The Immense, Eternal Footprint Humanity Leaves on Earth: Plastics


Scientists have estimated that between 5 million and 13 million metric tons of plastic are put into the ocean each year. CreditGuillermo Cervera

If human civilization were to be destroyed and its cities wiped off the map, there would be an easy way for future intelligent life-forms to know when the mid-20th century began: plastic.

From the 1950s to today, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced, with around half of it made since 2004. And since plastic does not naturally degrade, the billions of tons sitting in landfills, floating in the oceans or piling up on city streets will provide a marker if later civilizations ever want to classify our era. Perhaps they will call this time on Earth the Plastocene Epoch.

A new study in Science Advances published Wednesday offered the first analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured: how much has been made, what kind and what happens to the material once it has outlived its use.

Roland Geyer, the lead author of the study, said, “My mantra is that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and without good numbers, you don’t know if we have a real problem.”

The authors, who come from the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Georgia and the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Mass., used plastic production data from a variety of sources to make their estimates.

Their findings suggest that staggering amounts of near-eternal litter is present in the environment — the oceans, landfills and freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems — and the numbers are quite likely to increase, with 12 billion metric tons accumulating in landfills or in the environment by 2050. (One metric ton is 1.1 short tons, the measure more commonly used in the United States.)

Scientists estimate that five million to 13 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, according to previous studies. New data suggests contamination in rivers and streams, as well as on land, is increasingly common, with most of the pollution in the form of microscopic pieces of synthetic fibers, largely from clothing.

The primary explanation for the rocketing rise in plastic is its use in packaging, which accounted for about 42 percent of nonfiber plastic production in 2015. Building and construction is the next largest plastic-consuming sector; it used 19 percent of nonfiber plastic that year.

The authors estimate that packaging, which is typically used for less than a year, made up 54 percent of the nonfiber plastic that was thrown away in 2015.


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Most of the plastic that has been made is no longer in use — about 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been thrown away since 1950. About 12 percent of that has been incinerated, which is the only way to permanently dispose of plastic; 9 percent has been recycled, which only delays final disposal; and 60 percent — about 4.9 billion metric tons — is in landfills or scattered in the environment.

In Europe, 30 percent of nonfiber plastic is recycled, compared to 9 percent in the United States. Europe also burns more plastic — about 40 percent of its nonfiber plastic waste — while the U.S. incinerates around 16 percent. China recycles about 25 percent and burns about 30 percent of its plastic waste. The authors estimate that recycling, disposal and incineration rates in the rest of the world are probably similar to those in the United States.

Dr. Geyer cautioned that recycling was not a cure-all for global plastic pollution. He said the sole benefit of recycling was to reduce the amount of new plastic being produced, adding, “We don’t understand very well the extent to which recycling reduces primary production.”

The features that have made plastic so important in the global market are the same ones that make it such a pervasive pollutant: durability and resistance to degradation.

Dr. Geyer said there was not enough information on what the long-term consequences of all this plastic and its disposal would be. “It accumulates so quickly now and it doesn’t biodegrade, so it just gets added to what’s already there.”

“Once we start looking, I think we’ll find all sorts of unintended consequences,” he added. “I’d be very surprised to find out that it is a purely aesthetic problem.”


As someone who cleans up plastic waste on the shoreline daily, finds and collects the waste when diving, and is willing to swim into the waters to retrieve grocery bags, bait bags, and other waste; this article meant a great deal.



Reporting on the State of the Climate in 2016: International report confirms 2016 was third consecutive year of record global warmth

malawian-subsistence-farmer_reuters-mike-hutchings-1200x480A new State of the Climate report confirmed that 2016 surpassed 2015 as the warmest year in 137 years of recordkeeping.

Major indicators of climate change continued to reflect trends consistent with a warming planetLast year’s record heat resulted from the combined influence of long-term global warming and a strong El Niño early in the year. The report found that the major indicators of climate change continued to reflect trends consistent with a warming planet. Several markers such as land and ocean temperatures, sea level, and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere broke records set just one year prior.

These key findings and others are available from the State of the Climate in 2016 report released online today by the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

The 27th annual issuance of the report, led by NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, is based on contributions from nearly 500 scientists from more than 60 countries around the world and reflects tens of thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets (highlights, full report(link is external)). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice, and in space.

The report’s climate indicators show patterns, changes, and trends of the global climate system. Examples of the indicators include various types of greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover.

Report highlights include these indications of a warming planet.

