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Thursday, June 11, 2015

"Social Impact" Cruises Aim To Educate Travelers About Protecting The Oceans

"Social Impact" Cruises Aim To Educate Travelers About Protecting The Oceans

Solution: Marine Garbage Drone Cleans Up Plastics In The Ocean

The project was spearheaded by Elie Ahovi, an industrial design student at French International School of Design. After seeing the huge amounts of junk floating in areas like the Great Pacific Garbage Patches, Ahovi and some fellow students decided to create a solution. The Marine Drone works autonomously to suck garbage into a built-in net. When the net is full, the drone is programmed to head back to its docking station and be cleaned out by a crew. Water-proof batteries power the silent electric motor, and a sonic emitter produces a signals designed to keep fish and other animals away from the net. It's unclear how effective this would be and whether it will create one form of pollution (noise) in order to clean up the plastic kind.

A few questions come up when considering this project, like: Where does the ocean garbage go once it's been collected at the docking station? Could this be implemented in other bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers? Ahovi responded to these questions by saying that garbage collected is recycled on land, and that the current design is too large to accomodate smaller bodies of water. If the design team can turn the project into an actual working product, we could have a solution to the overwhelming amounts of waste in the ocean.

Solution: Robots Come To The Rescue For Cleaning The Oceans

Google "Great Pacific garbage patch" if you want to feel particularly horrified at the state of the ocean: There’s a lot of trash masquerading as flotsam in our oceans. But with much of the mess in international waters, the campaign to clean up the water is largely left to nonprofits with limited budgets and staffs.

That’s where Cesar Harada wants Protei to come in. Harada runs an online community called Scoutbots devoted to open-source technology to improve ocean quality, and Protei is the community’s ocean-roving drone, a small, agile, floating robot. Harada believes robots like Protei could hold the key to more efficient, cost-effective ocean cleanup.

Right now, the Protei monitor levels of radioactivity and pollution, and they can’t pick up plastic or oil or other pollutants yet. But Harada plans to equip these remote-controlled vessels with cleaning tools to do so in the future. To make the drones into effective cleaning devices, they’d need to make them considerably larger than Harada’s current designs, with a receptacle to store the waste they collect. But as Harada demonstrates in his TED Talk, the drones wouldn’t have to be especially big to pull a tail of oil-absorbent material to clean up a spill.

These drones could very well change the way oil cleanup happens… and the way ocean cleanup happens in general. Harada’s sailing drone is special because he moved the rudder to the front, which allows greater remote maneuverability. This vision of smaller unmanned vessels capable of picking up or neutralizing pollutants would reduce harm for cleanup workers, and they’d be easier to maneuver than larger, less agile boats.

The community is partnering with two nonprofits to further its research, but right now, it’s a DIY movement with lots of enthusiasm but fewer resources. Protei runs $1,280 for an assembled prototype, so right now they’re more the domain of hobbyists.

But the technology has enormous potential. Unleashing Protei equipped with cleaning tools in densely polluted areas could help reduce pollution without requiring hands-on effort. Imagine cleaning up the ocean by controlling a robot boat with your iPhone! According to Gabriella Levine, a member of the Scoutbots community, the team wants to get corporations interested in their products.

Some people take cruises to Alaska. Others go to the Caribbean. But this summer, 14 lucky people will take a 20-day cruise to the North Pacific Gyre, a giant floating garbage area twice the size of Texas. You may recognize the gyre under its more common name, the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.

As AOL News reports, the cruise is a scientific expedition sponsored by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, a nonprofit that has run several similar trips to the North Pacific Gyre. This year's cruise, which costs $10,000 per person and will run from July 7 to 27, starts in Hawaii and ends in Vancouver, with most of the time spent in the middle of the gyre.

The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is one of the world's biggest environmental disasters — hundreds of miles of floating plastic bottles, bags and other junk. Much of that plastic trash has broken down over time, becoming tiny plastic particles that pollute the water and threaten all manner of marine life in the area. It's not all clumped together as an "island," as many people mistakenly believe. As MNN's Russell McLendon wrote last year, "it's like a galaxy of garbage, populated by billions of smaller trash islands that may be hidden underwater or spread out over many miles."


The 14 paying passengers on this expedition won't spend their whole time sunning themselves on the lido deck. Instead, AOL reports, "they'll operate a trawl that will collect micro-plastic bits as well as hauling aboard larger items found thousands of miles offshore. Oh, and they'll also be helping sail and maintain the ship, stand watch at night and even do some of the cooking."

Part of the mission of this trip is to understand how massive amounts of plastic are affecting marine life. "All types of marine animals, including fish, birds and mammals, ingest this stuff," Algalita's lead scientist, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, told AOL. "Right now, we're studying to see if a fish eats plastic, does it reabsorb it? It happens in the lab, but not yet in nature."

So far, two of the 14 seats on the cruise have been filled. That leaves 12 more to go. Don't delay: this could be the eco-vacation of a lifetime, and a chance to help some important research in the process.

