Turning the tide on plastic waste.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and WRAP have announced a new collaboration to help turn the tide on the UK’s growing issue of plastic waste.

WIDE-SCALE CHANGE

If all the plastic bottles that are not collected for recycling in the UK each year were placed end to end, they would go around the world 31 times. It’s clear that wide-scale system change is required to make more of the plastic that already exists, keeping it out of the ocean and in the economy.

So far the solutions to plastic waste have been piecemeal. I am pleased to be leading this holistic initiative which will transform the UK’s plastics system. Working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we will bring together every ‘body, business and organisation’ involved in the life-cycle of plastics to make the move from a throw away culture to one where resources are used over and over again.’
— MARCUS GOVER, CEO at WRAP

The UK initiative will bring together businesses, industry, governments, local authorities, NGOs, media and society at large, in a bid to redefine what is possible and create a plastic system that works: a circular economy where plastic is valued and never becomes waste.

The initial focus will be on plastic packaging and will aim to eliminate unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging, and ensure that all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.

It will also work towards a significant increase in the collection and recycling of plastic packaging, and an increase in the recycled content in plastic packaging.

The aim is to drive demand for recycled material and impassion and enable citizens to play their part in reducing plastic packaging waste and litter.

TRANSFORMING THE SYSTEM

The initiative is currently being developed by sustainable production and consumption experts WRAP, and is a joint partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Revealed as part of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, it will be the first of a network of national initiatives of the New Plastics Economy in several countries around the world, complementing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global initiative.

STUDY SHOWS MARINE ORGANISMS CAN SHRED A PLASTIC CARRIER BAG INTO 1.75 MILLION PIECES

A single plastic carrier bag could be shredded by marine organisms into around 1.75 million microscopic fragments, according to new research.

Marine scientists at the University of Plymouth examined the rate at which bags were broken down by the amphipod Orchestia gammarellus, which lives in coastal areas in northern and western Europe.

They believe the results are an example of marine wildlife actually contributing to the spread of microplastics within the marine environment, rather than them simply being emitted from the water supply or forming through the physical and chemical breakdown of larger items.

Previous studies led by the university have shown that more than 700 species of marine life have been found to have encountered plastic debris, with clear evidence that ingestion and entanglement causes direct harm to many individuals.

PLASTIC POLLUTION

The main aim of the study was to discover whether different types of plastic and the presence of a biofilm – a layer of organic material which accumulates over time – altered the rate at which such organisms break down plastic debris.

Through monitoring in the lab and on the shoreline, researchers demonstrated the bags were torn and stretched by Orchestia gammarellus, with microplastics subsequently being found in and around their faecal matter.

‘An estimated 120 million tonnes of single-use plastic items – such as carrier bags – are produced each year and they are one of the main sources of plastic pollution. They already represent a potential hazard to marine life, but this research shows species might also be contributing to the spread of such debris. It further demonstrates that marine litter is not only an aesthetic problem but has the potential to cause more serious and persistent environmental damage.’

PROFESSOR RICHARD THOMPSONHead of the University of Plymouth’s International Marine Litter Research Unit

MARINE LIFE ATTRACTED TO DEBRIS

The type of plastic (conventional, degradable and biodegradable) had no effect on the rate of ingestion, however the presence of a biofilm meant the shredding took place around four times as quickly.

This, the researchers say, is consistent with recent studies into the feeding behaviour of seabirds and suggests marine life might be increasingly attracted to marine debris as a source of food regardless of the potential harm caused.

The study, conducted by BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology students Daniella Hodgson and Amanda Bréchon, and Professor of Marine Biology Richard Thompson, is published in Marine Pollution Bulletin. 

Plastic pollution

Plastic. As a result  its  proliferation  has been exponential, its  pervasiveness is global.  Plastic  pollution now  reaches  virtually  every  part of  the  planet.    One  of  the  most  observable  changes  on  the planet  in the last  50  years  has been ‘the  ubiquity  and  abundance  of plastic  debris’.

It is  likely that in the  first  ten  years  of  this century  we  have  used  more  plastic  than  we  did  during  the whole  of  the  last. 

Plastic production is increasing inexorably, particularly in the developing world; it is an indicator of development. In the first ten years of this century we produced more plastic that the whole of the last century. We are now producing nearly 300 million tonnes of plastic every year, half of which is for single use (Plastics Europe, 2009) .

Microsoft's subsea cable - 16 million times faster than broadband

Microsoft, Facebook and Telefonica have hit a key milestone in delivering their new trans-Atlantic subsea cable with a data capacity of 160 terabits per second.

Telefonica subsidiary Telxius has finished laying the Microsoft- and Facebook-backed Marea subsea cable, which stretches 4,000 miles (6,600km) across the Atlantic ocean from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Bilbao in northern Spain.

Microsoft boasts that its 160-terabit/s cable is 16 million times faster than your home broadband and could stream 71 million HD videos simultaneously. The cable contains eight pairs of fiber-optic threads wrapped in copper.

Telxius, which will operate the cable once it goes live, began construction in August 2016.

Marea, Spanish for 'tide', offers Facebook and Microsoft more global capacity for their data services, but also improved resilience thanks to landing at different points to most networks, which on the US side come ashore around New York and New Jersey.

The route is south of existing transatlantic cables. Microsoft of course has a massive data center in Virginia too, on which it's reportedly spent $1.1bn. Facebook and Amazon also have data centers there.

Marea continues the trend of tech giants investing in their own high-capacity subsea cables, rather than merely leasing them from other operators.

As Wired noted recently, the Marea cable noteworthy in that Microsoft and Facebook have more control over its future than if they joined a consortium of telecoms providers, as Microsoft did with six Asian telco firms to launch the New Cross Pacific Cable.

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They also don't need to share capacity with other telecoms providers. Google, meanwhile, has backed the 60-terabit/s Faster cable, which spans 5,600 miles (9,000km) between Japan and the US west coast and gives Google exclusive access to part of its capacity.

According to Microsoft, Marea is the highest-capacity connection of more than a dozen trans-Atlantic subsea cables. Marea also connects to nearby Sopelana, which links up with fiber networks connecting to other major European hubs like Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, and London.

Microsoft also points out that Bilbao offers a convenient path to hubs in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

For Microsoft, the cable will help it improve its various cloud services, such as Azure, Office 365, Skype and Xbox Live. Facebook says it will help it improve the "increasingly data-intensive services" that it provides through WhatsApp, Messenger, Facebook, and Instagram.

The cable is expected to become operational in early 2018, according to Microsoft.