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This discovery is exciting news for the planet!

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by Principled, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. Principled

    Principled Well-Known Member

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  2. Energylz

    Energylz Moody-rator ©
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    I heard about this on the radio this morning. However the only real answer to plastic waste is to not produce it in the first place. If people think that nature can deal with it, then they'll just treat the Earth as a dumping ground even more.
     
  3. Principled

    Principled Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately GIles, it's a bit late. It has been produced in vast quantities for decades now and some forms will take about 500 years to break down.

    Interestingly, I've just found this on the BBC today:

     
  4. Crowan

    Crowan Well-Known Member

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    And it's increasingly clear that we haven't got 500 years.
    If we are to survive (and it's a big 'if') then, as Giles says, we have to stop producing. And not just plastic.
     
  5. Principled

    Principled Well-Known Member

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    You know what? I'm completely in agreement with both of you, but I also am grateful that people have discovered and are discovering ways to deal with the mountains of plastic waste we have now - rather than putting it into landfill, or dumping it in the sea. Sorry you don't share my enthusiasm, but hey................. o_O
     
  6. Crowan

    Crowan Well-Known Member

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    I don't often 'do' enthusiasm, but this does fall into the category of 'solution', rather than 'problem'. So, good.:)
     
  7. Energylz

    Energylz Moody-rator ©
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    What good are plastic roads if the worms/catapillars are going to eat it. LOL! :D
     
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  8. Principled

    Principled Well-Known Member

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    LOL indeed Giles! :p
     
  9. Crowan

    Crowan Well-Known Member

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    I did a bit more looking into this - the caterpillars are generally found as a parasite in bee colonies, eating cocoons, pollen and beeswax. They are detrimental to honey bees. Although, of course, not as detrimental as humans are!
     
  10. Principled

    Principled Well-Known Member

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  11. Crowan

    Crowan Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. But the plastic that could be fed to them would have to be gathered together. The main problem with plastic at the moment is that so much of it is not gathered at all. Eight million metric tons is the latest figure I read for the amount that is in the oceans. And that's only the amount that gets into the seas. Most remains on the land and degrades into pieces too small to be picked up.
    Why on earth do we need plastic in tea bags? (As an example.)
     
  12. Charis

    Charis Active Member

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    Going by this other report in the Telegraph, the experiments proved that it was the enzymes in the caterpillars' innards, not just the caterpillars chewing, that broke the plastic down: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/...wax-worm-extremely-exciting-global-pollution/ So it sounds like the idea they're working with is that rather than breeding millions of plastic-eating caterpillars that would upset ecosystems (as the Guardian article points out), they could look for a way to synthetically produce the same plastic-degrading enzyme that's in the caterpillars and use that commercially instead.

    To confirm it was not just the caterpillars’ chewing mechanism that was degrading the plastic, researchers “mashed up” some of the worms and smeared them on polyethylene bags, which achieved similar results.

    “It’s extremely, extremely exciting because breaking down plastic has proved so challenging,” said Paolo Bombelli from Cambridge University.

    “If a single enzyme is responsible for this chemical process, its reproduction on a large scale using biotechnological methods should be achievable.”

    He said the most likely scenario was one whereby existing recycling plants could be adapted to biodegrade mass quantities of plastic using the newly discovered enzyme or enzymes.

    But he added the enzymes could one day possibly be sprayed directly onto landfill sites or even infused into sea plants in order to degrade plastic already in the environment.
     
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  13. Crowan

    Crowan Well-Known Member

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    Then how to get the enzymes to the plastic - much of which is in the oceans?
     
  14. Charis

    Charis Active Member

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    Well, that's another question, but who knows what else might develop from here? As I was thinking this morning, what if, when the telephone was invented, everyone stopped at "Well, this new device connects between two rooms in the one house, but there's no way it'll ever allow you to talk to someone in the next town, let alone across the country, let alone overseas..."? Or what if they'd all said of the first aeroplane, "Naaah, it might fly a few hundred yards, but there's no way that thing will ever be able to take someone around the world safely..."?

    I'm just intrigued and grateful that researchers are making these new discoveries that might just help in some ways to reduce the billions of tonnes of waste plastic clogging up the planet. Obviously enzymes from caterpillars or bacteria are no "magic bullet" solution (there isn't one :rolleyes:), but they're still a hopeful idea that has the potential to be developed further, which is quite exciting. At least it's better than assuming there are no solutions at all (a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one). :)
     
  15. Crowan

    Crowan Well-Known Member

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    Then - particularly about the aeroplane - the world might not be in quite as bad a mess as it actually is.

    We already have the answers - stop producing plastic. If we are not prepared to do that, then everything else - feeding it to enzymes, recycling it - is wasted.

    It is the ridiculous notion that hope is important that has got us here. We keep on hoping that something will happen, something will be invented, 'they' will do something that will save us. If we had despaired, had actually realised that no one was going to ride in on a white charger and that, to be saved we had to act, together, we might have done something. As it is, those of us who have been campaigning about the environment and about climate change for so many years, while being told that there were more important things to worry about (generally money, career etc.), have now understood - because we are keeping up with the science and the news - that there is no more time. It is likely that most of humanity will be dead in 10 or 20 years, and 'civilization' gone.
     