One Solution: A 20-Year-Old Entrepreneur Comes To The Rescue

The oceans have a plastic debris problem, and it’s growing by 8 million tons a year.

Boyan Slat

Three years ago, a Dutch teenager named Boyan Slat garnered global accolades for a solution he devised for a high school science fair: a passive ocean trash collection device that would collect ocean plastic without harming marine life.

These days, Slat is a 20-year-old entrepreneur who is eager to put his massive ocean-cleaning idea to the test. A passing grade might lead to the removal of nearly half of the plastic debris floating in the Pacific Ocean in under a decade. But the process needs to be tested in real-world conditions before it can be launched at full scale—or beat the criticism of scientists who are skeptical that it can work.

Slat’s idea reverses current marine cleanup methods: Instead of sending ships out to chase floating garbage, position a stationary, floating, V-shaped buffer in ocean currents so that water moves through it, funneling plastic debris into a container for capture and removal while allowing animals to swim past the net-free device.

To test the concept, Slat and his company, Ocean Cleanup, propose to place a 6,561-foot-long float in the Korea Strait, off Tsushima Island, by spring 2016. If realized, it would be the largest floating structure ever deployed.

“Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts, but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” Slat said in a statement. “This deployment will enable us to study the system’s efficiency and durability over time.”

If the technology works, Ocean Cleanup hopes to build a 62-mile-long system that would float somewhere between Hawaii and California. This one would be big enough to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a mid-ocean gyre containing millions of tons of plastic trash.

When it first conquered the Internet in 2013, Slat’s plan captured hearts around the world for its combination of boldness and simplicity.

But the scientific community weighed in with a dose of skepticism on whether it would work, how effective it would be, and its potential environmental impacts.

Slat and the 100-member staff of his company, Ocean Cleanup, answered last year with a 530-page feasibility report stating that Slat’s cleanup system was viable and that a 62-mile-long model would remove 42 percent of the plastics in the Pacific Ocean’s trash-laden gyre in less than 10 years.

But open questions remain. At the Algalita Marine Research Institute—a nonprofit group that has worked since 1990 to develop solutions to the marine plastic pollution crisis—marine education director Katie Allen compares Slat’s idea to performing surgery on a tumor with a chain saw.

“The intricacies of trying to remove plastic from the ocean is beyond complex,” Allen said, while the conditions are extremely tough on human-made equipment.

Among her criticisms, Allen is concerned that Slat’s device would not be able to capture microplastics, which make up the bulk of the trash her group has found in gyres around the world. Nor is she convinced that the design could tackle large debris, such as fishing buoys and the huge nets typically attached to them.

Allen is also skeptical that Slat’s technology could avoid becoming clogged with marine organisms such as barnacles unless it is coated with organism-killing anti-fouling paints. This biofouling can be a serious problem for gear used in ocean research, such as robotic underwater drones.

“The amount of effort and input that has to go into creating this project might not be worth the output,” Allen said.

If Slat is successful in deploying his prototype in the Korea Strait, however, Allen will be interested in the results. “The types of ocean currents and types of plastics you find in that region near shore versus in the gyres are very different,” she said.

So, Why Should You Care? If it works, Slat’s technology will be a big win for the millions of animals affected by the invasion of plastics into the ocean environment. Sea turtles, sea birds, marine mammals, and fish are often injured or killed when they mistake these plastics for prey and eat them, or they get tangled up in abandoned plastic ropes or nets. Fifty-two million tons of plastic fishing nets are abandoned in the North Pacific Gyre each year.

Despite the lukewarm reception for his concept from the scientific community, Slat has found high-profile allies. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti recently jumped on the Ocean Cleanup bandwagon; he signed on to ceremoniously welcome an Ocean Cleanup expedition to the Port of Los Angeles in August.

The fleet of around 50 vessels intends to collect water samples in parallel lines between Hawaii and California; the samples will be used to create the world’s first high-resolution map of plastic pollution densities among 1.3 million square miles of Pacific Ocean.

The information should help Slat’s company position its full-size plastic cleanup system to pick up as much garbage as possible—if it gets that far. (Crowd-Funding Campaign)


Book A Trip To See the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

We were in the middle of the North Pacific with no land in sight, hunting for garbage. One of the crew spotted a bigger object that we harpooned to bring on board. It was a floating tire, and by the amount of algae and rust on it, it had been out here a long time. Getting closer, we saw more garbage. This time, a rubber fishing float. As we slowed the motor to pick it up, the water around the boat started to calm and something else caught my eye -- tiny bits of plastic surfacing out of our wake. At first, I saw just a few pieces, but it became almost unfathomable how many tiny plastic kaleidoscopic colors were ascending out of the water. They had been there the whole time. We were just moving too fast to see them. After hearing about the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" for so long, I could barely believe it myself; plastic was everywhere.

