Solving the Microplastic Problem with Waves

Day 355 – Microplastics are becoming a very big problem in our waterways. They have been detected in our rivers, streams, oceans and every other body of water. It would be difficult to find a place where microplastics are not present.

Microplastics are released into the environment as cosmetics, clothing, industrial processes, and plastic products like packaging, break down naturally.” – Good News Network

Dr. Dhany Arifianto from the Institute Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember in Surabaya, Indonesia, created a filtration prototype using acoustic waves. The waves are able to create a force that is able to separate the microplastics from the water. The prototyped device cleaned 150 liters of polluted water per hour and was tested filtering three different microplastics.

The next step in studying these waves is to determine their impact on marine life. Being able to rid the waterways of microplastics without negatively affecting wildlife will be very crucial in the success of the acoustic waves.

Tomorrow, stormwater solutions.

Paper Towels: Lessening the need

Day 38 – The first step in minimizing our need for paper towels was to purchase some microfiber cleaning cloths. I liked the idea that they were effective when dealing with dusty surfaces. We have been using them for over six months and have been happy with there versatility in cleaning countless dirty situations. Now, the downside. I have learned that the microfiber cloth (and synthetic material in general) releases microplastics into the water. There are numerous ways to clean these cloths without releasing microplastics. I discussed numerous option in my post on microplastics (Day 33). If I had to do it all over again, I would stick to 100% cotton cloths (that you could make yourself from 100% cotton t-shirts). Not only will they not release harmful microplastics in the water, but they can be composted once they have worn out.

The second thing we started to do was use the awesome cloth napkins my sister-in-law made for a Christmas gift. We love using them and there is a nice supply. So I’m not constantly washing them. It has made dinnertime feel a little extra fancy.

Thankfully, any paper towels we do use are put into the compost bin. So, not one towel is placed into the garbage. However, there was one more change I wanted to make.

The Costco Kirkland paper towel was the towel of choice. However, after learning how their toilet paper was produced, I can only imagine that there paper towels are produced in the same manner. So, I was on the hunt for a more friendly brand.

There are numerous brands out there, but here are a few:

Who Gives a Crap – Each absorbent roll is made using a blend of bamboo and sugarcane. Our 2 ply sheets can handle spills and messes from countertops to cubicles to wiping that dusty corner of that room you never go in.

Green Forest – Green Forest paper towels are strong and absorbent for your clean-up needs. Like all of there products, they are made from 100% recycled paper, and a minimum of 90% of that is post-consumer recycled content.

Seventh Generation – Seventh generation white paper towels are made of 100 percent recycled paper (minimum 50 percent post-consumer recycled content). Paper towels are strong and absorbent featuring right size half sheets, customizable for little or big messes. No added chlorine, dyes, inks or fragrances.

We still have quite a few rolls of our Kirkland paper towels to get through (not using them as fast). However, once we finish, I will most likely start using the Seventh Generation towels. They are the least expensive per sheet and another one of those companies doing good in the world.

  1. They are a B-Corporation.
  2. Their products are biobased – derived from plants and other renewable agricultural, marine, and forestry materials.
  3. Many of their packaging is made from 100% PCR (post consumer recycled) material. For those that are not, they are working toward 100%.
  4. They are also taking action on many topics relating to climate change and renewable energy, just to name a few.

So, when it comes to paper towels, we are reducing, using recycled and composting.

Tomorrow, an update on those holiday lights I collected.

Microplastics: Small yet dangerous

Day 33 – In general, plastic is not good for the environment. But even worse, is when plastic breaks down into very small pieces. Not only are marine animals ingesting these microplastics, but humans are consuming them as well.

National Geographic describes microplastics as the following:

Picture compliments of National Geographic

There are two categories of microplastics: primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are tiny particles designed for commercial use, such as cosmetics, as well as microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles, such as fishing nets. Secondarymicroplastics are particles that result from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as water bottles. This breakdown is caused by exposure to environmental factors, mainly the sun’s radiation and ocean waves.

Microplastics have been detected in marine organisms from plankton to whales, in commercial seafood, and even in drinking water. Alarmingly, standard water treatment facilities cannot remove all traces of microplastics. To further complicate matters, microplastics in the ocean can bind with other harmful chemicals before being ingested by marine organisms. – National Geographic

It’s still unclear if microplastics are harmful to humans, but if I had to guess they are not beneficial. I do not need a study to tell me that I should not be ingesting or breathing in microplastics.

What can we do to help?

  1. Try to avoid single use plastic.
  2. Avoid using products with microbeads. Microbeads are small pieces of plastic added to some health and beauty products, such as toothpastes and facial scrubs.
  3. Avoid synthetic fibers. If not, check out the following: Microfiber Laundry Ball, Mesh Bag, or lint filter system. The only thing I have are the mesh bags, so I can not give any reviews for the other options.
  4. Air dry your clothes when possible.
  5. Stay informed.

So, on this World Wetlands Day, let’s try to make a conscience effort to keep the microplastics out of the water we drink and the air we breathe.

Tomorrow, a new purchase that will prevent me from buying another Ziploc bag.

Plastics: Just avoid them

Information from the NOAA Marine Debris Program

Day 11 – It seems like an easy task, but there is nothing easy about avoiding plastic. It is everywhere and I just don’t mean in the packaging and products we buy. Plastic is in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Microplastics are very tiny pieces of plastic, not even visible to the naked eye, that are permeating every corner of this planet. It just doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming problem, it is a gargantuan problem.

When I set out to find another option for my recyclables, instead of using the city’s program, I reached out to a few groups and organizations. One person I contacted was my alderman. His office got back to me with a lengthy email. It was very informative, but it agreed that the city’s program was not good and had countless issues. I was directed to various articles that stated this fact and opened my eyes a little wider to the problems plaguing Chicago’s recycling program. This was all very disheartening, but I was encouraged to attend a Green Council meeting to find out how the ward was addressing the issue.

The 47th Ward Green Council is convened by 47th Ward Alderman Matt Martin and led by ward residents to direct environmental policy and organize local initiatives that promote environmental education and stewardship. – As posted on their Facebook Page

So, on December 3rd I attended the meeting. I signed up to be in the breakout room discussing waste. I ended up sharing my frustration with the city’s recycling program. One woman simply told me that I needed to avoid bringing single-use plastics into my home. “Just avoid them”, three simple words that seem almost impossible to comprehend. However, I heard what she was saying and I soon got busy on how I could start separating my life from plastic.

Throughout this year I will be sharing how my family is removing single-use plastic from our lives. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s a challenge we are ready to take on.

If you would like more information on the 47th Ward Green Council, be sure to sign-up for their monthly newsletter. I also encourage you to see what your ward, town, village or neighborhood is doing to be more environmentally friendly.

Tomorrow’s topic will be trash bags. The problem of adding more trash to your trash.