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!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

These Infinitely Recyclable Clothes Are Made From Ocean Trash And Other Plastic Waste

Published in FastCoExist.com - July 16, 2015

World surf champion Kelly Slater is doing something with all the trash in the ocean—he's wearing it.
If Outerknown's new board shorts ever tear after riding too many waves, you could theoretically recycle them into a new pair. They're from a new line of men's clothing that is made entirely from plastic trash. When the clothes wear out, they can be fully upcycled into a brand-new shirt or jacket.
The clothes, known as the "Evolution Series", were the brainchild of 11-time world surf champion Kelly Slater. After spending thousands of hours in the ocean, Slater liked the idea of recycling plastic fishing nets—a common source of ocean waste—into clothing. He partnered with Aquafil, an Italian manufacturer that spins old nets, along with carpet and other nylon waste, into a new yarn called Econyl.
"We collect the nets from all over the world," says Maria Giovanna Sandrini, brand manager for Econyl. There are around 640,000 tons of "ghost nets" abandoned in the ocean, trapping whales, turtles, and other wildlife. Through a partnership with a Dutch nonprofit, the company's Healthy Seas Initiative works with volunteer divers who spend free weekends finding and unentangling the nets.

It took some time for the company to figure out how to best work with the trashed nets. "It was very difficult in the beginning," Sandrini says. "When we started, we didn't know anything about fishing nets—this is not our business. We make yarn for carpet and garments. We started slow with fishing communities in order to understand with them what was possible to do...The first shipments were full of sand and other waste."
The company also had to find a way to identify the nets they needed, because only a certain type of nylon is compatible with their manufacturing process. "Fishing nets are made from various polymides," she says. "But with an infrared gun it was possible to recognize the right material."
Econyl is also made with a mix of nylon waste from the factory and from other sources, like nylon carpets and straps. Fishing nets supply about a third of the plastic.

Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the resulting fabric is itself infinitely recyclable. "If we take a garment—or fishing net, or whatever else made from Nylon 6—thanks to this special process, we're able to come back to the first raw material," Sandrini says. "We generally buy this material, which is a derivative of oil. Thanks to Econyl, we're able to reproduce it. It's a never-ending process. It can be returned to the first building block."
[All Photos: via Outerknown]

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Imagine If Our Highways Were Paved in Plastic

Imagine If Our Highways Were Paved in Plastic
Image credit: VolkerWessels
If you drive a car, then you've invariably experienced the insanity and frustration that potholes can cause. Roads made of asphalt aren't perfect. They crack and crumble. The longer they go without repairs the more damage they inflict on our cars (and insurance policies).

One construction company in the Netherlands thinks it has the solution: roads made of recycled plastic from the ocean. Scientists at construction firm VolkerWessels are collaborating with the city of Rotterdam in Holland to build prototypes of these pre-frabricated strips of road called PlasticRoad.

The benefits of pre-fab roads made of recycled plastic, as VolkerWessels sees them:
  • Built in a fraction of the construction time (weeks, not months)
  • Virtually maintenance free
  • Can withstand greater extremes in temperature (-40 degrees F to nearly 180 degree F)
  • They have three times the expected lifespan of traditional asphalt
  • Have a lightweight design, meaning roadways could more easily be moved or adjusted

PlasticRoad would also have a hollow space that can be used for cables, pipes and rainwater, VolkerWessels says. Check it out:

Image Credit: VolkerWessels
The next step in the prototype phase is to test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions, VolkerWessels says. If all goes well, the company hopes to lay the first fully recycled roadway sometime within three years,  Rolf Mars, the director of VolkerWessels’ roads subdivision, KWS Infra, said in a recent interview with The Guardian.

One can only imagine how much more quiet rubber tires on plastic roads would be than on asphalt. And, sayonara potholes. Good riddance.