Last year, I had an opportunity to research on the R/V Falkor, a boat owned by the Schmidt Ocean Institute. Falkor was sailing from Seattle to Hawaii on a transit, or "deadhead" leg, and the route would take them right through the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. They heard about my work months before and I received an invitation to conduct my research on a two-week cruise.

As a PhD student in Biological Oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD, I have been studying marine debris and plastic pollution for awhile now, but up until the trip I had never seen it in a live environment, it was always in a lab. When I received the invitation, of course I said "Yes!" Not only because it was free research time, but also because Falkor is one of the nicest research vessels around (there's a sauna!) After some ridiculously quick planning and a nervous 48 hours when I thought my equipment wouldn't make it in time, we made it out to sea.

Wireless Camera Finder

The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is the largest continuous ecosystem on earth, covering an area of roughly 20 million kilometers. Due to the way its currents flow, there is a large convergence zone where debris and garbage from around the world gather. Debris has always gathered there, but natural debris biodegrades; our man-made garbage generally doesn't. If it does, it's on such a slow time scale that the gyre has now become a garbage patch of floating bottles and plastic of all shapes and sizes.

The plastic I was interested in collecting and analyzing is so small sometimes it can't be seen with a microscope; it's a byproduct of larger pieces of plastic that disintegrate into tinier and tinier pieces. This small plastic, though less noticeable, may be the most harmful to the ecosystem because it's small enough to infiltrate the food chain by being ingested by the tiniest animals, which are then eaten by larger and larger animals, including humans.

To test the plastic, I would drop a metal bucket overboard twice a day and filter the water to count the tiniest nanoparticles. Along with this, my goal was to preserve some water for future analysis to measure chlorophyll A and bacterial communities as well. Between the filtering and preserving process, I spent a lot of time on the observation deck, looking for trash and radioing down to the captain to stop the boat when there was a big piece to pick up.

As I sat on the observation deck of Falkor, even I was surprised that there was so much trash. There I was, getting my PhD on that very plastic debris. I was studying samples, looking at pictures, giving presentations and writing public outreach articles, but being there, I finally saw it with my own eyes. I could feel the sea breeze, see sea birds and then suddenly see trash. I needed this experience to really internalize that this is happening today in our oceans.

Before the trip, I gave a seminar to the crew about my research and to prepare them for what we would see. I got the impression that they really didn't believe me. One of the crustier sailors who had been a seaman his whole life, later told me in his Irish lilt, "I thought 'here's another scientist trying to cause alarm,' but it's amazing, you told us we would see fishing floats, bottles and nets. The first day I came up to look and I saw all three. It might be even worse than you made it seem!"

Watching the sailors become obsessed with the trash was one of the best parts of the whole cruise. They started stopping the boat even before I asked them to so they could pick up the big pieces they spotted. Watching their faces as they looked out at the trash made me realize my work is worth it.

I may not be an activist and I may spend most of my days in a lab, but moments like that, watching others care about the fate of the ocean, means I'm doing something right.

Seeing the trash for myself made me care about it even more; it made everything I research seem that much more real. With computer-simulated models and all-access internet, it's easy to imagine you can really "know the world" via your laptop. But there is an essential need to see things for ourselves, to travel, to do field work, to experience the things we read about.

It's the feeling of being there, remembering a derelict fishing net I pulled from the sea, that will really stick with me. Now when I think of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I think of the place first, the facts and figures second.

Close the laptops, pack your bags, and go see the world for yourself, even the problematic parts. You'll be amazed what you learn about things you already knew.

A “social impact” cruise announced this week promises a meaningful travel experience for do-gooder globetrotters -- and aims for lasting benefits for both tourists and locals.

Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise line, on Thursday introduced the cruise brand fathom, which will allow travelers to take part in three days of volunteering alongside residents of their destination as a part of a weeklong trip.

Carnival calls the new offering “social impact travel” and expects it to appeal to millennials, parents who want to engage in a meaningful experience with their children, and baby boomers looking to help others beyond writing a check. Carnival predicts 40 percent of fathom travelers will be cruise first-timers.

“We created fathom to meet the real hunger in the world for purpose, while at the same time tackling profound social issues through a sustainable business model,” fathom president Tara Russell said in a press release. “We harness the assets and resources of the world’s largest travel and leisure company and combine them with the talents and hearts of those working in social enterprises around the world.”

Fathom’s maiden voyage is set to dock in Amber Cove, a new port in the Puerto Plata region of the Dominican Republic, in April 2016. The company plans to add other destinations in the future. Prices for the Dominican Republic cruise start at $1,540 per person for an exterior cabin with a window.

Volunteer tourism, or “voluntourism,” is increasingly popular in the cruise industry. A representative for the Cruise Lines International Association, a Washington-based cruise trade group, said that another example is luxury liner Crystal Cruises’ “You Care. We Care.” shore excursion programs, during which travelers can work with food banks, animal rescues and other local nonprofit groups.

