It’s estimated that five to thirteen million tons of plastic enters our oceans annually, where much of it can linger for hundreds of years. According to a report by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, scientists estimate that there is 165 million tons of plastic swirling about in the oceans right now. And we are on pace to have more plastic than fish (by weight) in the world’s oceans by 2050. That’s some scary stuff.
The transition to sustainable energy sources faces many challenges. One important one is to make those sources as reliable as conventional energy systems. For technologies like solar and wind power, which can’t operate around the clock, an enabling element is effective energy storage. Energy storage is critical for both the electricity grid and for transportation.
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.
Particulate matter and toxic chemical pollutants are a pervasive problem in the air people breathe in many places. Poor air quality causes health problems worldwide and is a factor in diseases such as asthma, heart disease and lung disease.
With the forthcoming administration change, it appears that the federal government is likely to start backing away from tackling climate change and may even be obstructive towards efforts to mitigate the growing problem of greenhouse gas emissions.