Plastic roads may seem more well suited for toy cars, but a Dutch is aiming to take the toy track to the test track. VolkerWessels announced last week that it was working on plans to bring the world’s first plastic road to the Netherlands. The PlasticRoad project is still entirely conceptual, and the company is looking for partners to collaborate with. However, VolkerWessels has highly ambitious plans for PlasticRoad with claims that the project would revolutionize roads.
The company has said that the recycled plastic would be more durable, require less maintenance and be more resistant to the elements – the road is said to be able to handle temperatures between about -40F and 176F. The company has yet to start testing, but it said it expects the lifespan of PlastRoads to be at least 50 years based on the lifespans of similarly used plastic products for sewage pipes and plastic platforms.
“Plastic offers all kinds of advantages compared to current road construction, both in laying the roads and maintenance,” VolkerWessels’ director of roads subdivision KWS Infra Rolf Mars said.
The roads, which would be hollow for cables, pipes and rainwater, would also feature modular construction with a lightweight design to make construction easier. Individual sections could simply be made in the factory before being shipped for assembly. The company claims PlasticRoads could “be built in weeks instead of months.”
VolkerWessels is also claiming that the PlasticRoads would be more environmentally friendly than the traditional aggregates paving the road. As it is, asphalt causes 1.6 million tons of carbon emissions each year. 100 percent of the plastic used to create PlasticRoads would come from the the eight billion kilograms of plastic trash floating around the ocean – plastic trash that is normally burned, further damaging the environment. Additionally, all of the PlasticRoads can be recycled for use on a new road once their expiration date has passed.
When the project is ready for testing in approximately three years, the Dutch city of Rotterdam has already volunteered to help run the test trial on the city’s “street lab.”
“As far as I know we’re the first in the world [to try this],” Mars said. “It’s still an idea on paper at the moment; the next stage is to build it and test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. We’re looking for partners who want to collaborate on a pilot – as well as manufacturers in the plastics industry, we’re thinking of the recycling sector, universities and other knowledge institutions. Rotterdam is a very innovative city and has embraced the idea. It fits very well within its sustainability policy and it has said it is keen to work on a pilot.”
- See more at: http://www.aggman.com/is-plastic-the-new-pavement-netherland-company-plans-for-road-surface-made-of-recycled-plastic/#sthash.3aaHNBqR.dpuf

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hawaii Just Became the First State to Ban Plastic Bags

By Shivam Saini.  This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

No longer welcome on our shores.
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Grocery shopping will never be the same—in Hawaii at least. On July 1, the state became the first in the U.S. to ban plastic checkout bags, after Oahu joined the rest of the Hawaiian islands in prohibiting them.

Although California was the first state to pass a law in 2014 prohibiting retailers from handing out plastic bags to customers, the ban was put to a referendum after pro-plastic trade groups opposed the move. The statewide ban in Hawaii requires businesses to stay away from bags made from noncompostable plastic or else pay $100 to $1,000 in penalties.

For a country that threw away 3.4 million tons of plastic bags, sacks, and wraps in 2012, as estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the ban in Hawaii is undoubtedly a major step toward sustainable packaging. But the ban is limited in its approach: it applies only to bags made from noncompostable plastic. Retailers are free to use compostable plastic bags, recyclable paper bags, and reusable bags.

Moreover, the list of bags excluded from the ban runs long. Plastic bags used for carrying fruit, vegetables, frozen foods, coffee, meat, and fish inside the store have escaped the ban. Retailers who use plastic bags for carrying takeout food, newspapers, laundry, and prescription drugs have also been spared. Nonetheless, the ban represents what could be the start of a game-changing trend.

Supermarkets use layers and layers of flimsy plastic bags to pack purchases. The average American takes home about 1,500 plastic bags a year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. So it's no surprise that the U.S. figures in the list of top 20 offenders contributing to plastic debris in the oceans, according to a 2015 study. Plastic bags, in fact, are the fourth most commonly littered item on the coasts, as found by Ocean Conservancy.

Plastic bags may trump the eco-friendly paper bags and totes when it comes to cost and convenience, but the Earth suffers. This is because polyethylene—the most common type of plastic seen in supermarkets—doesn't wear down easily. It takes plastic bags ages to decompose, up to an estimated 500 years. A Swedish study found that chemicals used in plastic could increase the risk of diabetes.

All of those bags have helped give the Pacific Ocean a debris monument twice the the size of the continental U.S. The so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch is full of plastic, which kills sea turtles and other marine life. If other states follow Hawaii's example, it could turn the tide against plastic in the rest of the country—and the world.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

ProjectSeafood: The Traveling 3D Printing & Recycling Lab Looks to Conquer Ocean Waste Within a Mini-van


Desktop 3D printers are capable of fabricating objects out of simple plastics — usually PLA or ABS — providing designers with the ability to take a concept, idea or model and turn it into a real tangible product in a matter of hours. Without a doubt, the technology has, and will continue to, revolutionize prototyping, product development and innovation in the future.

