India to Ban Single-Use Plastics

The Indian government just announced that it will ban disposable and single-use plastics. Taking effect on October 2nd, the ban outlaws plastic straws, packaging, bags, cups, and foodware. While several states like Maharashtra passed their own bans, this new law affects the entire country.

Plastic waste is a national crisis in India, but this ban goes a long way to solve it. As opponents of single-use plastic, OkStraw Paper Straws is happy to see India take action. OkStraw knows that drastic times call for drastic measures, and with this new ban, India has a greener future on its horizon.  

Plastic waste hurts animals like cows, which live in populated areas.

India's Single-Use Plastic Problem

India is a young, rapidly developing nation of 1.3 billion people, but it suffers from pollution. As a result, cities like Gurudam are among the world’s most polluted, and plastic waste is no better. Plastic waste kills India’s animals, destroys natural habitats, and threatens people’s health. Furthermore, microplastics are a major threat to India’s ecosystem, because they pollute the water, air and soil. 

People in India recycle a large portion of plastic, but it’s not enough to reduce plastic waste. In fact, estimates say that by 2022, the average Indian person will use nearly 50 pounds of plastic every year. That means no matter how much plastic India recycles, there will still be more polluting the environment. India needs extreme measures to solve this crisis, and we at OkStraw think a single-use plastics ban might be it. 

Modi's Campaign Against Plastic

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made fighting plastic waste and pollution a national issue. On August 15th, Modi asked Indians to reject single-use plastics, and plans to phase them out entirely by 2022. With his campaign, Modi wants to create a plastic-free legacy for 1.3 billion people. 

 

Banning single-use plastics nationwide won’t be easy, however, according to New Delhi-based columnist Archana Jyoti. Jyoti explains that India needs viable alternatives to replace single-use plastics, and people need to abide by the law. At OkStraw Paper Straws, we understand this concern, but Indians need not fear, because sustainable solutions are already here. 

Prime Minister Modi vows to end plastic waste in India.

Solutions for a Plastic-Free India

Thanks to growing opposition to single-use plastic waste, biodegradable solutions are hitting the market. In this new market, Indian entrepreneurs are introducing natural, renewable solutions to single-use plasticsWe at OkStraw Paper Straws eagerly await to see new solutions to single-use plastics from India’s new entrepreneurs. 

OkStraw Paper Straws is no stranger to the struggle to create true plastic alternatives. We know the sleepless nights and the trial and error, because we’ve been there. In the end, we created paper straws for any drink, from boba tea to slushies. So while India’s single-use plastic ban shuts one door, it opens far more new doors for entrepreneurs. With each plastics ban, the market for compostable goods keeps growing. And now with 1.3 billion more people, the market just got a whole lot bigger!

Carnival agrees to pay $20 million for pollution violations in settlement

Carnival Corp. reached a settlement Monday with federal prosecutors in which the world’s largest cruise line agreed to pay a $20 million penalty because its ships continued to pollute the oceans despite a previous criminal conviction aimed at curbing similar conduct. Senior U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz approved the agreement after Carnival CEO Arnold Donald stood up in open court and admitted the company’s responsibility for probation violations stemming from the previous environmental case.

“The company pleads guilty,” Arnold said six times in a packed courtroom that include other senior Carnival executives, including company chairman and Miami Heat owner Micky Arison. “We acknowledge the shortcomings. I am here today to formulate a plan to fix them,” Arnold added.

“The proof will be in the pudding, won’t it?” the judge replied. “If you all did not have the environment, you would have nothing to sell.”

Carnival admitted to violating terms of probation from a 2016 criminal conviction for discharging oily waste from its Princess Cruise Lines ships and covering it up. Carnival paid a $40 million fine and was put on five years’ probation in that case, which affected all nine of its cruise brands that boast more than 100 ships.

Now Carnival has acknowledged that in the years since its ships have committed environmental crimes such as dumping "gray water" in prohibited places such Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park and knowingly allowing plastic to be discharged along with food waste in the Bahamas, which poses a severe threat to marine life.

Now Carnival has acknowledged that in the years since its ships have committed environmental crimes such as dumping “gray water” in prohibited places such Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and knowingly allowing plastic to be discharged along with food waste in the Bahamas, which poses a severe threat to marine life. The company also admitted to falsifying compliance documents and other administrative violations such as having cleanup teams visit its ships just before scheduled inspections.