Greenhouse Gases Highest on Record

Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide, rose to new record high values during 2016. The global annual average atmospheric CO2 concentration was 402.9 parts per million (ppm), which surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in the modern atmospheric measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years. This was 3.5 ppm more than 2015, and it was the largest annual increase observed in the 58-year record.


Graph of global carbon dioxide concentration levels
Courtesy of NOAA, adapted from State of the Climate in 2016

Global Surface Temperature Highest on Record

Aided by the strong El Niño early in the year, the 2016 annual global surface temperature observed record warmth for a third consecutive year, with the 2016 annual global surface temperature surpassing the previous record of 2015.

Global Lower Tropospheric Temperature Highest on Record

In the region of the atmosphere just above Earth’s surface, the globally averaged lower troposphere temperature was highest on record.

Sea Surface Temperatures Highest on Record

The globally averaged sea surface temperature was the highest on record. The more recent global sea surface temperature trend for the 21st century-to-date (2000–2016) of +2.92°F (1.62°C) per century is much higher than the longer term (1950–2016) warming trend of +1.8°F (1.0°C) per century.

Global Upper Ocean Heat Content Near-Record High

Globally, upper ocean heat content saw a slight drop compared to the record high set in 2015, but reflected the continuing accumulation of thermal energy in the top 2,300 feet (700 meters) of the ocean. Oceans absorb more than 90 percent of Earth’s excess heat from global warming.

Global Sea Level Highest on Record

Global average sea level rose to a new record high in 2016 and was about 3.25 inches (82 mm) higher than the 1993 average, the year that marks the beginning of the satellite altimeter record. This also marks the sixth consecutive year global sea level has increased compared to the previous year. Over the past two decades, sea level has increased at an average rate of about 0.13 inch (3.4 mm) per year, with the highest rates of increase in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.


Map of global sea level in 2016
Courtesy of NOAA

Extremes Were Observed in the Water Cycle and Precipitation

A general increase in the water cycle (the process of evaporating water into air and condensing it as rain or snow), combined with the strong El Niño, enhanced the variability of precipitation around the world. In addition to many parts of the globe experiencing major floods in 2016, for any given month at least 12 percent of global land was experiencing at least “severe” drought conditions, the longest such stretch in the record. Drought conditions were observed in northeastern Brazil for the fifth consecutive year, making this the longest drought on record in this region. The increased hydrologic cycle was also reflected, as it has been for more than a decade, by patterns of salinity (saltiness) across the globe’s ocean surface.


Map of global drought and moisture conditions in 2016
Courtesy of NOAA

The report also documents key regional climate and climate-related events.

The Arctic Continued to Warm, Sea Ice Extent Remained Low

The average Arctic land surface temperature was 3.6°F (2.0°C) above the 1981–2010 average, breaking the previous record of 2007, 2011, and 2015 by 1.4°F (0.8°C), representing a 6.3°F (3.5°C) increase since records began in 1900. Average sea surface temperatures across the Arctic Ocean during August in ice-free regions ranged from near normal in some regions to around 13° to 14°F (7° to 8°C) above average in the Chukchi Sea and eastern Baffin Bay off the west coast of Greenland, and up to 20°F (11°C) above average in the Barents Sea. Increasing temperatures have led to decreasing Arctic sea ice extent and thickness. On March 24, the smallest annual maximum sea ice extent in the 37-year satellite record was observed, tying with 2015 at 5.61 million square miles, 7.2% below the 1981–2010 average. On September 10, the Arctic sea ice annual minimum extent tied with 2007 for the second lowest value on record, at 1.60 million square miles, 33 percent smaller than average. Arctic sea ice cover remains relatively young and thin, making it vulnerable to continued extensive melt.

Antarctic Sees Record Low Sea Ice Extent

During August and November, record low daily and monthly sea ice extents were observed, with the November average sea ice extent significantly smaller (more than 5 standard deviations) than the 1981–2010 average. These record low sea ice values in austral spring 2016 contrast sharply with the record high values observed during 2012–2014.

Global Ice and Snow Cover Decline

Preliminary data indicate that 2016 was the 37th consecutive year of overall alpine glacier retreat across the globe, with an average loss of 2.8 feet (852 mm) for the reporting glaciers. Across the Northern Hemisphere, late-spring snow cover extent continued its trend of decline, with new record low April and May snow cover extents for the North American Arctic. Below the surface, record high temperatures at the 20-meter (65-feet) depth were measured at all permafrost observatories on the North Slope of Alaska and at the Canadian observatory on northernmost Ellesmere Island.