For one couple, Jennifer Gadient and Fabian Wyss, they see 3D printing as not only a miraculous technology that spurs innovation, but also a means of cleaning up the planet, reducing litter on our beaches, and ultimately providing for the recycling of waste. The Swiss couple has taken to the road in a mini-van lab that they’ve created. This lab features an Ultimaker 3D printer, a plastic shredder, and a filament extruder; all the tools needed to turn plastic waste into useful products.
“Ultimaker [the 3D printer manufacturer] gave us a printer, and in exchange we give them feedback on their machine and content,” explained Gadient to Wamda.com. “I think what interested them was that idea of recycling, and mobility. What does it mean if someone doesn’t have a factory, but travels with it?” added Wyss.
During the journey, which has taken them to France, Spain and now Morocco, they have collected plastic waste in the form of water and soda bottle lids, shampoo bottles and other objects that happen to be made up of polyethylene and polypropylene. Then, using their plastic shredder, they shred these objects before putting it into their filament extruder, to create feedstock for their 3D printer. From there, they can print whatever designs they would like, which so far includes surf wax combs, charms, sunglasses and more.

The project, which they call ProjectSeafood has provided for an interesting learning experience while also showing the potential that 3D printing has on the future of recycling.
Finding the plastic doesn’t seem to be a problem for the couple, as apparently our planet’s beaches are littered full of the necessary feedstock for their 3D printer.
“We quickly have a bag full of plastic bottle lids,” says Gadient. “And the more we go South, the more we find.” Some of these bottle lids were left by tourists, she explains, but much more were drawn by the sea current.”

The Ultimaker 3D printer that they use, has slightly been modified so that it can be used from the convenience of the mini-van while also standing up to the potentially windy and cold weather that the couple frequently runs into, in addition to other environmental factors along the way. They’ve enclosed the printer with windows on the sides, moved the motors to the outside of the machine and even created their own custom flexible “textile rooftop” that follows the movements of the printhead.
Because of the various colors associated with recovered waste, there is no knowing what the end filament will look like. Much of it is rainbow-colored or grayish-brown due to the mixture of colors.
“To transform the granules into filament, we use a Noztek filament extruder in combination with a lasers ensored winder. As the size, quality and meltpoint of recycled polyethylene-flakes varies, extruding a filament from multiple objects like bottlecaps in constant diameter is quite a challenge and some filament has to be re-recycled due to large diameter variations,” the couple explains.
The printable material, which is referred to as HDPE (high-density polyethylene) is not quite as easily printed as more traditional PLA and ABS filaments. The biggest problem that the couple runs into is with the material’s first layer adhesion when extruded onto the printers build plate. HDPE has a tendency to warp and delaminate, even when a heated bed is used. To help combat this problem, they have discovered that using a cloth covered build platform works quite well.
While this endeavor has not made the couple wealthy by any means, they are enjoying their time together, meeting a lot of interesting people along the way, and ultimately taking a step to clean up our planet. At the same time, they are proving that 3D printing can be a very useful tool in the recycling of certain types of plastics.
“We never expected to make a lot of money,” says Wyss, “But there was this hope to find a way to make it sustainable. What we gained is human experiences, technical exchange, and meeting great people.”
What do you think about this interesting endeavor? Do you think more people should be looking into 3D printing with waste? Discuss in the ProjectSeafood forum thread on 3DPB.com.

Adidas Turning Ocean Plastic Waste Into Shoes

Posted on 06. Jul, 2015 by Alison Crick in Jilard News
Plastic Bottles on Beach
While plastic debris like these bottles may be visible, much more is broken down into microscopic particles.

German sportswear maker Adidas is planning to make the ultimate eco-friendly footwear. The company has created the world’s first shoe from plastic waste found in the oceans.

Adidas announced a new partnership with Parley for the Oceans, an organization founded in 2013 that raises awareness of the dangers to the world’s oceans while promoting projects that protect and conserve the oceans. While Adidas has worked on other sustainability efforts in the past, this is the first time they have made a shoe out of waste plastic from the oceans.

Eric Liedtke from Adidas and Cyrill Gutsch from Parley for the Oceans revealed their new initiative at a United Nations event last week. The pair unveiled a prototype shoe with the upper part make entirely from recycled ocean waste and deep-see gillnets which are used to illegally catch fish. All the plastic for this particular pair of shoes was collected during a 110-day Sea Shepherd expedition that tracked an illegal poaching vessel off the coast of West Africa. Sea Shepherd is a conservationist group that partnered with Parley for the Oceans on this particular project. The sole of the shoe is not plastic but is made from other sustainable materials.