Still, some have criticized voluntourism, questioning whether the beneficiaries are local communities or well-meaning travelers.

Joy Huang, an assistant professor in the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana’s Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, said the new cruise is “a really great thought for Carnival,” but questioned whether it was simply a marketing strategy to offset the company’s public relations blunders in recent years. Huang said most volunteer tourists in the past have tended to be students or recent graduates hoping to upgrade college applications or resumes.
“It’s great for Carnival to do this and talk about giving back to the community and really behave as a good citizen,” Huang said. “On the other hand, I’m concerned this is just another version of volunteer tourism. If it doesn’t serve the real, authentic need of local communities, it’s a waste of resources.”

Previous research from Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K. suggests that voluntourism opportunities with loftier price tags, such as the Carnival cruise, tend to have less impact on the communities they purport to serve.

Carnival addressed voluntourism concerns in its fathom press release, saying the company has worked closely with its partner nonprofit organizations, including Entrena and the Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral, and local leaders in the Dominican Republic to ensure cruise volunteers are addressing genuine needs -- education, the environment and economic development.

Carnival said it will train participants on the ship prior to arrival so that they can be helpful improving English skills of students, building and delivering water filters, and cultivating cacao plants and organic fertilizer at a nursery that produces artisan chocolates in partnership with a women's cooperative.

Lorri Christou, a spokeswoman for Cruise Lines International Association, of which Carnival is a member, said Carnival "has made some great choices in terms of who they’re working with."

Huang said fathom may succeed, given consumers’ increasing preferences for socially responsible, charity-engaged businesses.

“We’ve got this whole generation of new adults who think very differently and who are much more socially responsible and are looking for these types of vacations," Christou said. “This is a great opportunity to make an impact on the world and give folks the incredible experience they’re looking for.”


Your Clothes Are Polluting The Ocean Every Time You Do Laundry

Ecologist Mark Browne knew he’d found something big when, after months of tediously examining sediment along shorelines around the world, he noticed something no one had predicted: fibers. Everywhere. They were tiny and synthetic and he was finding them in the greatest concentration near sewage outflows. In other words, they were coming from us.

In fact, 85% of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing.

It is not news that microplastic – which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines as plastic fragments 5mm or smaller – is ubiquitous in all five major ocean gyres. And numerous studies have shown that small organisms readily ingest microplastics, introducing toxic pollutants to the food chain.

But Browne’s 2011 paper announcing his findings marked a milestone, according to Abigail Barrows, an independent marine research scientist based in Stonington, Maine, who has helped to check for plastic in more than 150 one-liter water samples collected around the world. “He’s fantastic – very well respected” among marine science researchers, says Barrows. “He is a pioneer in microplastics research.”

By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, Browne estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment - ending up in our oceans.

Alarmed by his findings, Browne reached out to prominent clothing brands for help. He sought partnerships to try to determine the flow of synthetic fibers from clothing to the washing machine to the ocean. He also hoped his research might help develop better textile design to prevent the migration of toxic fibers into water systems.

The reaction wasn’t what he expected.

He contacted leaders in the outdoor apparel industry - big purveyors of synthetic fabrics - including Patagonia, Nike and Polartec. But none of these companies agreed to lend support.

“Perhaps it’s my pitch,” Browne joked. “We want to look for new, more durable materials that do not emit so much microplastic.”

In 2013, Brown presented his vision for a program called Benign by Design, backed by a team of engineers and scientists from academic institutions around the world as well as from the Environmental Protection Agency. The group’s goal is to help the industry tackle the problem of synthetic microfiber migration into waterways and marine ecosystems. He proposed creating a range of working groups where scientists and industry representatives would work together to develop synthetic materials that do not shed synthetic fibers – or do so minimally but are still cost-effective, high-performing and, if possible, rely on recycled materials.

Only one firm, women’s clothing brand Eileen Fisher, offered to support him. The company’s $10,000 grant has supported a section of Browne’s research over the past year.

“Any lifecycle issue, especially when it’s about a huge consumer product like clothing, is important,” says Shona Quinn, sustainability leader with Eileen Fisher. “[Browne] is raising an issue no one else has been studying.”

While Browne sees the grant as a validation of his efforts, 90% of the products Eileen Fisher sells are made of natural fibers. He’s still hoping to find a clothing company that will collaborate on research and development of new synthetic fabrics that will not shed microfibers.

While pitching his idea at the Launch innovation conference, Browne spoke to Jim Zieba, vice president of Polartec’s advanced concepts and business development group. In a follow-up email, Browne asked if Zeiba could provide him with polymers from Polartec textiles so that Browne could grow the database of materials he maintains to help discern the unidentified fibers in his samples. He did not hear back from Zeiba.

Allon Cohne, global marketing director at Polartec, says he’s familiar with Browne and his research, but that Polartec has already done an internal study to analyze the effluent at its Lawrence, Massachusetts, manufacturing plant. Aside from characterizing the amount of microfibers contained in the effluent as “minimal”, Cohne said he could not publicly share the study or any details – such as what minimal means.

