Single Use Plastics

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

Combating External Costs of Overconsumption

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.

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Seeking Alternatives to Landfills

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

Waste Management and Recycling Practices

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

Phytoremediation: The future of Environmental Remediation

Fig 1: Different pathways of Phytoremediation

Fig 1: Different pathways of Phytoremediation

Introduction

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

Expanding the Bottle Bill

Figure 1: Deposit information on the side of a can

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.

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