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Life in plastic . . . - 02

it's fantastic

Or so Aqua's 1997 hit single Barbie Girl might lead you to believe. I can't say for sure that's the case, but there have been some new, and some old, news items around plastic that I've been thinking about and wanted to touch on here.

To start, there's the Great Pacific garbage patch. This island of plastic garbage located between California and Hawaii (at the time of reporting - given currents, it is on the move) is 3 times the size of France as of March 23 2018, and its 617,800 square miles are made up of 79,000 tons of refuse. At least for me the numbers are pretty staggering to wrap my head around but the fact that it is multiple times the size of a country should say plenty.

Another chilling tidbit I've come across is the fact that a plastic bag was found during the deepest recorded manned dive in history. May 1 2019, Victor Vescovo visited the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, known as Challenger Deep, setting a new depth record of 35,843 feet (6.8 miles). There Victor and his team discovered four new species, a plastic bag, and candy wrappers.

Did you know that China is no longer recycling U.S. plastic waste? China has historically processed approximately 70% of the world's plastic, including millions of tons bought from the U.S., to recycle into new products. But last year China cut back on nearly all of its plastic imports, so the plastic is being routed to countries without as much capacity for recycling or safe disposal of the waste. Malaysia, for example, decreed it would be sending its plastic waste back to the foreign countries it came from.

Let's look at the other end of the spectrum.

Usually less than 10% of plastic waste can be appropriately recycled into new products. Researchers have come up with a new form of plastic called PDK plastic which is capable of being 100% recycled. There would be no waste with products made of PDK plastic - the challenge now is time and funding.

There's also the bacteria that eats plastic. This is very exciting news because it takes only the shortest leap of logic to bridge the idea of a bacteria that eats plastic and the millions of tons of plastic waste choking landfills and filling the ocean. Although it's never that simple, at the very least there is a path forward and a conversation happening around it.

So yeah, probably not all that fantastic. But there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Update 2019-06-11: "Corona lets beer drinkers pay with plastic waste for World Oceans Day " - "With the help of 25,000 volunteers, Corona and Parley have already cleaned more than 3 million square meters of beach. This summer, the goal is to pick up another 2 million square meters."

update 2019-06-18: Scientists found an edible mushroom that eats plastic


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