Plastics and rubber - Apr 11
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Carried away with pride
Hannah Pool, The Guardian
A year after Modbury in Devon became the first town in Europe to ban plastic bags, Hannah Pool pays a visit to see how life has changed for shoppers and traders
The Devon town of Modbury is an unlikely spot for a revolution. Nestled on the South Hams coast, 17 miles east of Plymouth, it is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it sort of place. With a population of around 1,600 ....
This time last year no one had heard of either Hosking or Modbury, but both have become synonymous worldwide with one thing: plastic bags. On May Day last year, the unassuming town rather grandly announced that it would be the first community in Europe to become "plastic shopping bag-free". Hosking, the leading force behind the ban, was horrifed by the marine pollution she had seen while filming in the Pacific ocean. After seeing her film, local traders implemented a self-imposed ban on plastic carriers. Within a fortnight the whole town was behind the project.
Twelve months on, townsfolk are keen to paint the scheme as 100% successful. Request a plastic bag these days in Modbury and you will be asked politely if you really need one, and if you absolutely do, you will be charged 5p for a corn-starch alternative. The Co-op also sells string "turtle" bags and for around £3 you can pick up a specially designed canvas Modbury "bag for life" (ethically produced, of course).
But it is clear the success has come at some cost.
(10 April 2008)
Schools offered uniforms made from old bottles
Martin Wainwright, The Guardian,
Schools struggling to meet carbon footprint targets are about to be offered a shortcut - the chance to dress their pupils in a uniform made entirely from old Coca-Cola bottles.
Britain's first line in completely recycled polymer jackets and trousers goes on sale next week from an outlet in Yorkshire which previously pioneered the waterproof, odour-resistant blazer.
Breakthroughs in flaking, chipping and spinning plastic at a plant in Taiwan have made "blazers with bottle" commercially viable, with the clothing tailored in Europe to avoid the use of child labour.
(7 April 2008)
Harnessing Biology, and Avoiding Oil, for Chemical Goods
Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, New York Times
THE next time you stop at a gas station, wincing at the $3.50-a-gallon price and bemoaning society’s dependence on petroleum, take a step back and look inside your car.
Much of what you see in there comes from petroleum, too: the plastic dashboard, the foam in the seats. More than a tenth of the world’s oil is spent not on powering engines but as a feedstock for making chemicals that enrich many goods - from cosmetics to cleaners and fabric to automobile parts.
In recent years, this unsettling fact has motivated academic researchers and corporations to find ways to make bulk chemicals from renewable sources like corn and switchgrass. The effort to tap biomass for chemicals runs parallel to the higher-stakes research aimed at developing biofuels. Researchers hope that the two will come together soon to help replace petroleum refineries with biorefineries.
(9 April 2008)
Setting sail for Garbage Island
For years we’ve been reading about a patch of garbage the size of Texas floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, ingeniously dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Basically, any trash that gets dumped in the water rides the currents to this one spot and joins an ever-increasing flotilla of crap. For all the breathless accounts of the mess and its impact on the area’s sealife, however, no one seemed to have a picture of the buildup.
In order to sate our own curiosity, VBS joined the crew of a research vessel studying the trash and sailed out into one of the most remote spots of open water in the world, the North Pacific Gyre, in search of this mythical garbage island. What we discovered once we got there was an ecological disaster beyond any of our expectations and possibly the single worst thing human beings have done to the planet and ourselves. Hope you’re into cancer and sex-reversal!
Four episodes are online. The video series describes the day-by-day experiences of the young crew on the trip to "Garbage Island". So far, it's more personal experience than science. Has "attitude" (e.g. the F-word) -BA
Brazil builds £10m condom factory to help save rainforest
Tom Phillips, The Guardian
Making love might not seem like the most obvious way to save the world's largest tropical rainforest - and combat the threat of Aids.
But according to the Brazilian government, which this week opened a £10m condom factory deep in the Amazon jungle, it could be an effective weapon in the battle to silence the chainsaws of Amazonia.
On Monday government ministers gathered in the remote town of Xapuri to open a condom factory that will use latex manually extracted from the area's forests to make around 100 million condoms a year.
The factory, in the Amazon state of Acre, would allow local rubber tappers to profit from the rainforest without destroying it, officials said. Marina Silva, Brazil's environment minister, said the Natex condom would help create "a new pattern of production and a new process of inclusion that would value the forest being left standing".
As well as protecting the rainforest government officials hope the factory will help to reduce Brazil's dependence on condoms imported from Asia.
(9 April 2008)