Leachates from pyroplastics alter the behaviour of a key ecosystem engineer

Pyroplastic, an amorphous matrix derived from the burning of manufactured plastics, is a newly described type of plastic pollution. Researchers surveyed 12 locations along northern French shores where mussel reefs are common. They recorded finding pyroplastic items at six sites (with an average weight of 3.34g) that were mostly mainly made of polyethylene. They tested the effects of exposure to raw and beached pyroplastic leachates on adaptive behavioral traits of the mussel Mytilus edulis, a key ecosystem engineer in the region. Pyroplastic leachates significantly affected the ability of mussels to move and aggregate. Polyethylene plastic had greater effects than polypropylene. These results offer the first evidence that pyroplastics may have more severe impacts on living organisms than those triggered by non-burnt plastics.

It’s known plastic harms humans and other living beings, but do you known that these substances also affect Earth’s system as a whole? Due to mass-production and inadequate regulation of plastic and synthetic materials, Earth has entered a high-risk zone where irreversible change is likely.

Urgent action is in need to reduce production and toxicity of synthetic chemicals and plastics to bring the plant back into a safe and more balanced state. The health of Earth’s systems are critical to human survival, and a collapse of just one can have crippling effects across the planet.

Scientist have developed and evaluated a system marking nine planetary boundaries to act as a benchmark that the planet is safe and functioning stably. This NRDC brief discusses how plastic and chemical production and pollution stress the Earth’s planetary boundaries in serious and severe ways.

Does Amazon’s plastic packaging actually get recycled? Researchers with U.S. PIRG placed trackers in bundles of Amazon shipping materials and put them in store drop bins to see where they ended up.

Plastic packaging from e-commerce is a major producer of plastic pollution, generating 3.4 billion pounds of plastic globally in 2021 alone. Amazon is a significant contributor to this number, generating an estimated 709 million pounds of plastic just in 2021. Amazon claims much of its plastic packaging is recyclable, and offers a store drop-off system for its film packaging. Yet researchers found no evidence any of its plastic packaging is being recycled. The results paint a far different picture of what actually happens to Amazon’s plastic packaging when it is returned for “recycling.”

The Society of Environmental Journalists has published a tip sheet for reporters and news media covering waste incineration, plastic pollution, and related issues. Incineration is not a safe nor healthy way to cope with waste, especially plastics. Get key information on incineration to boost your journalistic practice in this tip sheet.

Expert commentary outlines why focusing on technological cleanup technologies to solve plastic pollution is a kind of false solution: “Plastic removal technologies can temporarily mitigate plastic accumulation at local scales, but evidence-based criteria are needed in policies to ensure that they are feasible and that ecological benefits outweigh the costs. To reduce plastic pollution efficiently and economically, policy should prioritize regulating and reducing upstream production rather than downstream pollution cleanup.”

Research in Europe shows that many people are unsure how to adequately dispose of plant-based bioplastics so that they can best be recovered in the waste stream.

Abstract: We analyze recycling decisions for bioplastics using a natural field experiment. Bioplastics have environmental benefits – such as reduced energy use in production and enhanced biodegredation – compared to conventional plastics. Recycling decisions that are not consistent with government guidelines, however, may cause a rebound effect. For instance when biobased plastics contaminate organic waste streams, or compostable plastics contaminate plastics waste streams. The environmental benefits of these new plastics may be offset by the damage caused by such recycling decisions. The field experiment that we set up to test this recycling behavior exploits the setting of a lemonade tasting. In our experimental treatments, subjects are exposed to different types of bioplastics logos on their lemonade cups as well as varying amounts of recycling information. We use two types of bioplastics and compare these to conventional plastics in terms of whether subjects recycle the cups according to guidelines. Our results show that over 90% of subjects dispose of their cup with plastic waste, which is not the intended waste stream for some bioplastics. None of our treatments can snap subjects out of this default behavior. We interpret this finding as subjects having no clue how to recycle bioplastics.