The world’s rivers carry billions of cubic yards of sediment – sand, silt and other material – and transport it to wetlands and coastal areas. Until fairly recently, this was viewed as a negative thing. But that has changed.
Back in February, we did a story about a rapidly-growing crack in the fourth-largest ice shelf in Antarctica. At that time, the crack in the Larsen C ice shelf was more than 100 miles long and was growing at a pace of about 5 football fields a day.
Microbeads are little spheres of plastic less than half a millimeter in diameter that are added to a variety of personal care and cleaning products such as cosmetics, sunscreens and fillers. They give these products a desirable smooth texture. However, they are so small that sewage filtration systems can’t remove them and they end up in rivers and oceans where they are ingested by birds, fish and other marine life.
Trees are nature’s way of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Growing plants take up CO2 and store it in the form of their roots, stems and leaves. And in fact, a significant factor in the growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been the extensive deforestation that has gone on over the past couple of centuries.
Car tires are generally considered environmentally unfriendly because they are predominantly made from fossil fuels. Natural rubber is generally not used anymore; most tires are made from isoprene, which is chemically very like rubber but is produced by thermally breaking apart molecules in petroleum in a process called cracking. The isoprene is separated out and purified and then reacted to form the artificial rubber that is the major component in car tires. The tires eventually end up discarded in giant piles that represent one of our biggest waste disposal problems.
The fruit and vegetables in most grocery stores these days come with little stickers on them with a numerical code identifying the produce for the cashier at the checkout counter. They are quite helpful for the cashier but a real irritation for the customer. Half the time it is difficult to get the labels off the piece of produce and sometimes we don’t notice them at all and end up with a little paper sticker in our salad.
There is a lot of interest in figuring out a way to store carbon dioxide produced from industrial processes and energy plants or even sucking it out of the atmosphere and then storing it. The problem is where exactly to put the stuff and how to make sure that it stays there.
As the world’s population grows and becomes more urban and affluent, the amount of solid waste we produce grows and grows. Over the past century, the total amount has risen tenfold. By 2025, the world-wide total is expected to double again. The average person in the United States throws away their body weight in garbage every month.