save our blue planet

Let's save our blue planet by saving the ocean. Every little step counts.

6 amazing plastic bans from around the world – and Germany? — 11. August 2016

6 amazing plastic bans from around the world – and Germany?

Good news! Plastics bans across the world have been hitting the headlines lately.From the US to India and Morocco, governing bodies are taking control of the plastic pollution problem, bringing in either complete bans on plastic, or bans on specific forms like polystyrene.

Source: 6 amazing plastic bans from around the world

In Europe, we try to reduce the plastic waste, too, to protect the ocean from waste pollution. Especially the colorful plastic shopping bags the cashier throws at you for free. Every European uses 200 of them each year, most of them only once. But since the EU leaves it to their members how to do it, Germany uses its standard methods: personal commitment of the firms (freiwillige Selbstverpflichtung, that means they make a non-binding promise of their own to prevent a law) and money. Instead of banning these bags, the customer can use them further but in some markets he has to buy them first. Many markets offer canvas shopping bags, too, but they are more expensive. Guess what will happen?

I’m afraid it will end like with plastic bottles: instead of banning single-serving water bottles Germany put a deposit on them, just like on reusable PET bottles. And what happened? The quota of reusable water bottles decreased, of course. Many customers don’t differentiate between the two and use the lightweight single-serving bottle rather that the heavier reusable bottle, since it is all the same anyway.

Take the pledge and use no plastic shopping bags anymore – with time it becomes second nature to take your own bag with you (even if you have to interrupt the cashier in its routine to prevent getting another bag). And be proud about yourself for every disposible bag you don’t have used.

Every step counts.

Shark of the week: sofa shark — 21. March 2016

Shark of the week: sofa shark

Did you know that there is a shark called sofa shark? The false catshark (Pseudotriakis microdon) is a large (up to 9.8 ft -3 m- in length) shark that appears like a flabby brown-pink sofa. At least if you haul it on the surface.

Pseudotriakis microdon 1.jpg
This 3-m-long false catshark was observed in Nihoa Canyon at 1,200 m depth. By NOAA Ocean Explorer, Public Domain

The also referred to as dumb shark is actually a, albeit mostly sluggish, predator and scavenger in its natural environment: at depths of 1,600–4,600 ft -500–1,400 m- all over the world. Due to its large oily liver, the sofa shark is able to hover, too. It feeds on bony fish, smaller sharks and squid and, as a AT&T deep-sea shark expedition off the Canary Islands 30 years ago proved (using deep-sea longlines to find the culprits damaging their communications cables), also on our waste: the stomach of one false catshark contained “a softdrink tin, a whole pear, several boiled potatoes and a pack of cigarettes”.

The sofa shark reproduces ovoviviparous, the gestation period lasts possibly two or three years. During that time the embryos feed first off a yolk sac and later off a vast amount of unfertilized eggs provided by the mother (oophagy), but they also use them to replenish their external yolk sac (which they later transfer into an internal yolk sac to serve as a post-birth food reserve). The sofa shark gives birth to only two (maybe up to four) 3.9–4.9 ft -1.2–1.5 m- long pups at a time.

Because of the vastly different conditions especially the water pressure compared to its natural habitat, hauling deep sea fishes to the surface is not a good idea. Even after throwing them back overboard (after catching them for scientific purposes or as by-catch) they most likely die. We should let the deep seas alone.

Sources: here and here

Sources of Ocean’s Plastic Waste | Quellen der Meeres-Vermüllung — 18. December 2015

Sources of Ocean’s Plastic Waste | Quellen der Meeres-Vermüllung

Over half of the material leaked into the ocean comes from China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand (Source). But that doesn’t mean that we others can slack off in our efforts to prevent plastic waste in the oceans – every step counts.

China, Indonesien, Vietnam, Thailand und die Philippinen sind die Quelle von mehr als der Hälfte des Plastikmülls in den Weltmeeren (Quelle). Das heißt jedoch nicht, dass wir anderen in unsere Anstrengungen, Kunststoff-Müll in den Meeren zu vermeiden, nachlässig werden dürfen – jeder Schritt zählt.


