Articles You Might Have Missed

Around the world people are taking the initiative to mitigate climate change. Here are some good news briefs compiled by the Climate Issue group of the LWV of Bellingham/Whatcom.


A Welcome Breakthrough on Microplastics 

One of the scariest things about plastic are the microplastics that are polluting our waterways and causing irreparable harm to sea life and humans.

Where do they come from? Everywhere — clothing in the wash, broken down from a larger piece of plastic, or from something commercially produced; there has been no way to recapture them until now.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia have had a miracle breakthrough. The researchers say bioCap is simple and cheap to produce and can be scaled up or down, depending on its intended use. They have found a new biodegradable renewable solution which they have named a bioCap that filters water through a sawdust substrate modified with tannic acid. This device was able to capture between 95.2 and 99.9 percent of a wide variety of microplastics that were filtered through it. The best part is the filter is plastic-free. The researchers say bioCap is simple and cheap to produce and can be scaled up or down, depending on its intended use.

“Most solutions proposed so far are costly or difficult to scale up,” Rojas said. “We’re proposing a solution that could potentially be scaled down for home use or scaled up for municipal treatment systems. Our filter, unlike plastic filters, does not contribute to further pollution as it uses renewable and biodegradable materials: tannic acids from plants, bark, wood and leaves, and wood sawdust — a forestry byproduct that is both widely available and renewable.”

Goodnews: August 22, 2023,Top Good News Story

Your New Winter Coat

While you were playing on the beach this summer, did you jump on a kelp bulb to make it pop? Did you complain about the long rubber-like tails that entangled your feet as you were walking in the surf? I bet one thing you didn’t do was imagine plants forming the basis for your new winter coat.

By 2026, a rewetted peatland site in Greater Manchester will be harvesting bulrushes in a trial that aims to boost UK biodiversity, cut carbon emissions and provide eco-friendly stuffing for clothes.

Kelp’s brown sausage-shaped heads and fluffy seeds are a common sight across the UK. Yet, a project near Salford in north-west England is aiming to help transform the plant into an environmentally friendly alternative to the goose down and synthetic fibers that line jackets … boosting the climate and the productivity of rewetted peatland in the process.

To boost production, the Wildlife Trust for Lancaster/Manchester and Merseyside obtained a L400,000 grant from the federal government and joined forces with a local farmer in one of the first paludicultures (there‘s a scrabble word for you). It means farming on rewetted peat.

BioPuff, a new plant-based material manufactured by the startup Saltyco using reedmace — better known as bulrush — has a similar structure to feathers, providing warm, lightweight and water-resistant insulation, according to the firm.

If scalable, the material could line clothing at a fraction of the environmental footprint of traditional stuffing. It has already gained plaudits in the fashion industry, winning the H&M foundation Global Change Award last year.

It has been used in one small collection so far, by the Italian label YOOX, and the startup is in talks with more fashion houses.

The Guardian, 3 Aug 2023: “Goosedown out, bulrush in: the plant refashioning puffer jackets” by Patrick Greenfield


Sailing the Ocean on a Freighter

Wind power is making a comeback within the global shipping industry as companies look to reduce and replace their use of dirty diesel fuel.

If you are imagining a sailing schooner or the Santa Maria … Not even close.

Freight ships are huge and getting bigger. Can they meet their stated climate goals by 2050 by using sails?

A big red cargo ship fitted with steel and composite-glass “wings” has set sail on its maiden voyage from China to Brazil.

The Pyxis Ocean, a 750-foot-long bulk carrier, is the first vessel to deploy WindWings, which can stand up to 123 feet tall and are made from the same durable material as wind turbines.

The prototype devices could potentially curb the ship’s diesel fuel consumption — and its resulting greenhouse gas emissions — by roughly one-fifth.

Cargill is chartering the vessel, which can carry up to 81,000 metric tons of grain, corn and other food products around the world, and, while this maiden voyage doesn’t begin to save enough fuel, it is a start.

Countries agreed to have 5 to 10 percent of shipping’s energy use come from “zero or near-zero” emissions fuels and technologies by 2030 and members of the International Maritime Organization called for curbing emissions by at least 70 percent by 2040, and for reaching net-zero emissions “by or around” 2050.

While critics say the new rules don’t go far enough to curb the industry’s contribution to climate change, virtually everyone agrees that decarbonizing shipping is a monumental challenge. Switching to alternative fuels — including methanol or ammonia made from renewable energy — will require completely updating ship designs. In the meantime, the first step is sailing ships.

Canary Media: August 2023, “Wind power with a high-tech twist could help ships burn less fuel” by Marie Gallucci


The Endless Consumption of Cheap Clothes

The fashion industry churns out more annual greenhouse gas emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Questions are being raised about the amount of waste the fashion industry is creating, and what we can do about it. While natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, will decompose, but most manmade fibers, such as polyester and nylon, are not currently biodegradable. They will remain in landfills, or where they have been dumped, for decades or even hundreds of years.

A U.S.-based scientific organization is working to find a natural way of getting waste polyester and nylon to quickly decompose. “One of the approaches that we are looking at is how you break down these complicated materials, and in a way that actually gets rid of the toxic effects of dyes and coating,” says Beth Rattner, the executive director of the Montana-based Biomimicry Institute. “Using biological materials, whether that be enzymes or bacteria, to create new materials.”

The Biomimicry Institute’s project — dubbed Design for Decomposition — will choose tech partners later this year, and report back in 2024. Ms. Rattner says that the new processes it is exploring cannot only help break down existing fabrics in more planet-friendly ways, but could also in the future form the basis of new innovative materials. “Instead of dyes, you could use the structure of the fiber itself, the same for water repellency, rather than coating it, or to make wrinkle-free fabrics.”

BBC News, April 9, 2023: “The hunt for a new way to handle clothing waste,” by Jane Wakefield  

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