Review: Conservation of Matter• Matter cannot be created or destroyed it can only change form – The amount of matter in the universe is finite (unchanging) – Atoms (of certain elements) are recycled over and over again. – 92 naturally occurring elements make up nearly all matter. – Go through innumerable chemical reactions to both form and breakdown compounds. – For example some of the atoms that now make up your body may have once been part of a dinosaur, a rock, a tree, and a panda bear at one point in their existence.
Review: Biogeochemical Cycle • Bio = Biosphere (Living Things) • Geo = Geosphere (Rocks / Earth) • Chem = Chemical Factors • Biogeochemical Cycles: Track the repeating movement of atoms and energy through both the living and nonliving parts of the earth system. • Biogeochemical Cycles are the basis for nutrient recycling and support all life on earth!
Factors Affecting Cycles: Consumption• Consumption: The rate at which a particular resource is being used.• Recharge Rate: The rate at which a particular resource is replenished by the biogeochemical cycle.• Sustainable Use: When consumption is the same, or lower, than recharge rate. Can be maintained indefinitely. – Renewable Resource: A resource that can be used sustainably. Usually recharge quickly.• Mining (Over Consumption): When the rate of consumption for particular resource exceeds the recharge rate. Tap into stored reserves (reservoirs) that will eventually run out. – Non-Renewable Resource: A resource that is not used sustainably. Usually recharge very slowly.
Water Consumption• We’ve looked in depth at water consumption, in short most of the world’s water supply is not being sustainably managed.• This is important because we have a very limited supply of fresh water.• Excessive consumption is only half the problem however....
Pollution • The EPA defines pollution as the “presence of a substance in the environment that, because of its chemical composition or quantity, prevents the functioning of natural processes and produces undesirable environmental and health effects.” • Pollution: The contamination of air, water, or soil by substances that are harmful to living organisms and ecosystems. • Pollutant: Any substance that causes pollution.
Pollution is a Major Problem!• Contamination further reduces the limited amount of resources available for human use.• Water pollution for example renders much of, the already small amount, of the earth’s total fresh water unsafe for human consumption. – Water requires costly treatment and filtration before use.
Types of Water Pollution• Pollution can come from natural sources, such as volcanic eruptions, or from human actions, such as disposal of industrial waste.• There are 3 main types of water pollution that render fresh water unfit for human use: – Inorganic Pollutants: (Ex. Heavy Metals like Lead) • Chemical (Ex. Benzene) • Physical (Ex. Non-Biodegradable Materials like Plastic) – Organic Pollutants: (Ex. Fertilizer and Sewage) – Biologic Pollutants: (Ex. Bacteria and Viruses)• Heat and Sediment Load can also be a dangerous pollutants for aquatic organisms.
Natural Sources of Pollution• There are many naturally occurring pollution sources. - Sulfur springs - Oil Seeps - Sedimentation - Volcanoes• These pollution sources, however, have been around for millions of years. - Ecosystems have evolved to accommodate them. - Therefore, they represent less of a threat than anthropogenic sources.
Anthropogenic Sources of Pollution The Impact of Human Activity
Point vs. Non-Point Sources of Pollutants:• Point Sources involve the discharge of substances from specific areas such as factories, sewage systems, power plants, underground coal mines, and oil wells.• Non-Point Sources are poorly defined and scattered over broad areas. Pollution occurs as rainfall and snowmelt move over and through the ground, picking up pollutants as they go. (agriculture runoff, storm-water drainage, and atmospheric deposition)
Point Sources:• Discharge from specific location directly into waterway o Drain pipes, sewer outlets, chemical spills.• Can be traced back to the source and dealt with. – Often use aerial or satellite imagery. – Trace concentration levels upstream.• Some sources are mobile.
Non-Point Sources• Runoff of pollutants into waterway• Farm runoff, feedlots, golf courses, lawns• Construction sites, logging areas, roads, parking lots.• Much more difficult to manage because they are diffuse (spread out).