How Ocean Pollution Affects Humans | Wie die Verschmutzung der Meere den Menschen schadet — 17. December 2015
How Boyan Slat tests automatic ocean-plastic-cleanup | So testet Boyan Slat die vollautomatische Plastikbefreiung der Weltmeere — 16. December 2015
World’s largest ocean cleanup operation one step closer to launch | Weltgrößte Ozean-Reinigungsoperation einen Schritt dichter an ihrem Start | The Guardian — 16. November 2015
Blog “MY ZERO WASTE” — 14. October 2015
We switched back to tap water — 11. October 2015

We switched back to tap water

As I mentioned here we used bottled water. The reason was that our children got stomachache, and by trial-an-error we concluded that water from the tap was the culprit. It isn’t a new house, and we didn’t know if the piping polluted the (in Germany normally healthy and clean) tap water. So we bought bottled water, first in non-reusable bottles and later in reusable PET bottles. But after doing further research for this blog I couldn’t condone that anymore.

So we switched back to tap water. Prior to that, we made sure to clean the faucet aerators at least every fortnight, and to fill the glasses only at the tap in the kitchen (after using the first 5 liters in other ways every morning – namely boiled for tea). The children resisted a bit due to the different taste, but I explained and eased them into it by mixing with gradually less bottled water. To date, the stomachache didn’t came back (knock on wood).

I tried to persuade my husband to suggest a water dispenser for both sparkling and still water at work. But he said that wouldn’t be possible (I think he didn’t dare to ask and potentially disgruntle his boss). So he is still using sparkling bottle water, but in reusable PET bottles from a no-name local firm. Germany has got more than enough groundwater, therefore using local firms can make sure there is at least no risk to the groundwater level in other countries. But in other countries like Pakistan or the US arise big problems.

California bans even supposedly biodegradable microbeads | Kalifornien verbietet auch Mikroplastik, die angeblich biologisch abbaubar sind| Grist — 10. October 2015

California bans even supposedly biodegradable microbeads | Kalifornien verbietet auch Mikroplastik, die angeblich biologisch abbaubar sind| Grist

Other bans of microbeads contain a biodegradable loophole. California’s ban says:

We’re banning plastic beads and if industry wants to use biodegradable beads they will have to amend [the law] and the onus is on them to prove that alternative microbeads won’t be harmful, based on third-party tests.

Andere Verbote von Mikroplastik enthalten ein “biologisch abbaubar”-Schlupfloch. Kaliforniens Verbot besagt:

Wir verbieten Plastik-Kügelchen und wenn die Industrie biologisch abbaubare Kügelchen nutzen will muss sie das Gesetz ändern lassen und beweisen, dass die alternative Mikroplastik nicht schädlich ist (durch unabhängige Tests).

via California bans microbeads, fish rejoice | Grist.

What biodegradable plastic really means| Was biologisch abbaubare Plastik wirklich bedeutet | The Guardian —

What biodegradable plastic really means| Was biologisch abbaubare Plastik wirklich bedeutet | The Guardian

It seems that the label “biodegradable” isn’t enough to truly protect the oceans from plastic waste.

In 2012 a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Chico, evaluated a few different types of bio-plastic [alleged to be biodegradable]. He found that films, bags and bottles made from Mirel’s PHA passed the test’s requirement for 30% biodegradation in six months. In fact, the plastic biodegraded – meaning, it turned into carbon dioxide and water at roughly the same rate as the plant sample that Greene also tested as a control. After a year, just over 80% of Mirel’s PHA film had biodegraded.

Items made from polylactic acid [PLA], however, a bioplastic widely used in food packaging, did not fare as well in water. Less than 5% of the samples biodegraded after 180 days in seawater, and that did not improve much at the one-year mark.

Wie es scheint, ist das Label “biologisch abbaubar” nicht genug, um wirklich die Ozeane von Plastikmüll zu schützen.

Im Jahr 2012 untersuchte ein Professor der Abteilung für Maschinenbau an der University of California verschiedene Typen von Bio-Kunststoffen [vorgeblich biologisch abbaubar]. Er fand heraus, dass dünne Schichten, Beutel und Flaschen aus PHA der Firma Mirel die Testanforderungen erfüllten, sich also 30% innerhalb von 6 Monaten zersetzten (das heißt in CO2 und Wasser zerfielen). Tatsächlich baute sich der Kunststoff sogar fast genauso schnell biologisch ab wie die Pflanzen-Probe (die Professor Greene als Vergleichsbeispiel auch testete). Nach einem Jahr waren etwas über 80% der PHA Schicht biologisch abgebaut.

Teilen aus Polylactide [PLA] jedoch (ein Biokunststoff, der als Nahrungsmittelverpackung weit verbreitet ist) ging es nicht so gut im Wasser. Weniger als 5% der Testbeispiele zersetzten sich nach 180 Tagen in Meerwasser, und das wurde auch nach einem Jahr nicht viel besser.

Source California considering banning biodegradable microbeads from personal care products | Vital Signs | The Guardian.