Tropical Cyclones Were Well Above Average Overall

There were 93 named tropical cyclones across all ocean basins in 2016, well above the 1981–2010 average of 82 storms. Three basins—the North Atlantic and eastern and western North Pacific—experienced above-normal activity in 2016. The Australian basin recorded its least active season since the beginning of the satellite era in 1970.

The State of the Climate in 2016 is the 27th edition in a peer-reviewed series published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The journal makes the full report openly available online.





GET WET! & OAPB Work to Help St. Lucie River

Oxbridge Academy senior Robbie Linck, of Palm Beach, interns at BioTools and helps unlock mystery to cause of toxic algae bloom in St. Lucie Estuary. 
Oxbridge Academy senior Robbie Linck, of Palm Beach, interns at BioTools and helps unlock mystery to cause of toxic algae bloom in St. Lucie Estuary.


Oxbridge student helps unlock mystery of toxic algae bloom

When people ask Robbie Linck, a senior at Oxbridge Academy, how he spent his summer vacation, they won’t get the usual answer of a family trip or a part-time job. The aspiring young scientist spent his summer as a research intern at BioTools, a Jupiter firm, conducting scientific research to help unlock the mystery to the cause of the recent toxic algae bloom in the St. Lucie River and estuary. He will present a paper on his finding in October at the American Water Resources Association’s annual Water Resources Conference in Portland, Ore.

Mr. Linck is one of four Oxbridge Academy students who interned at the biotech firm. The others are senior Gabrielle Gray-Case, junior Sarah Garelick and sophomore Alexa Perry.

“My internship functions as a way of assisting my research into the St. Lucie River Watershed,” said Mr. Linck, 17, who lives in Palm Beach. “The data I extract through the water evaluation I’m doing at BioTools will be used as part of my presentation at the annual Water Resources Conference in October as well as for the paper I’ll be publishing this winter.” Mr. Linck uses BioTools’ “Bio-Raman” microscope to determine the presence or absence of sugars within water samples collected from the St. Lucie watershed.

Mr. Linck’s research involves analyzing water samples taken from the watershed contributing flows into the St. Lucie estuary to determine the presence of sucralose, an indicator compound for the presence of human feces. His findings could help determine if improperly functioning septic systems are a major contributing factor to the algae growth in the area waterways.

He’s “an amazing student,” says Oxbridge science teacher Teresa Thornton. “Working with the Get Wet Organization, Robbie and other Oxbridge students assisted middle school students with collecting water samples in a number of private wells around the St. Lucie Estuary. His research involves analysis of those water samples and then analyzing the results and modeling the watershed dynamics to determine potential impacts. It’s the beginning of long-term research,” she said. “Once we have more samples, it could assist the government in decision-making regarding practices that have an impact on the water quality in that area.”

In addition to the practical applications of his research to add to the body of knowledge being used to pinpoint the source of algae growth in the St. Lucie River, Mr. Linck is developing proficiency within a professional bio lab. “I’m gaining valuable experience using specific instruments in my research, the likes of which can almost exclusively be found within pharmaceutical companies and collegiate laboratories,” he said.

BioTool research scientist Juanita Sanchez is supervising the aspiring scientist’s work. “I like the way that Robbie approaches the issue,” she said. “He has so many questions about our methods and techniques. He has done a lot of independent research himself and that takes him to another level. He’s one of the students I will always remember.” ¦





For full article:

Poland Spring Water is committing ‘colossal fraud,’ lawsuit says



  • The class-action lawsuit claims that parent company Nestle Waters North America is bottling common groundwater that doesn’t meet the federal definition of spring water.


  • A Nestle Waters representative says the water meets all relevant federal and state regulations for spring water.



A lawsuit claims that Poland Spring Water is deceiving consumers with evergreen labels that say their bottle contains “100 percent natural spring water” that hails from Maine.

The class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Connecticut claims that parent company Nestle Waters North America is bottling common groundwater that doesn’t meet the federal definition of spring water.

A Nestle Waters representative says the water meets all relevant federal and state regulations for spring water.

Nestle Waters settled a 2003 Connecticut lawsuit claiming Poland Spring’s water was not sourced deep in the Maine woods.

The lawsuit comes as the Stamford, Connecticut-based company embarks on an expansion in Maine amid rising demand for bottled water.

Nestle is seeking state approval to source water from a public water district well in Lincoln.



Army Corps gives input in Florida-Georiga water war

TALLAHASSEE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a key player in Florida’s decades-old legal fight with Georgia over water flow in the Apalachicola River, has weighed into the pending case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The federal agency’s comments, which were filed in a brief Monday, are important because a special master has recommended that Florida’s claim for relief be denied because the Corps, which controls water flow through the region in a series of dams and reservoirs, was not directly involved in the lawsuit.