Along with the new shoes, Adidas is planning to release plans for other products made of ocean plastics later this year. They also plan to phase out the use of plastic bags in their retail stores to prevent more plastic from ending up in the ocean. Their prototype ocean plastic shoe, however, does not yet have a name and may be released to stores in a different form than its current look.

With the new shoes and other products, Adidas is recycling at least a small part of the plastic waste that litters the world’s oceans while showing that waste can be turned into something cool. More importantly, though, they are raising awareness of a growing problem.

Plastic waste in the oceans is a bigger problem than many would think. According to UNESCO estimates in 2006, every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in the water. This ranges from large, visible pieces of plastic like shopping bags and water bottles to microscopic plastic pieces that have broken down in the water. They say that more than a million fish, sea birds, marine mammals, and other sea life die every year as a result of this plastic pollution, and there may be many more deaths that scientists are just not aware of.

There are a few ways that plastic pollution in the oceans can affect wildlife. Deep-sea nets and plastic bags can tangle around a fish or mammal. As well, even tiny pieces of plastic can be eaten by fish who think they are food. With a belly full of non-nutritional plastic, these fish then starve to death. Chemicals in the plastic can also affect hormones in the aquatic creatures and expose them to pollutants like PCB and DDT that the plastic has absorbed from the water.

Because of ocean currents, these plastic debris often clump together in huge ocean patches, such as the Great Pacific garbage patch in the North Pacific Ocean. Estimates of that plastic gyre’s size range from 270,000 to 5,800,000 square miles. Plastic waste also washes up on beaches, looking unsightly and taking away habitat and breeding grounds from shore creatures.

Some of the plastic comes from marinas and rivers, and other plastic comes from ocean-borne ships. Still more plastic comes from abrasive microbeads in cleaning and beauty products, which is washed down the drain and is too small to be trapped by water treatment plants. The tiny plastic beads then make their way into rivers and oceans.

Some organizations have organized measurement of the ocean plastic problem along with cleanup efforts, although the huge amount of plastic floating in the oceans makes this effort daunting. Others are focusing on raising awareness of the issue and urging reductions in plastic use on land.  Parley for the Oceans says it is hoping to partner with even more businesses to help the world’s oceans.

Could knitted sneakers help clean up the ocean?

A conservation organization fished illegal gill nets out of the ocean, and Adidas turned them into shoes.

If knitted sneakers sound like a strange concept, it may sound even stranger that they come from trash found in the ocean.

The German-based shoe company Adidas paired with conservation group Parley for the Oceans to develop a sneaker design made by knitting illegal gill nets and other waste found at the bottom of the ocean, according to an Adidas group statement.

The conservation effects of this method are twofold: using recycled nets removes existing waste from the environment, and knitting results in creating less new waste.

"Knitting in general eliminates waste, because you don't have to cut out the patterns like on traditional footwear," Eric Liedtke, Adidas Group executive board member of global brands, said according to Fast Coexist. "We use what we need for the shoe and waste nothing."

The yarns and filaments from the nets and other ocean waste form the shoe upper, the Adidas statement said. Parley partner organization Sea Shepherd collected the nets used for the prototype shoe on a 110-day expedition tracking an illegal poaching vessel.

"It's a fishing net that was spanning the bottom of the sea like a wall, and killing pretty much every fish passing by," Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch told Fast Coexist. "They confiscated this net, and we're bringing it back to life."

The shoe is not for sale – and it probably will not be anytime soon. An Adidas spokeswoman told The Huffington Post that, at least for now, the focus of the project has not been on marketing and mass producing, but rather on simply showing it can be done.

“This is not a plan, this is an action,” she said. “We did this to show what we are capable of doing when we all put our heads together.”

Though this shoe might never hit markets, Adidas is one of many companies that has sought to create sustainable footwear. Adidas touts its use of recycled materials to make more efficient use of patterns, and the company also participates in donation programs for used shoes. New Balance also created a sneaker made from recycled plastic in 2011. Hiking boot manufacturer Timberland uses an eco-friendly rubber compound in its soles and recycled plastic water bottles in its linings and laces.

While reusing plastic helps keep it out of the ocean and other waste destinations, Mr. Gutsch acknowledged that the concept still faces sustainability problems. The shoes are still made of plastic, and even if this plastic is no longer killing fish, it will eventually become waste again when the shoes are thrown out, and may end up back in the ocean.

