Cassandre Adelson, Ava Bordage, Jordan Nunley, Kaitlyn Parker
A recent study found that 92% of Americans over the age of 6 test positive for plastic-based chemicals in their bodies (Jackson, 2015). This shocking statistic is due to the tremendous amount of plastic litter introduced into the natural environment from humans improperly disposing of their plastic materials. Continue Reading
Derek Castiglione: Natural Resource Conservation
Theodore Doucette: Pre-vet
Charles Sclafani: Earth Systems
Plastic pollution in our oceans
Located halfway between California and Hawaii, is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is the largest aggregation of plastic in the world. At 1.6 million square kilometers, it is double the size of Texas and made up of over 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing over 80,000 metric tonnes. With data showing the patch is growing exponentially, it is unlikely the plastic is going to go away by itself (The Ocean Cleanup, 2019). Plastic bags pose a threat to biodiversity in the ocean. Over 200 different species are harmed by plastic pollution in the ocean and 100,000 marine animals are killed by plastic bags annually (Richards, 2008). The loss or reduction of these species can lead to a cascading effect that can affect the entire trophic web if not dealt with. If we do not take action regarding plastic pollution, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other garbage patches around the world will continue to grow until our entire oceans are littered with plastic, and by then it will be too late.
Adam Chartier, Building and Construction Technology.
Autumn Fetridge, Animal Science.
Kara Duprey, Environmental Science.
The United States and its territories are home to several coral reef systems in Florida, Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Pacific Islands, and the Garden Flower Banks offshore of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2018, para. 1). The Florida Reef is the third largest barrier reef in the world and has been in decline for the last four decades due to disease, pollution, and rising ocean temperatures (EPA, 2018, para. 16). Hawaii alone houses 60%, over 140,000 acres, of the United States’ coral reefs and is estimated to be worth over $9 billion and contribute several hundred millions of dollars to the economy per year. Commercial and recreational fishing in coral reefs generate $200,000+ per year (EPA, 2018, para. 31-33). However, we may not be able to enjoy the beauty and benefits of coral reefs for much longer as our plastic trash continues to infiltrate and devastate reefs at alarming rate; systematically poisoning, wounding, and infecting coral communities, leaving stark white skeletons in their place. Single-use plastic production releases chemicals that damage corals and the plastics themselves cause disease and physical harm to corals. Continue Reading
Erik Engstrom- Building and Construction Technology
Hunter Chapdelaine- Building and Construction Technology
Meaghan Asklar- Animal Science
Ellie Card- Sustainable Food and Farming
Single Use Plastics are causing damage to marine life as well as human lives.
From the outside looking in, it is quite easy to overlook the catastrophic damage that single-use plastics are causing to not only marine life, but human beings as well. Furthermore, we tend to forget that, as humans, we are reliant upon the oceans that surround us for survival, and it is the responsibility of human beings to protect these oceans to the best of their ability. That being said, it is important to educate ourselves and those around us in terms of the severity of this particular problem along with how to combat it. One particular study that attempted to do so involved the examination of a group of 256 women at Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center from 2004 to 2014 during their medically assisted reproduction process. During this study, the researchers measured the different levels of concentration of 11 phthalate metabolites in the women’s urine around the approximate time of conception. For those that are unaware, phthalates are a group of chemicals used in order to produce plastics that are more flexible and durable (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). The results showed that women who possessed the highest concentrations of phthalates were 60% more at risk of losing their pregnancy prior to 20 weeks than the women with the lowest concentrations (Messerlian et al., 2016). It is important to understand that these phthalates that are appearing in the bodies of humans and causing irreversible, long-life damage are the result of single-use plastics, particularly plastic bags, being irresponsibly released into the oceans where they will break down and be consumed by fish that are later consumed by humans. Therefore, it is vital that humans do everything in their power to combat the issue of pollution that we have created and ultimately caused irreversible and life-altering damage to marine ecosystems and humans. Continue Reading
Andrés Patino NRC
Lauren Thistle EnvirSci
Hannah McDonald NRC
Without giving it a second though, most people throw away items on a daily basis. Americans in particular, have a lot of ‘stuff’: trinkets, last year’s clothes, that old iphone, broken CDs, used electronics, and many other unnecessary items. After a short amount of time, many of these items get thrown into the garbage, but where does it all go? Some end up in landfills. Many of these items also end up getting blown away into back yards, transported to other countries, and leak into water sources that eventually lead to the ocean. There is even trash debris floating around in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, estimated to be twice the size of Texas (“How Big Is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”?”, 2013)! These chunks of debris known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” are a trash vortex that is a direct result of our consumption habits. The garbage ends up inside of birds, fish, and other wildlife that consume it, mistaking this ‘stuff’ for food.
Jensen, Nathan, Animal Science Nigrelli, James, Animal Science McCallister, Shane, Urban Forestry
Seeking Alternatives to Landfills
Looking back to waste management techniques practiced in the late 1800’s, it was common to send barges filled with municipal waste out to sea to be openly dumped (Roberts, 2011). By disposing garbage into the ocean regularly, it can be assumed that there was little knowledge or care over the impacts that this had on the environment. The first significant improvement from open dumping did not happen until the Fresno Sanitary Landfill was established in 1937 (Vincenz, 2010). Being the first landfill to follow rules and regulations, it showed substantial progress in the waste management industry. Continue Reading
Every time a ton of paper is recycled, 17 trees, 79 gallons of oil, 7,000 gallons of water, 41,000 kilowatts of energy, and 3 cubic yards of landfill space are saved (Fullerton, 2007.) Every living creature on this planet depends on raw materials extracted from the earth. If we continue to take resources from the earth at a faster rate than they can be produced naturally, we will not survive. It is necessary that we conserve the earth’s resources by recycling our waste so that we can provide a healthy environment for our offspring to inhabit. Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. It yields environmental, financial, and social returns in natural resource conservation, energy conservation, pollution prevention, and economic expansion and competitiveness. Continue Reading
Fig 1: Different pathways of Phytoremediation
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Harford County, Maryland. Between the years of 1940 and 1970, this location held some of the largest chemical dumping pits in the Eastern United States. According to the EPA, munitions, industrial chemicals and even chemical warfare agents were some of the contaminants deposited in this site named J-Field. Chemicals such as Trichloroethene (TCE) and 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane were some of the most prominent pollutants found in the soils around the dumping site. Not known at the time was that these carcinogenic agents were being dumped on a surface, that had an underground water table only 2 feet below the surface. Luckily, the groundwater below the site lay within a confined aquifer and did not have the potential to contaminate any potential human drinking water sources, yet, it couldn’t just be left in the ground for years to come. It’s estimated that within 30 years the contaminant levels can be reduced over 85% due to a new remediation technology, phytoremediation (EPA). Continue Reading
Figure 1: Deposit information on the side of a can (Case 2012)
Expanding the Bottle Bill
Nick Bonner, Plant Soil and Insect Science
Kathy Choy, Environmental Science
When I was young, my father would often bring home trash bags full of plastic bottles and cans from his work to return to bottle deposits since they would simply be thrown away otherwise. This was a very exciting thing to me, seeing how someone’s trash could be converted into money. We promptly hopped into the car and went to the nearest supermarket. As the five cents per container racked up, we had earned enough money to buy groceries for the day through very little effort. While my family was not poverty-stricken, it did not hurt to collect the extra money. Though I was not sure how recycling worked, I knew that I had helped the environment in some small way. Recycling can be a fun bonding experience and a source of income for families who are not so well off. But it is also something of environmental concern, because despite the “go green” age that we live in, Americans are recycling at surprisingly low rates.