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Eating Shellfish Likely Means Eating Plastic, Scientists Say

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The amount of plastic in our oceans—and thus in our seafood—is rising. The authors of a forthcoming study say Europeans alone ingest about 11,000 microscopic pieces of plastic apiece every year. And unless we make some very big changes, that number could reach 780,000 pieces per person within a few decades.

Microplastics, also known as microbeads, are popular additives to a wide range of personal care products, from face wash to toothpaste. We rinse them off and send them down the drain, where they head out into the water supply. And there they’ll stay, absorbing chemicals, until something or somebody comes along and eats them.

Studies have found that fish that consume microbeads are smaller than others. They reject real food in favor of more plastic. Their eggs are less likely to hatch, and hatchlings are less likely to escape predators.

Researchers at the University of Ghent in Belgium have been studying the effects of microplastics on shellfish like mussels, oysters, and clams, all of which are filter feeders. The average mussel sucks in and spits out about 20 liters of water per day. Most of the plastic particles in that water will be filtered and sent back out into the ocean. Most, but not all; lead researcher Colin Janssen says the mussels they examined had an average of one tiny plastic fragment apiece.

Janssen and his colleagues say the same process occurs in humans who consume shellfish. About 99 percent of the microplastic will pass through your system. That still leaves 1 percent to stay in the body, and we don’t yet know what that means for our health.

“We do need to know the fate of the plastics,” Janssen told Sky News. “Where do they go? Are they encapsulated by tissue and forgotten about by the body, or are they causing inflammation or doing other things? Are chemicals leaching out of these plastics and then causing toxicity? We don't know."

Experts estimate we’re currently dumping one garbage truck’s worth of microplastic into the ocean every minute. By 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the sea [PDF]. We’ve started to take some steps—in 2016, Congress voted to ban microbeads altogether—but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

"We have to do something about it,” Janssen said. “We have to act now."

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Amsterdam is Turning Plastic Trash Into 3D-Printed Furniture
PrintYourCity
PrintYourCity

The city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands is taking a unique approach to waste management, Inhabitat reports. Under the direction of The New Raw, a Rotterdam-based design studio, recycled plastic is being used to make public benches that capture a lot of the area’s charm while providing solutions for the 51 pounds of plastic refuse each Amsterdam resident tosses away each year.

The initiative is called Print Your City! and encourages those materials to be repurposed via 3D printing to make new, permanent fixtures. The New Raw calls it a “closed loop” of use, where the plastic is used, reused, and materialized in the same environment. The bench, dubbed XXX, seats two and rocks back and forth with the sitters' movements, offering a metaphor for the teamwork The New Raw is attempting to cultivate with the general public.

A plastic chair is surrounded by trash
Print Your City!

“Plastic has a major design failure,” says Panos Sakkas, an architect with The New Raw. “It’s designed to last forever, but it’s used only for a few seconds and then easily thrown away.”

The goal is to collect more plastic material in the city to use for projects that can be designed and implemented by citizens. In the future, 3D printing may also support bus shelters, waste bins, and playground material—all of it recyclable.

[h/t Inhabitat]

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To Encourage Responsible Trash Disposal, a Startup in Nigeria Pays People for their Waste
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Nigeria is home to more than 180 million people, who produce more than 32 million tons of waste per year and just 20 to 30 percent of this garbage is collected, according to one estimate. To provide Nigerians with incentive to dispose of their trash responsibly, Junks, a Nigerian waste management startup, provides people with the chance to exchange their trash for cash, according to Konbini.

The company offers to pay for items and materials like discarded electronics, glass, plastic, aluminum, books, and clothes. Once purchased, these materials are re-sold to wholesalers and recycling companies, according to Techpoint. Potential users who want to sell their trash are required to register on the startup's website, Junks.ng, and fill out a form with a description of the trash they're selling, along with their asking price and contact information. Once this information is received, representatives from Junks are sent to pick up and pay for the waste.

Computer programmer Bradley Yarrow founded Junks.ng in August 2017. Based in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, Nigeria, the company currently has just three employees, in addition to Yarrow. That said, the tiny startup appears to be doing big business, judging from a growing list of sold junk—which includes laminating machines, old laptops, and scrap car parts—already listed on Junks.ng.

[h/t Konbini]

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