“Because the Corps is not a party, no decree entered by this court can mandate any change in the Corps’ operations in the basin,” Ralph Lancaster wrote in his special master’s report in February. “Without the ability to bind the Corps, I am not persuaded that the court can assure Florida the relief it seeks.”

In its brief, the federal agency said it was possible that the U.S. Supreme Court could impose a water-use cap on Georgia without requiring the Corps to change its policies for handling the dams and reservoirs in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system.

“It thus may remain possible to design a consumption cap that would provide Florida with additional water at some points without any alteration of the Corps’ operations, as Florida contends,” the Corps’ brief said.

But the federal agency also said a court ruling requiring more extensive changes in the water-flow policies in the region would have to be viewed as “part of the constellation of laws to be considered by the Corps when deciding how best to operate the federal projects in the ACF (Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint) basin for their congressionally authorized purposes.”

“It is impossible to define the limits of the Corps’ ability to make those releases consistent without knowing the precise contours of the decree and implications for other project purposes and storage regimens,” the brief said.

The brief also warned there is the “significant and difficult question” as to whether any additional water releases would be permitted under the already approved “master manual,” an operating guide for the water-control system in the region.

The Corps agreed this year to provide 621 million gallons per day to Georgia cities from the Lake Lanier reservoir near Atlanta. Florida opposed that decision, and environmental groups and the state of Alabama are challenging the decision in separate lawsuits.

The Corps’ brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case is the latest step in the costly, protracted dispute between Florida and Georgia that resulted in a 2013 lawsuit alleging Georgia diverts too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system and that the diversions have damaged Apalachicola Bay and Franklin County’s seafood industry, including its signature oysters.

Georgia, which wants the Supreme Court to adopt the special master’s recommendation, has countered that any limits on its water use will undermine its economy, including the growth of the Atlanta area and the state’s agriculture industry in southeastern Georgia.

In a brief filed this summer, Florida asked the Supreme Court to reject the special master’s report and return the case for more deliberation.

Late last month, Florida’s entire congressional delegation, including the two U.S. senators, wrote a letter to President Donald Trump asking that the administration and the Corps remain “neutral” in the dispute.

“Rather than intervening in Florida v. Georgia, it is our hope that the (Corps) will instead take all steps possible within its existing authorities to manage vital basins, including the ACF, in ways that protect downstream ecosystems and the communities that rely on them,” the delegation wrote.

In Tallahassee on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he had not seen the Corps’ brief but added, “I haven’t been enamored by the way the Corps of Engineers has handled this issue.”

Nelson said the Corps’ historic control of the water flow in the river basin has “starved” the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay of the natural mix of freshwater and saltwater, which is critical to the oyster population.

Asked if he was confident that Florida would win a favorable decision from the Supreme Court, Nelson said: “I’m confident that at the end of the day the right thing is what should be done. The right thing is, all right, Georgia, you’ve got to start sharing your water like Mother Nature intended, instead of holding it all up for you.”


June 9, 2017    Published in General



Students from eight classrooms in six schools across the Ossipee Watershed participated in Ground Water Education through Water Evaluation and Testing (known by its acronym GET WET), facilitated by Green Mountain Conservation Group’s  Education Coordinator, Dr. Karen Deighan.

Sandwich Central School, Freedom Elementary School, Cornerstone Christian Academy, Ossipee Central School, K.A. Brett School and Molly Ockett Middle School all took part in this hands-on science based program that teaches local youth about groundwater and stratified drift aquifers.

GET WET provides students an opportunity to use the science they are learning in the classroom and apply it to their lives by testing their own well water.

Dr. Theresa Thornton founded GET WET specifically for rural areas that depend largely on private wells for drinking water. Students in the Ossipee Watershed learned how to collect samples of their well water following a protocol and then bringing it into the classroom to test their water for six parameters: pH, iron, conductivity, hardness, chloride and nitrates.

The program also helps students learn how to create a long-term database of groundwater quality data. When the testing was complete, students analyzed their data and found the latitude and longitude coordinates of their wells using Google Earth which allowed them to see their collective results in the form of graphs and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps.

Classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, Green Mountain Conservation Group staff and volunteers, including Noreen Downs and Maud Anderson helped guide students through these scientific procedures.

To learn more about GET WET or any of Green Mountain Conservation Group’s other educational programs, contact Karen Deighan at Green Mountain Conservation Group at 539-1859 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..”> GET WET is partially funded through the Quimby Foundation and NHDES, Local Source Water Protection Grant funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.


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