Browne says he’s glad to hear that Polartec conducted a study, but maintains that any truly scientific study would be open to peer review. (As it happens, the words “Committed to Science” are currently presented on Polartec’s website, above a video describing Polatec’s approach to fabric innovation.)

Patagonia, a company known for its strong environmental ethic and sustainable manufacturing processes, has also declined to work with Browne. The company’s strategic environmental responsibility manager, Todd Copeland, says the company considers Browne’s findings too preliminary to commit resources directly to a project like Benign by Design, until it sees more solid evidence that specific types of products or materials, such as fleece jackets or polyester base layers, are contributing to a major environmental threat. “I don’t know how much effort we want to spend looking for the solution before we know where the problem is,” Copeland says.

Browne says that, without industry support, he doesn’t know how he can move ahead with his efforts to address microfiber migration from textiles at their source.

“I think [clothing companies] have all put a lot of marketing money into environmental programs, but I’ve not seen evidence that they’ve put much money into research,” says Browne.

In fact, Patagonia maintains a policy to not directly support research, its spokesman Adam Fetcher told me. Instead, it supports non-profit groups doing environmental advocacy work. Over the past five years, Patagonia has awarded close to $70,000 in grants to groups focused on the microplastics pollution issue. These include Algalita Marine Research Foundation (founded by captain Charles Moore, who first raised the issue of microplastics in oceans), 5 Gyres, and Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC), with whom Abigail Barrows works to collect surface water samples from around the world for her research into microfibers.

Perhaps Browne would have more luck if he were an environmental advocate rather than a scientist.

Still, Gregg Treinish, ASC executive director, says he would need to raise a great deal more money to fund the level of research he feels microfibers deserve. “Determining what type of plastic is in the water is hard and expensive – up to $1000 per sample.”

Bad Chemistry

Browne’s difficulty in finding companies to cooperate might be compounded by the fact that the industry is already under scrutiny for different environmental issues. According to the World Bank, textile manufacturing generates up to 20% of industrial wastewater in China, and a number of environmental groups, chiefly Greenpeace, have launched campaigns to pressure clothing makers to rid their supply chains of toxic chemicals, such as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) used in textile processing. PFCs are linked to environmental toxicity and human health problems, and Kevin Brigden, a chemist and Greenpeace honorary research fellow, says some manufacturers are finally beginning to phase them out.

But Brigden fears microfibers released from synthetic fibers could be just as chemically hazardous. “Some chemicals are very water soluble, so they wash out [into wastewater during textile manufacturing],” Brigden says. “Others are less soluble so they take time to wash off. If fabrics break down then [microfibers] are another pathway for those [chemicals into the environment].”

Those fighting the use of microbeads in beauty products are finding more traction, Barrows says, because phasing them out is straightforward. Getting rid of synthetic fibers, on the other hand, would be extremely difficult. Not only are synthetic fabrics durable and versatile, but they can have smaller water and energy footprint than natural fabrics. “Synthetic fabrics have many great applications,” Barrows concedes, and determining how to measure their environmental impacts is an overwhelming challenge.

Other Sources, Other Solutions

Polartec’s Cohne argues that too much emphasis is being placed on the clothing industry and that carpet and upholstery manufactures ought to be considered as equally important sources of synthetic microfiber runoff in the industrial sector. Professional carpet cleaners might be another vector.

Cohne also believes more onus should be put on washing machine manufacturers to find ways to capture the clothing fibers so that they do not ultimately enter wastewater treatment systems.

Browne has reached out to appliance manufacturers Siemens, Dyson (which sells washing machines in Europe), and LG, hoping to engage their design or research teams in a discussion about how they might be able to develop microfiber filters to prevent them from entering the water.

None Has Responded

However, a Canadian tinkerer turned entrepreneur named Blair Jollimore is working on a solution. After his septic tank backed up and flooded his home, he discovered the main culprit was lint from his washing machine. So the former airplane engine mechanic, based in Nova Scotia, created a filter for his home laundry machine. “I’m a mechanical engineer, so I modified a water filter and added stainless steel screen,” says Jollimore. “I’ve been using it for 14 years.”

In 2003, some of his neighbors who were also having septic tank problems asked if he could make filters for their machines, too, and a home business was born. Jollimore has sold more than 1,000 of his filters to homeowners from England to Hawaii and now, with Browne’s encouragement, is preparing to pitch his filter to appliance makers as a way to rid wastewater of microfibers.

While he has found a screen that would capture strands down to 1 micron – necessary to stop all microfibers – he is still experimenting with what forcing water through such a fine filter could do to laundry machine function. “Every bit of dirt in your laundry would be captured, so it would back up the process,” he says.

