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Monday, April 29, 2019

Water crisis, Plastics .. London Marathon and debut of seaweeds !

Seaweed, or macroalgae, refers to several species of macroscopic, multicellular, marine algae. Seaweed species such as kelps provide essential nursery habitat for fisheries and other marine species and thus protect food sources; other species, such as planktonic algae, play a vital role in capturing carbon, producing up to 90 percent of earth's oxygen. Seaweed are a source of biologically active compounds including proteins and polysaccharides with promising uses in nutrition, biomedicine, bioremediation and other uses. ~ have you ever seen or read about them ? – can you identify this packet ?

Globally, Water crisis and plastic avoidance are at the top of the issues concerning people.  Chennai is reeling under heat and is also facing acute water crisis.  Rivers, tanks, wells,  borewells at places have gone dry and so many water tankers and people running after tankers with plastic pots are becoming a common sight.  There are fears that the major reservoirs and river basins has fallen to 21% of its average for the last 10 years, pushing thousands of villages across the nation to a possible water crisis. 

The CWC data also shows that, except the Indus, the Narmada, and the west-bound rivers of the south, the water level in all the river basins is less than the average of the last 10 years — the worst affected are Kutch, Tapi and Sabarmati in Gujarat; Godavari, Krishna and Cauvery in southern India, and the Mahanadi from Chhattisgarh to Odisha in eastern India.

Back home, one still find plastics after the ban by the State.  Some small scale vendors and shops have been worst sufferers – for example, those selling idly batter, edibles and side-dishes like chutney, tomato puree have to find alternatives for the plastic packs they used and find that the cost of packing has risen exorbitantly.  Meantime, one also finds MNC brand chips, biscuits and the like still hanging on every shop – and they too are made of plastic only !  The thrust is on single-use plastic of bi0-degradables.  From a purely commercial standpoint, single-use plastics, or SUPs, are a blockbuster innovation. Food container manufacturers have responded by making them even thinner and cheaper, which causes more single usage in a vicious cycle – but, are they really degradable, meaning would they vanish in thin air ?

In an interesting post in National Geographic, a  British marine biologist who devoted his career to studying plastic waste, analysed whether  biodegradable shopping bags actually degrade.  In 2015, he and his graduate students at Plymouth University buried a collection of bags labelled as biodegradable in the school’s garden.Three years later, when the bags were dug up, the bags not only had remained intact, they still could carry almost five pounds of groceries.  They did not have the same strength as they had when new, but had not degraded to any meaningful extent. The indestructible qualities of biodegradable bags are just one of the findings in a first-of-its-kind study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The research documents deterioration of five types of shopping bags that were immersed in water, buried in soil, or exposed to outdoor air as if litter.

The study highlights how the term “biodegradable” is often misunderstood by commoners like us – we think that the bag will  simply disappear if thrown away.  Scientists warn that chemical additives in biodegradable bags can contaminate the mixture, rendering it unusable. Now read this interesting news item from MailOnline on the effort to cut plastic ! .. .. it reads that London Marathon runners were offered  energy drinks in seaweed capsules in bid to cut 650,000 plastic bottles used in race !

Thousands of seaweed capsules filled with energy drink were handed out to competitors at the London Marathon as part of efforts to reduce the vast amount of plastic used at the event.Around 650,000 plastic bottles were provided at last year's marathon and, while they were recyclable, their use was branded a 'waste of resources'.However this time organisers were seen trialling a range of innovations and measures aimed at cutting plastic use and reducing waste at this year's marathon.The event saw the largest ever trial of Ooho seaweed edible and biodegradable capsules, more than 30,000 of which were handed out at the 23rd mile of the iconic marathon.

The Ooho seaweed edible and biodegradable capsules are made from brown seaweed, which inventors say is one of nature's most renewable resources.Elsewhere on the route, three Lucozade Sport stations used compostable cups rather than bottles.Organisers said they aim to cut the number of plastic bottles on the course by more than 215,000 at this year's event.Following the 2018 marathon, Tory MP Pauline Latham criticised the sight of discarded bottles 'dozens deep along the streets'. She told the Commons: 'We need to keep people like that hydrated, but actually using single use plastics is such a waste of resources and there should be better ways.'

As well as efforts to cut the number of bottles in use, organisers are testing ways of recycling them more effectively.Using a 'closed loop' system, plastic bottles collected in Tower Hamlets, Greenwich, Southwark and Canary Wharf will be returned directly to a reprocessing plant where they will be recycled into new bottles.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
29thapr 2019.

1 comment:

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