Here's Why the UK is About to Ban Q-Tips

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iStock

If Prime Minister Theresa May sticks to her plans, UK residents will need to find an alternative way to scrub their earlobes. May recently announced a pending ban on disposable, single-use items made from plastic, including drinking straws and cotton swabs, as Forbes reports.

The move is part of England's 25-Year Environmental Plan, a strategy developed to help reduce waste in the country's water bodies that’s proving harmful to animals and humans alike. A recent tax on plastic shopping bags intended to curb their use dropped bag circulation by 90 percent.

Johnson & Johnson, maker of Q-Tips, already announced a move to paper-made swabs in 2017. Fast-food chains that depend on disposable straws are also anticipating the ban: McDonald's, which is already utilizing recyclable plastic straws, will be rolling out paper straws in UK locations and advising employees to ask customers if they want one rather than just dropping it in the bag.

The ban, which is expected to be implemented as early as 2019, follows the example set by Queen Elizabeth II, who banned plastic straws from royal palaces in February. An estimated 8.5 billion straws are thrown away in the UK every year. In the United States, several cities—including Miami Beach, Florida; Malibu, California; and Seattle—have placed similar prohibitions on straws.

[h/t Forbes]

Aluminum Cans vs. Plastic Bottles: Which Is Worse for the Environment?

steved_np3/iStock via Getty Images
steved_np3/iStock via Getty Images

We are experiencing the effects of climate change, and the pressure is building for us to do whatever we can in our daily lives to help the environment recover—or, at least, harm it less. So when you’ve forgotten your solar-powered water bottle and are trying to decide between buying a beverage bottled or canned, which should you choose?

When it comes to the resources and processes required for producing plastic bottles and aluminum cans, they’re pretty much tied at “terrible,” according to Lifehacker. Plastic bottles are derived from the non-renewable resource petroleum, also known as oil. You might have seen a commercial where some poor animal is covered in oil from an oil spill—that’s just one of its negative effects. Oil drilling itself can also wreck water and land ecosystems, and fracking uses tons of water and also releases methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Aluminum, on the other hand, is made from a rock called bauxite. Mining bauxite can devastate ecosystems, generate air and water pollution, and cause health issues for the surrounding communities.

When it comes to the recycling prospects of each receptacle, aluminum cans have the edge. Since plastic bottles are so thin, they can’t be recycled into more plastic bottles. Instead, their fibers are used in things like carpeting, clothing, and sleeping bags. Plus, people don’t recycle plastic bottles as often as you might think: Recycling Today reported that the national recycling rate for plastic bottles in 2017 was just 29.3 percent. Meanwhile, aluminum cans can be recycled back into new aluminum cans, and the Aluminum Association, an industry group, estimates that almost 75 percent of all aluminum ever produced is still in use. Aluminum cans are recycled more often than plastic bottles, too—the rate for 2016 was about 50 percent.

Overall, both aluminum and plastic are bad for the environment. But if you want to keep your carbon footprint to a relatively respectable size, go with aluminum.

[h/t Lifehacker]

Chernobyl Will Soon Be More Accessible to Tourists, Ukraine Says

kefirm/iStock via Getty Images
kefirm/iStock via Getty Images

The Chernobyl exclusion zone, once considered one of the most dangerous places to step foot in on Earth, has taken on a much different role in recent years. The site of the 1986 accident that blew open the core of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and flooded the surrounding area with radiation is a tourist attraction today. The HBO miniseries Chernobyl has made the spot more popular than ever, and rather than discourage the public's fascination with the disaster, Ukraine is deciding to embrace it.

As CNN Travel reports, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky issued a statement declaring the 1000-square-mile exclusion zone around Chernobyl to be an official tourist destination.

"We must give this territory of Ukraine a new life," Zelensky said in his decree. "Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine's brand. It's time to change it. Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster, where there is a real 'ghost town.' We have to show this place to the world: scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists."

In order to boost Chernobyl's profile as a tourist attraction, the Ukrainian government will take steps to make it more accessible to the public. These will include establishing a "green corridor" that acts as a safe entry point into the area, and building new paths and checkpoints as well as renovating old ones. Pointless restrictions—such as rules against taking photos—will also be done away with.

Tours that take visitors through Chernobyl exist today, but they're much more complicated than a walk through the Louvre. Tourists must receive special permission to visit in advance, stick to approved routes, and undergo radiation screenings at various checkpoints. Despite the precautions required, tourism has exploded in the area by 35 percent since HBO's Chernobyl miniseries premiered earlier this year.

The Chernobyl exclusion zone is still radioactive, but safe enough that even the Ukrainian government is encouraging people to take day trips there. Even if you don't plan on booking your next vacation to Chernobyl, you can check out some photos of what the area looks like today.

[h/t CNN Travel]

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