As for capturing the fibers at their next stop, wastewater treatment plants, Browne is not optimistic. He says he has conferred with many engineers who work in sewage treatment and none of them thinks removing fibers – or microbeads, which enter wastewater through residential plumbing – is viable. Besides, he says, even if those microplastics were removed from the liquid waste, they would end up in sludge, which in some places ends up being turned into fertilizers. In those cases, the plastics would still enter the ecosystem, and conceivably the food chain.

Browne concedes that more research is required to better understand the sources and impacts of synthetic microfibers in the environment, and he wishes he could get the clothing companies on his side. “The [textile] people I’ve talked to have not been trained environmental scientists, they’re more often marketing people.”

“Industry is saying, ‘you just have to do more work on it’. But that will require someone to support it,” he says. “It seems to be a way of avoiding dealing with the problem.”

Unresolved Issues

An estimated 1,900 microfibers can get rinsed out of a single piece of synthetic clothing each time it's washed, and these microplastic fibers might be the biggest contributors to ocean pollution.

The issue of plastics polluting our oceans isn't a new one, as the presence of vast quantities of plastic waste in the water and shorelines has been researched and documented. The origin of much of the larger bits of plastic debris in the ocean is fairly obvious, at least for those items that are identifiable with the naked eye, but one of the more pervasive ocean pollutants is so small as to be virtually invisible to us. The source of some of these tiny bits of plastic, the so-called microplastics, is microbeads in personal care products, which are washed down the drain and are too small to be effectively filtered out at wastewater treatment plants, and which probably ought to be banned.

However, one of the sources of this microplastic pollution might be as close as our own laundry room, especially if we own clothing made from synthetic fibers. After studying microplastics from shorelines at 18 sites across the globe, ecologist Mark Browne found that 85% of the synthetic materials accumulating there were microfibers that matched the kinds of materials found in synthetic clothing, which might mean that our wardrobes and washing machines are two of the biggest culprits in ocean pollution.

Browne's study, which was published in 2011 (Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks) has big implications for both ocean conservation and the apparel industry. One of the most telling findings is the estimate (based on experiments which sampled wastewater from domestic washing machines) that a single piece of synthetic clothing can release about 1,900 microfibers each time it's washed. Multiply that figure by the number of pieces of clothing made from synthetic fabrics that get washed every single day, and it adds up to a huge amount of plastic microfibers entering our waterways each year.

That's an alarming amount of plastic pollution, and if, as Browne suggests, "a large proportion of microplastic fibers found in the marine environment may be derived from sewage as a consequence of washing of clothes," then part of the solution needs to come from fiber and apparel companies, through designing better synthetic fabrics that don't shed their fibers as readily. But in searching for support to study the issue further, Browne found that the leaders in the industry, including some of the most progressive clothing companies, such as Patagonia, weren't interested, and his efforts at fundraising have received only one small grant from a clothing brand over the past year.

Designing better textiles is just one part of the solution, though, especially considering how many articles of synthetic clothing would need to be replaced, and how long that would take, in order to make a big impact. The other part of the solution is building better filtering systems for both residential washing machines (either as a component of the machines, or as an add-on) and for municipal wastewater treatment plants, which might be able to reduce the amount of plastic microfibers entering waterways.

And the real dangers of these microfibers to us as humans may not be immediately obvious, because microplastics in the ocean might seem like a far away problem, but according to Browne, the most abundant form of waste material found in habitats around the world is clothing fibers, and it can contaminate not just water, but also food and air.

"Ingested and inhaled fibers carry toxic materials and a third of the food we eat is contaminated with this material." - Browne

These ingested fibers, Browne found, can accumulate in the body (at least in animal studies), but not enough is known yet about how much of this material is in the environment already, or how microfibers affect the food chain, even though it poses "a huge problem" for the environment.

Michael covered the issue several years ago, but unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have gotten any traction in the industry or in the media since then, but if you'd like to raise awareness directly with the companies you buy from, one way could be through social media, as a recent update to Browne's Twitter account suggested, by sending them a link to his study or other articles about microfiber pollution. Until something changes, though, perhaps we as TreeHuggers ought to seek out mostly (or only) clothing and fabrics made from natural fibers, so our purchases aren't enabling more microplastic pollution.

Check The Bottom of Your Plastic Bottles To See If They're Safe

When buying bottled water, consumers are advised to check the bottom of the bottle, in order to protect their health.

Plastic bottles labeled with letters like HDP, HDPE, PP and a few others, do not release any toxic material in the water, and the remaining letters can represent the chemicals found in the water you are drinking.

Every brand must label the content of the bottle, they will either have the letters, numbers or number symbols shown in the graphic.

#1 PET or PETE

– Stands for single-use bottles. These bottles can possibly release heavy metals and chemicals that affect the hormonal balance.recycle-logos-1

“PET is one of the most commonly used plastics in consumer products, and is found in most water and pop bottles, and some packaging. It is intended for single use applications; repeated use increases the risk of leaching and bacterial growth. PET plastic is difficult to decontaminate, and proper cleaning requires harmful chemicals. Polyethylene terephthalates may leach carcinogens.”