Physical Pollutants Case Study: Plastics
What is a Physical Pollutant?• Physical or Macroscopic Pollution refers to pollutants that are large enough to be seen with the naked eye. – large visible items polluting the water. – Generally refers to human “garbage”. • Plastic is the most common
Plastic• Man-made from petroleum, produced through complex (and often dangerous) chemical processes.• The first fully synthetic plastic, Bakelite, was introduced by Belgian Chemist Leo Baekeland in the early 1900s.• Development of Modern Plastics• Today plastics have innumerable uses. – Over 100 million tons produced in the US per year.
Pros vs. Cons• Pro: – Easy to produce – Cheap – Malleable – Waterproof and Durable • Makes a good container• Con: – Not biodegradable. – Hard to recycle. • Costs more to recycle a plastic bag than to make a new one. – Production releases dangerous chemical pollutants. – Not very cheap when you factor in disposal costs. – Becomes dangerous pollutant.
Problems With Plastic• The vast majority of plastics are not biodegradable. – They cannot be broken down by the environment. – Stays in environment forever.• Despite the fact that the plastic itself endures for long periods of time most plastic products are treated as single use disposable items.• Less than 1% of the total plastic produced each year is recycled. – Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
The Story of Bottled Water
Worldwide humans produce more than 200 BILLION pounds of plastic per year.Once this plastic is released into theenvironment it becomes a dangerous pollutant....
If plastic doesn’t biodegrade and most isn’t recycled where does it go?• Like many pollutants, much (10%) of the worlds plastic washes downstream and eventually ends up in the ocean. – The UN estimates that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. – 70% Sinks – 30% Floats• Once in the ocean the floating plastic gets carried along by powerful currents• Most ends up deposited in what are known as “garbage patches” or “garbage islands”.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch• Large island (roughly twice the size of Texas) made almost entirely of plastic waste.• Total affected area is larger than Africa (the whole continent...)• Extends down approximately 100 feet.• Plastic outnumbers plankton 6:1 – Animals mistake plastic for food.
Why don’t we hear more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?Answer: It’s largely hidden from human view. – Located at the center of a Gyre. • Far from major shipping routes.
Hidden in Plain Sight• Most of the plastic is broken down into small pieces through Photodegradation. – As plastic is exposed to sunlight the polymers cross link and the plastic becomes brittle. – Breaks into tiny pieces, so small that some are microscopic. – Hidden just below the surface.• Practically impossible to clean up. – Only solution is to cut back on new plastic.
Come and see our beautiful white sand beaches... Plastic
Recycling, Downcycling, Polymers, Numbers, and YouPLASTIC POLYMERS
What is a Polymer?• A polymer is a long molecular chain made up of repeating units.• Plastic is a generic term that refers to thousands of different polymers each with unique chemical characteristics. – Some are dangerous, others are relatively safe. – Some can be easily “recycled” (actually downcycled) others can’t.• These polymers are typically separated into 7 major categories.
Safety• Some plastics are known to leach chemicals into their contents.• It’s never a good idea to microwave plastic, as the heat breaks down the structure and promotes leaching.• Dioxins: Carcinogenous chemicals linked to breast cancer among many others.• BPA and Phthalates: Endocrine disruptors. Interphase with hormones. Linked to gender neutrality and other serious disorders.
Recycling?• While we commonly use the term “recycling” for everything besides throwing something in the garbage, this isn’t technically correct. – Recycling: The process of converting waste into new products of equal quality. – Downcycling: The process of converting waste materials into products of lesser quality and reduced functionality. – Upcycling: The practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value, leading to a higher material and energy benefits.
#1: PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) • Commonly Found in: Disposable plastic bottles • Recycling (Downcycling): Picked up through most curbside recycling programs. Around 20% recycling rate. • Recycled Into: Polar fleece, furniture, carpet. • Safety: Generally considered safe. Not known to leach carcinogens or endocrine disruptors.
#2: HDPE (high density polyethylene)• Found in: Milk jugs; bleach, detergent and household cleaner bottles; shampoo bottles; some trash and shopping bags; motor oil bottles; butter and yogurt tubs; cereal box liners• Recycling (Downcycling): Picked up through most curbside recycling programs.• Recycled into: Laundry detergent bottles, oil bottles, pens, recycling containers, floor tile, drainage pipe, lumber, benches, picnic tables, fencing.• Safety: Generally considered safe with a low risk of chemical leaching.
