Though the salt samples were all Chinese, lead researcher Huahong Shi told Scientific American: "Plastics have become such an ubiquitous contaminant, I doubt it matters whether you look for plastic in sea salt on Chinese or American supermarket shelves."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Plastic trash found floating in far Arctic waters

Bremerhaven, Germany (dpa) - An international research team has found that plastic trash littering the world's oceans is now even floating in Arctic waters.

The marine trash survey, by Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and Belgium’s Laboratory for Polar Ecology, was one of the first conducted north of the Arctic Circle.

In July 2012 a research team led by AWI biologist Melanie Bergmann looked for floating trash in the Fram Strait, between eastern Greenland and Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, from the German polar research vessel Polarstern and by helicopter.

A total of 31 pieces of trash were spotted over a distance of 5,600kilometres. Bergmann noted, however, that the team could only make out the larger pieces, "therefore our numbers are probably an underestimate.

"Results of the survey were published on the online portal of the Switzerland-based scientific journal Polar Biology. In a previous study, Bergmann concluded that the density of plastic, glass and other types of litter on the Fram Strait seabed was 10 to 100 times higher than at the surface - and increasing.

Although it’s unclear how the floating trash made it so far north, Bergmann said it might have come from a trash vortex forming in the Barents Sea north of Norway and Russia, which is thought to be fed by the densely populated coastal regions of Northern Europe.

Trash vortices form when floating pieces of plastic are caught up in large, circling ocean currents and then pulled toward the centre.

Besides the one in the Barents Sea, the AWI said, there are five other known marine trash vortices around the world.

Another possible cause of the Arctic trash is receding Arctic sea ice due to global warming, allowing fishing trawlers and cruise liners to operate - and leave litter - farther north.

The researchers said the floating trash posed a threat particularly to seabirds, which feed on surface prey. Plastic has already been found in the stomachs of indigenous seabirds and Greenland sharks.

Puerto Rico to ban plastic bags through executive order

Published in the AP By DANICA COTO - Oct. 30, 2015

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico's governor signed an executive order Friday banning the use of plastic bags across the U.S. territory, defying legislators who just days ago rejected a similar bill.

The ban will take effect in mid-2016 and will be preceded by a six-month educational campaign, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said.

The announcement surprised many because 25 legislators in the island's House of Representatives recently voted against a measure calling for such a ban. Lawmakers had said they opposed the bill because it would charge people for the use of plastic bags amid an economic crisis.

Garcia said grocery stores across Puerto Rico import tons of plastic bags a year, noting that one small supermarket chain alone annually imports bags that fit in six boxcars that are 42 feet (13 meters) long.

"All that ends up in landfills in the best-case scenario," he said. "They end up on our streets, in our sewage system ... and kill our turtles and coral reefs."

The popular western tourist town of Rincon is the only Puerto Rican municipality that currently bans the use of plastic bags.

Environmental activists praised the move, noting that it is common to double-bag all groceries on the island, no matter how small the purchase. Garcia said he would push for legislation to be approved to help bolster his executive order.

Rep. Carlos Vargas, a member of Garcia's party whose vote helped defeat the initial bill, said he supports the idea of having an educational campaign and will seek to have the funds generated by penalties destined for environmental projects.

Elsewhere in the U.S., plastic bag bans have been implemented in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and Austin, Texas. In addition, all counties in Hawaii have approved such a prohibition. There is currently no statewide ban on plastic bags, although California is placing the issue before voters in a November 2016 ballot.

Underwater Marine Design Concept for Collecting Plastic Waste in the Ocean

Published Nov. 1, 2015 in Virtual Strategy.com
Internet Marketing Expert Chad Ian Lieberman Breaks Down The ROI on Plastic Garbage.

"Urgent action is required to prevent the choking of our oceans by plastics." These words were from Chad Lieberman of 6WSEO in a recent training he held on an underwater marine design concept for collecting plastic waste in the ocean.

Chad Ian Lieberman was talking about an underwater marine drone that autonomously swallows plastic garbage floating in the ocean floor. It works by containing the garbage in nets suspended between buoys. These buoys balance the weight.

The drone seeks and destroys plastic. The net captures everything from entire plastic bottles to tiny plastic shards. The drone is an autonomous electric vehicle that transmits an annoying sonic transmission to discourage sea creatures from entering the net. The sonic transmitters are also used to communicate with the base station and with other drones through sonar.

It is estimated that there are currently about 500 million kilograms of plastic waste currently floating in the floor of our oceans. So, why is it important to get rid of plastic from the ocean floor? According to Chad Lieberman, "The plastic collected from the ocean floor stands to profit plastic recyclers greatly." Millions of pieces of plastic waste accumulate in areas where currents converge because of water movement, posing an ecological nightmare in these areas.

The plastic waste not only leads to the death of fish but also of coral reefs as well as other marine life. Plastic waste is also unsightly, leading to the destruction of would-be tourist destinations. Chad stated that, "This drone is advantageous over previously used methods because it is cheaper and it does not cause damage to wildlife."

Once the drone's batteries are about to drain, it returns to the ocean base and human crews haul it up and empty the content for recycling. Chad Ian Lieberman stated that, "This may just be a concept, but there is no reason the drone should not go into mass production with the interest it has generated."

About 6WSEO
Chad Lieberman is the founder and lead at 6WSEO. This New York-based company is among the top 100 SEO agencies in the world. It offers comprehensive and customized search engine marketing solutions to clients in the U.S., Canada, UK, and France, among others. Services on offer range from search engine optimization to online reputation management and from affiliate marketing to pay-per-click management. You can learn more on 6WSEO from http://www.6WSEO.com/blog.