#2 HDP or HDPE

– Plastic that practically releases no chemicals. Experts recommend choosing these bottles, when buying bottled water, because it is probably the healthiest water you can find on the market.

“HDPE plastic is the stiff plastic used to make milk jugs, detergent and oil bottles, toys, and some plastic bags. HDPE is the most commonly recycled plastic and is considered one of the safest forms of plastic. It is a relatively simple and cost-effective process to recycle HDPE plastic for secondary use.”

#3 PVC or 3V

– Releases 2 toxic chemicals that affect the hormones in your body.

“PVC is a soft, flexible plastic used to make clear plastic food wrapping, cooking oil bottles, teething rings, children’s and pets’ toys, and blister packaging for myriad consumer products. It is commonly used as the sheathing material for computer cables, and to make plastic pipes and parts for plumbing. Because PVC is relatively impervious to sunlight and weather, it is used to make window frames, garden hoses, arbors, raised beds and trellises.”


– This plastic cannot be used in the production of bottles, but plastic bags, even though it does not release any chemicals into the water.

“LDPE is often found in shrink wraps, dry cleaner garment bags, squeezable bottles, and the type of plastic bags used to package bread. The plastic grocery bags used in most stores today are made using LDPE plastic. Some clothing and furniture also uses this type of plastic.”

#5 PP

– Another white colored or semi transparent plastic, used as a packing for syrups and yoghurt cups.

“Polypropylene plastic is tough and lightweight, and has excellent heat-resistance qualities. It serves as a barrier against moisture, grease and chemicals. When you try to open the thin plastic liner in a cereal box, it is polypropylene. This keeps your cereal dry and fresh. PP is also commonly used for disposable diapers, pails, plastic bottle tops, margarine and yogurt containers, potato chip bags, straws, packing tape and rope.”

#6 PS

– Releases some carcinogenic substances and it is commonly used in the production of coffee cups and fast food casings.

“Polystyrene is an inexpensive, lightweight and easily-formed plastic with a wide variety of uses. It is most often used to make disposable styrofoam drinking cups, take-out “clamshell” food containers, egg cartons, plastic picnic cutlery, foam packaging and those ubiquitous “peanut” foam chips used to fill shipping boxes to protect the contents. Polystyrene is also widely used to make rigid foam insulation and underlay sheeting for laminate flooring used in home construction.”

#7 PC or Non-Labeled Plastic

– The most dangerous plastic in the food production which releases BPA chemicals and it is often used in the production of sports water bottles and food containers.

This category was designed as a catch-all for polycarbonate (PC) and “other” plastics, so reuse and recycling protocols are not standardized within this category. Of primary concern with these plastics, however, is the potential for chemical leaching into food or drink products packaged in polycarbonate containers made using BPA (Bisphenol A). BPA is a xenoestrogen, a known endocrine disruptor.

As of today, check the bottom of the bottle twice!

So what bottles can you use?  Good question, personally I prefer glass or stainless steel.

Your questions and comments are greatly appreciated.

Monty Henry, Owner


NOW, look in on your home, second home, lake house or office anytime, anywhere from any internet connected PC/Lap-top or Internet active cell phone, including iphone or PDA.

Watch your child's caregiver while sitting at a traffic light or lunch meeting, or check on your business security from the other side of the world. Our built-in hidden video features all digital transmissions providing a crystal clear image with zero interference. With the IP receiver stream your video over the internet through your router, and view on either a PC or smart phone. Designed exclusively for DPL-Surveillance-Equipment, these IP hidden wireless cameras come with multiple features to make the user's experience hassle-free.

NOW, look in on your home, second home, lake house or office anytime, anywhere from any internet connected PC/Lap-top or Internet active cell phone, including iphone or PDA: http://www.dpl-surveillance-equipment.com/wireless_hidden_cameras.html

Watch your child's caregiver while sitting at a traffic light or lunch meeting, or check on your business security from the other side of the world. Our built-in hidden video features all digital transmissions providing a crystal clear image with zero interference. With the IP receiver stream your video over the internet through your router, and view on either a PC or smart phone. Designed exclusively for DPL-Surveillance-Equipment, these IP hidden wireless cameras come with multiple features to make the user's experience hassle-free.

• Remote Video Access

• Video is Recorded Locally To An Installed SD Card (2GB SD Card included)

• Email Notifications (Motion Alerts, Camera Failure, IP Address Change, SD Card Full)

• Live Monitoring, Recording And Event Playback Via Internet

• Back-up SD Storage Up To 32GB (SD Not Included)

• Digital Wireless Transmission (No Camera Interference)

• View LIVE On Your SmartPhone!


