Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The E.U. Proposed Plastic Bag Usage Reduction: A Victory For The Environment?

It might be yet too soon to assess any positive environmental impact, but will the recent proposed European Union plastic bag usage reduction represent a “victory” for out environment?

By: Ringo Bones

On a global basis, crude oil based plastic bags had grown in usage from almost zero after World War II to almost 500-billion individual plastic bags a year as of recent count, that’s almost 1-million individual plastic bags per minute. Single-use crude oil manufactured plastic bags used to carry our groceries had been a bone of contention for environmental activists and tenured environmental scientists / ecologist alike for more than 50 years because their non-biodegradable nature causes them to clog our municipal drainage systems, chokes up our landfills and they have deleterious effects on the gastrointestinal tract of marine organisms both big and small, not to mention the recently uncovered deleterious effects of crude oil derived plastic bags of producing hormone mimics during their ultraviolet light exposure during daylight hours in the open that disrupt the reproductive cycle of ecologically vital marine and littoral organisms. But will a recent proposed European Union measure to drastically reduce our dependence and usage of crude oil derived plastic bags lessen everyone’s negative impact on our environment?

A recent survey in the European Union has shown that on average a typical E.U. citizen on average use about 466 individual pieces of plastic bags a year during their visits to the local grocery. Portuguese shoppers are the heaviest plastic bag users in the E.U. using 666 individual pieces of plastic bags a year, while Danes use the least using on average 4 individual pieces of plastic bags a year. Even though the E.U. proposal sets to reduce plastic bag usage by half, most E.U. based environmental groups say they should emulate Danish shoppers of using only 4 individual pieces of plastic bags a year when doing their groceries.  Charging or taxing plastic bag usage in some E.U. countries during the past few years had been somewhat successful in the reduction of single-use crude oil sourced non-biodegradable plastic bags winding up in landfills and clogging municipal drains, but only by a few percentage points on a statistical basis. Will awareness and stronger legislation be a better solution?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Coughing Fish: Environmental Canary in the Coal Mine?

Even though we already have sophisticated test instruments to assess levels of environmental pollution but can a “coughing fish” provide a better and faster water quality assessment? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Environmentalists had always been looking for ways to monitor water pollution are turning for help to creatures that have a vested interest in clean water – as in fishes. French technicians began the trend in 1973; they checked the waters of the Oise River by observing one peculiar kind of fish behavior: trout that are swimming upstream reverse their direction upon encountering pollution. Back in April 1974, scientists of the US Environmental Protection Agency announced the discovery of another potentially useful piscatorial reaction in the behavior of bluefish, sunfish, flathead minnows, trout and salmon. 

The researchers had found out that the fish began to cough more frequently when concentrations of mercury and copper became great enough to interfere with growth and reproduction. Aquatic biologist Robert Drummond, who directed the study, suggested that monitoring devices could be installed in waters near industrial and waste-treatment plants to record fish coughing and sounds an alarm if there were any sudden increase. Environmentalists would thus be warned that a plant in the vicinity was releasing a potentially harmful effluent into the water and would be able to act immediately to halt the discharge.