"We're going to end ocean plastic pollution only if we're going to reinvent the material," Gutsch told Fast Coexist. "We need a plastic that is not the current plastic—it's a design failure. It causes a lot of problems. Plastic doesn't belong in nature, it doesn't belong in the belly of a fish, it doesn't belong out there. The ultimate solution is to cut into this ongoing stream of material that never dies, is to reinvent plastic."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Jack Johnson Takes Out Trash to Beat Plastic Pollution

published 06/15/2015 in Huffington Post  by Lisa Kaas Boyle

Musician and surfer Jack Johnson may seem laid back, but not when it comes to fighting plastic pollution. Aboard the Mystic Schooner on a research expedition with plastic pollution experts The 5 Gyres Institute, Johnson took a hard jab at The Bag Monster, alter-ego of Andy Keller, founder and president of Chico Bags.

Keller, who invented a reusable bag that folds into its own pocket, becomes The Bag Monster when he dons a costume made of 500 plastic shopping bags, the average number of bags used annually by a shopper who accepts plastic shopping bags. Johnson and Keller are both part of the 5 Gyres 2015 SEA (Science, Education, Action) Change Research Expedition which set sail from Miami with stops in Eleuthera, Bahamas and Bermuda before voyaging across the Atlantic to New York City. The explorers aboard the Mystic are trawling the seas to collect and study microplastics, fragments of our plastic civilization that are not contained and have spilled into our environment with significant impacts on sea creatures and our food chain.

Johnson lives in Hawaii, the first American state to ban plastic bags. His Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation supports 5 Gyres, a research, education and policy institution committed to stopping plastic pollution. 5 Gyres is located in California, where Governor Jerry Brown signed a plastic bag ban this year.

Citizen Scientists aboard the Mystic Tall Sail Ship with 5 Gyres conduct hourly trawls for microplastics and keep a visual check for larger floating pieces of plastic pollution on the ocean surface. Jack Johnson was shocked at what he saw on his shift. As reported to the students of a local Bahamian school, The Island School, he saw 47 pieces of plastic go by during the first ten minutes of his hour watch, well outside the Atlantic Gyre.

Also contributing to the voyage, participating in research, and giving presentations aboard the vessel are Celine Cousteau, Dan and Keith Malloy, champion surfers and filmmakers; Kimi Werner, champion spearfisher and freediver; Mark Cunningham, legendary body boarder and subject of the Malloy brothers' film Come Hell or High Water, which was screened at The Island School to students who participated in a 5 Gyres produced Youth Summit on plastic pollution. Students shared their own research projects including a study of plastic pollution chemical impacts on fish flesh in the Bahamas.
5 Gyres co-founder and research director Marcus Eriksen is the lead author of recent research on the amount of microplastics in world oceans.

The amount, more than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces weighing over 250,000 Tons afloat at sea, is surprising because subtracting the amount of plastic that is recycled, landfilled and burned leaves a huge amount of plastic unaccounted for by the global estimate in our ocean's surface waters. One study estimates the amount of plastic waste lost at sea at 8 million metric tons: the equivalent of "five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world."

Eriksen hypothesizes that the lost plastic has entered the food chain as it is consumed by marine life and is also settling to the benthos at the bottom of the ocean. 5 Gyres' research shows that 95% of the marine plastics at the surface of the ocean are smaller than a grain of rice, and thus enter the food chain as easily as plankton. The small pieces of plastics have been tested and found to adsorb oily chemicals persistent in the aquatic environment such as petroleum, flame retardants, and even PCBs and DDT that persist even though banned decades ago. The microplastics have been shown to accumulate these toxins in percentages a million times higher than the surrounding waters.

The Mystic Schooner is set to dock in New York City on June 23rd. All the participants of the Sea Change Expedition have direct evidence of humankind's impact on the 70 percent of the earth's surface that is ocean. The explorers know for certain now that there is no "away" in our "throw away" culture of single use plastics. Used for brief moments, our disposable plastics persist in our environment indefinitely.

But there is great hope as more voters and consumers are educated about plastic pollution through organizations like 5 Gyres, Johnson's own Plastic Free Hawaii program, and other groups such as the Bahamas Plastic Movement and the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Next on the Agenda for 5 Gyres: linking more research to policy solutions as with recent successes banning plastic microbeads in personal care products in numerous states.