#3: V (Vinyl) or PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)• Found in: Siding, Flooring, Plumbing Pipe, Detergent Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles, Food Packaging, Cling Wrap, Wire Jacketing, Medical Equipment.• Recycling (Downcycling): Very very rarely recycled; accepted by some plastic lumber makers.• Recycled into: Decks, paneling, roadway gutters, flooring, speed bumps.• Safety: Extremely dangerous (especially the manufacturing process) associated with a number of carcinogens. Leaches dangerous chemicals, many recommend avoiding direct food contact. Burning releases many toxins.
#4: LDPE (low density polyethylene)• Found in: Squeezable bottles, shopping bags, clothing, furniture, carpet.• Recycling (Downcycling): LDPE is not often recycled through curbside programs. Plastic shopping bags can be returned to many stores for recycling.• Recycled into: Trash can liners and cans, shipping envelopes, lumber.• Safety: Relatively safe, not commonly associated with chemical leaching.
#5: PP (polypropylene)• Found in: High Temp Containers Ketchup Bottles, Bottle Caps, Straws, Medicine Bottles.• Recycling (Downcycling): Very rarely recycled.• Recycled into: Brooms, brushes, ice scrapers, landscape borders, bicycle racks, rakes, bins, pallets.• Safety: Dangerous to manufacture but consumer products are generally regarded as relatively safe.
#6: PS (polystyrene)• Found in: Disposable “Styrofoam” products and packaging, cups, carry-out containers, plastic silverware.• Recycling (Downcycling): Basically never recycled, has one of the worst environmental track records.• Recycled into: Insulation, egg cartons, foam packing.• Safety: Very dangerous. Benzene (material used in production) is a known human carcinogen. Butadiene and styrene (the basic building block of the plastic) are suspected carcinogens.
#7: Other• Basically everything else. Includes everything form new biodegradable plant based plastics to polycarbonate to nylon and other synthetic fabrics.• Found in: Water-cooler jugs, bullet-proof materials, sunglasses, DVDs, iPod and computer cases, signs and displays, certain food containers, synthetic fabrics.• Recycling (Downcycling): Essentially never recycled.• Recycled into: Plastic lumber.• Safety: Polycarbonate in particular is dangerous. Leaches BPA, Phthalates, and other endocrine disruptors.
Solutions to Macroscopic Plastic Pollution The 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Reduce• The best way to deal with the problem of plastic pollution is to reduce consumption.• Buy less plastic.• Often the price difference is only a few cents.• Push for new minimalist packaging. – Or natural material packaging like glass and cardboard• If it isn’t broke don’t fix it.• Buy products that are built to last.
Grocery bagsPlastic State of Mind
Reuse• Don’t use disposable items, reusable ones are better.• Find other creative ways to use things rather than throwing them away. – Upcycling• Donate products to others when done using them rather than throwing away.
Plastiki• Sailed a boat made entirely from post consumer plastic across the Pacific Ocean.• Raised awareness about plastic pollution.• Promote reusing plastic trash as raw building material.
Recycle• Rather than throwing out plastic Recycle it.• Turns waste into new products.• Gives plastic new life. – Does require energy input.• Reducing the amount of virgin plastic that has to be produced each year. – Although plastic is rarely truly recycled, more often downcycled into lower quality plastics, it’s still better than just throwing away.
Changing Business Ethics• There is currently a shift going on in business ethics. – Some manufacturers are now accounting for disposal costs when they make new products. – Using recycled and green materials.• Does it work? – Patagonia brings 230 million dollars in annual sales. – Has been called “one of the most successful and inspiring companies ever”. – Founder Yvon Chouinard has been called a “business legend”.
New Technology: Bioplastics• Scientists are working to create new types of plastic that are biodegradable.• Incorporate plant material (corn and soy) into the plastic.• Can be broken down by microorganisms.
Case Study: Organic Climbing • Handmade in USA • Utilize a 100% Organic Soy Bean Based foam. – Doesn’t break down over time. • High high quality durable materials – 1000d Ballistic Cordura Nylon – Kevlar thread
Organic Full Pad Metolius BailoutPrice: $180 Price: $142Manufactured In: USA Manufactured In: ChinaFoam: Organic Soy Foam: Oil-Based PlasticUseable Life: 3 Seasons Useable Life: 1.5 Seasons