  16. Principled

    Principled Well-Known Member

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    Er....... Crowan, isn't the computer/laptop/phone you're writing on made of plastic? o_O
     
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  17. Crowan

    Crowan Well-Known Member

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    And that is why it is so insidious. And I don't even think that the plastic is the worst thing in it. How can we opt out when society is structured so completely around consumption? I cannot buy food - even at the local Farmer's Market - that isn't wrapped in plastic. This is one reason that action has to be from government to producer (and that isn't going to happen without some major upheaval).

    Those who are willing to act on this are already doing so. I do as much as I am able. We've talked about this before, so I know that you also do what you are able. We are beyond the stage where individual action can do more.

    Your question is a very fair one. And there will come a time when I say 'to Hel with the world' (the single 'l' is deliberate, by the way) and stop using the computer and the car and close the gate to the drive and simply stay here. But I'm not at that stage yet.
     
  18. Principled

    Principled Well-Known Member

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    Crowan, you (and a remark on a television drama that was on as I read your gloomy prediction above) have given me the inspiration for a new thread on "hope", so I thank you for that! ;) You see, I have absolutely the opposite outlook and it's not based on some Pollyanna hide-your-head-in-the-sand philosophy but because I have seen practical, solid results when people change their thinking and turn to a higher viewpoint.

    What our beloved world needs more than anything is more water and more love. We are confronted by a huge lack of both, (as well as an over-abundance of people), but I truly believe that there are answers and that the answers will come and are coming - either through more love (as is being shown by so many people in the way they reach out to help others, as well as, like you, those who have a deep love for all things of nature and preservation) or through fear, when the grim reality of our wrong choices finally makes mankind wake up.

    I am so encouraged, as Charis said above, by the way that solutions are being found. I for one can't wait for plastic roads, especially if they are more durable (and especially, especially if they are pink and purple like the picture above, but I jest there!) :p

    This to me was another recent discovery which is potentially exciting news for our planet: http://newatlas.com/new-desalination-method-egypt/39941/ And here was more good news: https://www.theguardian.com/environ...coal-free-day-since-the-industrial-revolution Solutions are being found.

    It's not modern technology that is bad. It is the fuel that runs them and (in the case of plastic up to now) what they are made of that is the problem. I find it wonderful that, for instance, to send a letter to Australia more than a hundred years ago would have taken months in a large vessel called a sail ship, then it took weeks in a fuel-powered vessel. Later it took a few days in a smaller vessel called an aeroplane. Then it took a few hours by telegraph and now it's instant and transportation is non-physical. As we have progressed, matter has begun to disappear and limitations like time and space are being overcome. Computers used to fill a room, now they can be fitted into a miniscule space.

    Cars are now being made with much lower emissions and there are electric cars which don't pollute the air. Eventually the electricity that runs them will come from solar, wind or wave power, so you don't need to be without modern technology. My great uncle in Calcutta was an engineer and he invented and made and drove a car that ran on water back in the 1930's. He tried to sell his invention to motor manufacturers, but no-one wanted to know - they were under the control of the vested interest of the oil industry. And I've been wondering for years why aircraft can't be fitted with solar panels as the sun is always shining during the day above the clouds. That would cut emissions hugely. Well, there have now been solar-powered flights. It's coming. The solutions are there, they are being found and they are being utilised.
     
  19. Crowan

    Crowan Well-Known Member

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    It’s not just my being ‘gloomy’. It is a reading of the science, mostly. However, you mention ‘hope’ and then talk about ‘changing thinking’ and ‘higher viewpoint’. I need a little more precision, I’m afraid. To me, thoughts are changed when presented by new evidence. And what do you mean by ‘a higher viewpoint’? Is ‘higher’ here physically higher? Or are you talking religion?


    Not arguing with this.


    Sadly, humans are not wired to wake up like that. Fear tends to make humans look around for someone to blame. It makes them vote UKIP.


    Desalination is not difficult. In hot countries (such as the ones where it is needed) it’s a fairly simple process. Where it is made difficult is in the ‘need’ for companies to make profits. And any new scheme will also come up against that. As for the Guardian article, the day’s power included gas (so still a fossil fuel) and nuclear (many worse problems with this).


    The technology and the fuel/components cannot be separated. Microprocessing leads to ever smaller computers, yes. What about the environmental cost of them? And the human rights cost? Even solar panels cause environmental damage in the making of them.


    Exactly. What makes you think they aren’t still?


    You mentioned in passing that there are too many people. You are right. The population is unsustainable. Capitalism drives what innovations are developed. This is unsustainable. Unsustainable situations cannot endure. Sooner or later, they will break.

    And this is leaving aside the fact that it is already too late to hold the rise in global temperature to within human tolerances. Parts of the Tropics are already nearly uninhabitable.

    Even if we stopped now, this moment, there are sufficient feedback loops already in progress to ensure, if not the end of all human life, then the end of human civilization.
     
  20. Principled

    Principled Well-Known Member

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