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Seitz at an earlier hearing threatened to bar Carnival from docking at U.S. ports because of the violations and said she might hold executives individually liable for the probation violations. “The concern I have is that senior management has no skin in the game,” Seitz said, adding that future violations might be met with prison time and criminal fines for individuals. “My goal is to have the defendant change its behavior.”

Under the settlement, Carnival promised there will be additional audits to check for violations, a restructuring of the company’s compliance and training programs, a better system for reporting environmental violations to state and federal agencies and improved waste management practices. The agreement also would set Sept. 13 and Oct. 9 deadlines to create an improved compliance plan and make other changes, subject to fines of $1 million per day if those deadlines are not met.

If a second round of deadlines are not met, the fines could go up to $10 million a day. Other proposed changes include a reduction by Carnival in the use of single-use plastic items across its entire fleet and the creation of “tiger teams” meant to make improvements in the ships’ food and beverage systems and how waste is handled at sea.

Seitz is retiring later this year and is turning over the case to U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, who jointly presided over Monday’s hearing. Three people who claimed they were victims of Carnival’s environmental violations attended the hearing.

Their attorney, Knoll Lowney, expressed skepticism that Carnival will keep its word this time. “Time and time again, Carnival has shown its contempt of environmental laws and the rule of law,” he said. “Here we are again.”

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‘Mass extinction event’ that could wipe out a million species is already underway, says UN-backed report

'Mass extinction event' that could wipe out a million species is already underway, says UN-backed report

The report comes after a week-long meeting of experts from 50 countries in Paris. They  warn that a “mass extinction event” precipitated by human activities is already underway – the first such event since dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid 66 million years ago. Scientists say that in total, our planet has experienced five previous mass extinctions in the past half-billion years; this sixth wave would be the first caused by humans.

The report calls for urgent changes in government policies to limit environmental damage and climate change, but will also recommend that families or individuals sponsor beekeepers near their homes, for a cost of less than $100 a year. Bee populations are falling but they are essential to pollinate crops and food supplies depend on them.

Eating organic food is another way to preserve fast shrinking insect populations. The report says the reason your car windscreen is no longer covered in dead insects after a long drive is because pesticides have wiped out nearly 80 per cent of Europe’s winged insects over the past three decades. The decline has also reduced bird numbers by nearly a third, because there are no longer enough insects for them to eat. If insects disappear, vegetable and fruit crops will fail because they won’t be pollinated.

The report also renews calls to give up plastic straws. Americans alone use 500 million a day, but they end up in the sea and harm fish and marine animals.

The report also renews calls to give up plastic straws. Americans alone use 500 million a year, but they end up in the sea and harm fish and marine animals.

People can help save endangered species through adoption, it says; a chimpanzee, for example, can be sponsored for a donation to WWF of around $60 a year.

Eating less meat will also help to preserve forests, the experts say. Livestock and agriculture cause deforestation in many parts of the world because trees are cut down to make way for pasture or to grow crops. In the Amazon, some 63 per cent of deforestation stems from livestock farming. But neither should you turn to tofu — soya growing is also a major culprit in the destruction of the world’s largest rainforest.

The report warns that “half a million to a million species are projected to be threatened with extinction, many within decades.”

Robert Watson, chair of the group that drafted the report, said: “The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being. Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge for decades to come.”

Species are being lost because of shrinking habitats, illegal hunting, climate change and pollution, campaigners say.

The report has been prepared over three years for a cost of more than £1.8 million by “150 leading international experts from 50 countries, balancing representation from the natural and social sciences, with additional contributions from a further 310 experts,” according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Known officially as the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, it draws on nearly 15,000 references including scientific papers and government data.

It is backed up by an open letter urging world leaders to act immediately, signed by nearly 600 scientists, business leaders, environmentalists and public figures, including Jane Goodall, the primatologist and conservationist, and Chris Packham, the naturalist and television presenter.

Biologists find trash in belly of stranded baby dolphin

Biologists find trash in belly of stranded baby dolphin

ByTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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

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

Biologists said they found two plastic bags and a shredded balloon

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

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

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

There’s just no getting away from microplastic contamination

There’s just no getting away from microplastic contamination

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

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

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

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

The mystery of the disappearing plastic

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

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

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

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

The plastics are blowin’ in the wind

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

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

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

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