Read more at http://www.virtual-strategy.com/2015/11/01/chad-lieberman-6w-negotiations-about-underwater-marine-design-concept-collecting-plastic-#axzz3qM2rdENj#MJqk8JppE0vMrMCW.99


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Read more at http://www.virtual-strategy.com/2015/11/01/chad-lieberman-6w-negotiations-about-underwater-marine-design-concept-collecting-plastic-#axzz3qM2rdENj#MJqk8JppE0vMrMCW.99

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Plastic mass found in stomach of whale

Published in News24, 10-26-15
An adult female orca, identified as L-91, eating a salmon as her newborn calf swims near the San Juan Islands in Washington state's Puget Sound. (NOAA Fisheries/Vancouver Aquarium via AP)
An adult female orca, identified as L-91, eating a salmon as her newborn calf swims near the San Juan Islands in Washington state's Puget Sound. (NOAA Fisheries/Vancouver Aquarium via AP)

Taipei - Taiwanese marine biologists have discovered a mass of plastic bags and fishing net in the stomach of a dead whale, underlying the dangers posed by floating ocean trash.

The 15m mature sperm whale was spotted stranded off the southern town of Tongshi on October 15.

Coastguards and scientists returned it to the ocean but three days later it was found dead around 20 kilometres away.

Marine biologists from a local university who conducted an autopsy over the weekend found a mass of plastic bags and fishing net sizeable enough to fill an excavator bucket.

Professor Wang Chien-ping, head of the whale research centre at National Cheng-Kung University, said the garbage was probably a major factor in the death.

Wang told AFP the whale could have suffered heart or lung disease and multiple infections.

"But... the large amount of man-made garbage in the stomach could reduce its appetite and cause malnutrition. It was likely a critical cause of death."

The Society of Wilderness said the case highlighted the growing threat from ocean trash.

"We frequently heard of marine animals killed after swallowing lots of garbage, but this one was the biggest in size for many years," said He Chih-ying, spokesperson for the conservation group.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Styrofoam-eating worms could be the answer to plastic waste crisis

Published in LiveMint, Oct. 5, 2015 by Preetha Banerjee
Study reveals how a species of mealworm can consume and also digest this plastic-like material

According to a 2012 report by Global Industry Analysts, plastic consumption is to reach 297.5 million tonnes by 2015. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
According to a 2012 report by Global Industry Analysts, plastic consumption is to reach 297.5 million tonnes by 2015. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint 
New Delhi: Remember the white, light-weight foam cups and plates you threw away after one use at the house-party? Mealworms, which are actually beetle larvae, were served the same styrofoam for dinner and they gorged on it!

Researchers at Stanford University have come up with a new study co-authored by Wei-Min Wu, a senior research engineer at the university that reveals how a species of mealworm can consume and also digest this plastic-like material, universally deemed as the necessary evil, bringing us very close to solving the global plastic waste problem.

And the problem is gargantuan in a country like India with its masses of plastic waste generated every day.

In 2012, the Supreme Court had said that plastic poses a threat more serious than the atom bomb for the next generation after two Andhra Pradesh-based NGOs reported that 30-60 kg of plastic bags had been recovered from the stomachs of cows who confuse plastic bags for food.

Though India had banned plastic bags below 20 ┬Ám in thickness, way back in 2002, to prevent them from clogging the drains and choking the rivers, according to a CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) report released early this year, plastic waste generation in 60 cities of India is over 15,342 tonnes per day.

And there is literally nothing we can do with this waste.
Enter mealworms.

What happened in the lab:
100 mealworms ate between 34 and 39 milligrams of Styrofoam—about the weight of a small pill—every day and converted about half of it into carbon dioxide, as they would with any food source.

The best part is that within 24 hours, they excreted the remaining plastic after converting them into biodegraded fragments which appeared to be safe to be used as soil for crops.

The take away— mealworms can survive healthily on a diet of Styrofoam!

Is this a first?
No, waxworms have shown the way.

Earlier researches have shown the larvae of Indian mealmoths have microorganisms in their guts that can biodegrade polyethylene, a plastic used in products such as garbage bags.

But Styrofoam in particular was thought to be non-biodegradable and more hazardous for the environment and hence the new findings are valuable.

“There’s a possibility of really important research coming out of bizarre places,” said Craig Criddle, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who supervises plastics research by Wu and others at Stanford, as quoted in Stanford News Service that broke the news. “Sometimes, science surprises us. This is a shock.”

What’s next?
Another area of research could involve searching for a marine equivalent of the mealworm to digest plastics, Criddle said. Plastic waste is a particular concern in the ocean, where it fouls habitat and kills countless seabirds, fish, turtles and other marine life.

Here are some shocking figures on plastic waste generation that will make us like these worms even more:

• In 2013, Americans generated about 254 million tonnes of trash and plastics comprise about 13% of that, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

• According to a 2012 report by Global Industry Analysts, plastic consumption is to reach 297.5 million tonnes by 2015. And why not? Plastic is almost unbreakable, lightweight, flexible, moisture resistant and doesn’t pinch your pocket.

• Plastic garbage accumulating in sea and choking marine life is a growing concern with eight million tonnes of plastic trash ending up in the ocean in 2010 as per a new study.

If these slimy worms can put a stop to this unmanageable trouble, we won’t cringe