* Nanny Cameras w/ Remote View
* Wireless IP Receiver
* Remote Control
* A/C Adaptor
* 2GB SD Card
* USB Receiver



Receiver Specs:

* Transmission Range of 500 ft Line Of Sight
* Uses 53 Channels Resulting In No Interference
* 12V Power Consumption
* RCA Output
* Supports up to 32gig SD

Camera Specs:

* 640x480 / 320x240 up to 30fps
* Image Sensor: 1/4" Micron Sensor
* Resolution: 720x480 Pixels
* S/N Ratio: 45 db
* Sensitivity: 11.5V/lux-s @ 550nm
* Video System: NTSC
* White Balance: Auto Tracking

Make Your Own Nanny Cameras:  Make Tons Of Money In A Booming, Nearly Recession-Proof Industry!

Your Primary Customers Include But Are Not Limited To Anyone In The Private Investigator, Government, Law Enforcement And/Or Intelligence Agencies Fields!

* You Buy Our DVR Boards And We'll Build Your Products! (Optional)

Our New Layaway Plan Adds Convenience For Online Shoppers

DPL-Surveillance-Equipment's layaway plan makes it easy for you to buy the products and services that you want by paying for them through manageable monthly payments that you set. Our intuitive calculator allows you to break down your order's purchase price into smaller payment amounts. Payments can be automatically deducted from your bank account or made in cash using MoneyGram® ExpressPayment® Services and you will receive your order once it's paid in full. Use it to plan and budget for holiday purchases, anniversaries, birthdays, vacations and more!

DPL-Surveillance-Equipment's Customers can now use the convenience of layaway online to help them get through these tough economic times.

We all shop now and then just to face a hard reality -- big credit card bills. However, our latest financing innovation can help you avoid that. Find out why more and more shoppers are checking out DPL-Surveillance-Equipment's e-layaway plan.

If you're drooling over a new nanny camera, longing for a GPS tracker, or wishing for that spy watch, but you're strapped for cash and can't afford to do credit, do what Jennie Kheen did. She bought her iPod docking station (hidden camera w/motion-activated DVR) online using our convenient lay-away plan.

Our online layaway plan works like the old-fashioned service stores used to offer. But, in Kheen's case, she went to DPL-Surveillance-Equipment.com, found the iPod docking station (hidden camera w/motion-activated DVR), then set up a payment plan.

"It's automatically drawn from my account," she said. "I have a budget, $208.00 a month.

In three months, Kheen had paid off the $650.00 iPod docking station. She paid another 3.9 percent service fee, which amounted to about $25.35 (plus $12.00 for shipping) for a total of $687.35.

"You pay a little bit each month," Kheen said. "It's paid off when you get it and you don't have it lingering over your head. It's great."

Flexible payment terms and automated payments make our layaway plan an affordable and fiscally responsible alternative to credit cards.

1. Register:

It's quick, easy and FREE! No credit check required!

2. Shop:

Select the items or service you want and choose "e-layaway" as your payment option. Our payment calculator makes it easy for you to set up your payment terms.

3. Make Payments:

Payments are made on the schedule YOU set. Check your order status or adjust your payments online in a secure environment.

4. Receive Products:

Receive the product shortly after your last payment. The best part, it's paid in full... NO DEBT.

More Buying Power:

* Our lay-away plan offers a safe and affordable payment alternative without tying up your credit or subjecting the purchase to high-interest credit card fees.

No Credit Checks or Special Qualifications:

* Anyone 18 years old or older can join. All you need is an active bank account.

Freedom From Credit Cards:

* If you are near or beyond your credit limit or simply want to avoid high interest credit card fees, our e-layaway is the smart choice for you.

Flexible Payment Schedules:

* Similar to traditional layaway, e-layaway lets you make regular payments towards merchandise, with delivery upon payment in full. Payments are automatically deducted from your bank account or made in cash using MoneyGram® ExpressPayment®

A Tool for Planning Ahead:

* Our e-layaway makes it easy for smart shoppers like you to plan ahead and buy items such as bug detectors, nanny cameras, audio bugs, gps trackers, and more!

No Hidden Charges or Mounting Interest:

Our e-layaway makes shopping painless by eliminating hidden charges and monthly interest fees. Our customers pay a flat transaction fee on the initial purchase price.


* You have the right to cancel any purchase and will receive a refund less a cancellation fee. See website for details.

Security and Identity Protection:

DPL-Surveillance-Equipment has partnered with trusted experts like McAfee and IDology to ensure the security and integrity of every transaction. Identity verification measures are integrated into our e-layaway system to prevent fraudulent purchases.

Note: Simply Choose e-Lay-Away as a "Payment Option" in The Shopping Cart

DPL-Surveillance-Equipment.com is a world leader in providing surveillance and security products and services to Government, Law Enforcement, Private Investigators, small and large companies worldwide. We have one of the largest varieties of state-of-the-art surveillance and counter-surveillance equipment including Personal Protection and Bug Detection Products.

Buy, rent or lease the same state-of-the-art surveillance and security equipment Detectives, PI's, the CIA and FBI use. Take back control!


Phone: (1888) 344-3742 Toll Free USA
Local: (818) 344-3742
Fax (775) 249-9320


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