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FCC Environmental Justice Message About Plastics

By: Julie Pohlman,

First Church of Christ Environmental Justice Team, February 3, 2022

As a person very concerned about climate change and one working to alert the public and our government leaders since 2011, it has been a discouraging effort at times. All the statistics and graphs shared don't seem to rally people to make change and our leaders are slow to act, and we get further and further behind as we procrastinate.

However, there are some good news out there. For example, I have recently read an article on line by entitled "Ten Scientific Solutions to Plastic Pollution". This article not only shares these solutions but includes multiple links to further information.

The ten "solutions" that are being worked on are as follows:

1.There is concern about the amount of plastic that ends up in the sea. Some estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the seas than fish, so a Dutch company designed a system to collect ocean plastic. Their ocean plastic collection system looks something like a system to collect oil spills. It is not terribly efficient yet but it is a work in progress. This floating system operates in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. the hope is that 50% of the patch can be removed within 5 years.

2. NASA has shared that it has technology to detect microplastic pollution in the sea by measuring the surface of the water. This technology will somehow be used to manage ocean debris as well as help determine the effects of microplastic on the sea and the creatures in it.

3.The discovery of a plastic eating enzyme by a Japanese scientist was discovered in 2016. Ideonella Sakaiensis 201-F6, is a bacteria that digests PET plastic by secreting an enzyme aptly named PETase to obtain the carbon as a food source.

PET is the most commonly used plastic, (ie) plastic H2O bottles , and it doesn't break down without help for 450 years, so this discovery shows great promise. Unfortunately, even the enzymatic breakdown process is still quite slow even though scientists have been able to speed up the enzymatic process by 20%.

4.A French firm, Biohm, has discovered that a fungus, Aspergillus Tubingensis, is also a plastic eater. As the fungus consumes the PET and PU plastic, it grows, potentially creating a new source of biomaterial for food stocks for animals, or even antibiotics.

5. Through experimental nanotechnology scientists have created a microscopic magnetic coil coated with nitrogen and nanganese that can also break down plastic in the water without causing harm to marine life. These tiny magnetic coils will react with oxygen molecules in the water and attack plastic to break it down. In early experiments these coils have produced a 30-50 percent reduction rate

in microplastics.

6. A new patented technology machine , the Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor, can convert un-recyclable plastics into oil, waxes and recyclable plastics. This technology allows all plastics to be mixed together on a commercial scale and turned into other products or fuels. Critics of this method point out that this process may produce more carbon emission.

7. Another creative solution to managing plastic waste is to convert much of it to road coverings, replacing asphalt. Plastic is more durable than asphalt and requires less heavy equipment to install. Reusing plastic in this way leaves only the smallest possible impact on our planet, solving two concerns at once.

8. Another unique idea, presently being researched and developed, is to convert seaweed into something called bioplastic. This "plastic" is used for different types of packaging for sandwich wraps, soaps, some food products. This "plastic can dissolve in water, or, in some cases, eaten. The Indonesian Company, Evoware, hopes to take advantage of the enormous supply of seaweed produced in their country, but, at present, the expense makes it a bit prohibitive.

9. A social approach helping to solve the plastics problem is an organization called Plastic Bank. this "bank" accepts plastic as a form of currency. People, presumably in third world countries are encouraged to collect discarded plastic from the waterways, etc., bring it to the "bank" who will accept the plastic in trade for food, services, school fees, etc. The "bank" will then, in turn, sell it to corporations for above market prices.

10. An inventory of 52 technologies regarding plastic collection, and pollution prevention was studied. The gap between the two was acknowledged and the urgency of solving the problem for human health and marine life was stressed.

Perhaps seeing some of what creative environmentalists and motivated business people are working on these days will be as encouraging to you as they were to me. Lets just hope they feel the urgency that many of us do to address these many problems and can get more of our politicians alerted.

Julie Pohlman,

First Church of Christ Environmental Justice Team, February 3, 2022

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