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Why Are State Microbead Bans Gaining Support From All Sides?

They start out as tiny plastic additives that cosmetic and health product manufactures add to their products and they end up becoming a major polluntant that compromises the ecosystem and even our drinking water. They’re remarkably easy to overlook and yet they’ve become rather infamous, so much so that the companies that use them are starting to see why bans are necessary. They’re known as microbeads. You’ll find them in facial scrubs, hand sanitizers, toothpastes, and in a number of other commercial products. Sometimes they’re colored and resemble sugary sprinkles, other times they’re virtually invisible.

What’s So Bad About Microbeads?
Intended to function as an exfoliating aid, microbeads have become a rather prominent ingredient in many products that mostly get washed down our drains. As they travel through our drainage system, their small size makes it easy for them to slip through the water treatment process and end up in lakes, rivers.

Along the way, the collect waste and chemical residue. The accumulative effect they’ve had on wildlife and waterways has made them a significant environmental hazard. As a result, environmentalists and ecologists have called for bans, and now many lawmakers, and even the companies that use them, have increasingly supported such measures.


Recognizing The Harm And Changes In The Market
What does it take for companies that produce a product to actually support a ban on a component of that very product? Reportedly, microbead product manufacturers have started to recognize the harm they are causing.

As more states are passing laws that outlaw microbeads and more consumers are made aware of the problem, eliminating plastic microbeads from health and beauty products also makes good marketing sense. Illinois was the first state to enact a ban and Colorado, New Jersey, and Maine have recently followed. Bans seem to have gathered extra support in areas where their impact is becoming increasingly apparent, including the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.


Support Spreads And Companies Respond
While the timelines for phase-out of microbead products vary from state-to-state and manufacturer-to-manufacturer, it seems likely that more states will call for their eventual elimination. As access to fresh water is becoming a greater concern in more regions throughout the U.S., it’s also likely that the public and legislators will feel pressure to address serious issues that affect our water supply.

Still the question remains: how will most manufacturers respond, especially when they must greatly modify their products to meet with new standards? Tell us your thoughts on microbead bans and growing support for them.

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Hemp Can Increase Sustainability Across Many Industries

Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration lifted the ban on growing industrial hemp in 2018, companies developing sustainable products can look forward to a future supply of hemp fiber and oil. The plant material works in numerous industrial applications, including paper making, textiles, bioplastic packaging, flooring, and even a form of concrete.

Long History Of Usefulness

Hemp is the non-intoxicating variety of the cannabis or marijuana plant. For thousands of years, human civilizations have cultivated hemp for fiber. Historians have evidence that people grew hemp in 8,000 B.C. It was also a common crop in Colonial America. As recently as the 1930s, the state of Kansas was one of the biggest hemp producers in the world.

Environmental Benefits Of Hemp

Hemp agriculture can decontaminate soil. Its broad leaves protect soil from the sun and reduce soil exposure to the effects of erosion. In three to four months, a farmer can bring in a hemp crop. This is shorter than other fiber crops like cotton. Additionally, hemp requires less water than other crops, like corn, and heavy pesticide use is unnecessary. As hemp grows, it pulls large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Cultivation of industrial hemp for fiber and for grain in France. Credit: Aleks

How Hemp Promotes Sustainable Products

The return of legal hemp agriculture has allowed companies to develop new products. For example, flooring made from the fiber can replace flooring made by cutting down trees. A new concrete hemp product offers builders an alternative to regular concrete. Normal concrete production has a significant environmental impact with heavy CO2 releases.

At the third annual Kansas Hemp Consortium, participants got to preview grocery bags and bottles made from hemp. The bags decompose within a month in a landfill, and the bottles break down in the landfill within six months. Hemp as a base material for bioplastic could mitigate the global plastic pollution problem.

Acoustic & thermal insulation in hemp manufacturing. Credit: Sauvageot

Do you expect manufacturers to embrace hemp as a replacement for other raw materials that have a more negative impact on the environment?

ABOUT The Food And Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.

FDA also has responsibility for regulating the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health and to reduce tobacco use by minors.

FDA is responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medical products more effective, safer, and more affordable and by helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medical products and foods to maintain and improve their health.

FDA also plays a significant role in the Nation’s counterterrorism capability. FDA fulfills this responsibility by ensuring the security of the food supply and by fostering development of medical products to respond to deliberate and naturally emerging public health threats.

ABOUT Kansas Hemp Consortium

KHC is dedicated to smart farming with seed-up testing systems. Providing solutions for farmers, agriculture companies, institutional investors and industry analysts, KHC provides fact-based feedback.

Among KS Hemp Consortium’s strategic partners are licensed hemp producers, processors, dryers, chemists, soil and water scientists, farmers, ranchers and business development experts. Working thoughtfully together, collectively producing in-depth studies of industry trends critical in evaluating investments.

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Microbial Colonies Consume PET Plastic

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a material used in plastic bottles and many other products, including clothing, furnishings, and solar panels. The material’s widespread usage has created a massive global plastic waste problem. PET does not break down easily, and an estimated 8 million tons of it ends up in the oceans annually. Recent discoveries by microbiologists around the world, however, have revealed that bacteria and fungi could one day provide a way to consume the waste material.

5 Bacteria Cooperate To Eat PET

A biology student at Reed College studied bacteria on plastic collected from Galveston Bay in Texas for her thesis. She cultured various bacteria on plastic and eventually discovered that some were consuming the plastic. Subsequent research eventually isolated a group of five bacteria that worked together to chop and consume PET.

A grant from the National Science Foundation is now funding more research. The bacteria have adapted to PET as a food source. They produce various hydrolase enzymes that breakdown the complex polymer molecules within PET.

Fungi Can Degrade Plastic

Fungi have been useful in cleaning up oils and pesticides in a process called mycoremediation. Recent discoveries have created hope that fungi will aid the process of cleaning up plastic waste. Scientists identified a fungus at a plastic waste disposal site in Islamabad, Pakistan, that degraded plastic. In China, researchers confirmed that a fungus was digesting polyester polyurethane. At a polluted lake in Switzerland, four strains of fungi were found to degrade plastics.

Image description: ‘Bottle Buyology’ at the Minnesota State Fair ‘Eco Experience’ Building. Credit: Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon, United States

Bacteria and fungal consumption of plastic, however, remains in the realm of small-scale research. Even if developed for industrial applications, this process may never overcome the massive plastic waste problem faced by the world. Ultimately, alternative materials that can biodegrade after use present the best option in the opinion of many sustainability experts.

What do you think? Does industry need to limit the use of plastic?

ABOUT Reed College

Founded in 1908 in southeast Portland, Oregon, Reed College is a coeducational, independent liberal arts and sciences college. Referred to as one of the most intellectual colleges in the country, Reed is known for its high standards of scholarly practice, creative thinking, and engaged citizenship.

Reed students pursue a bachelor of arts degree in 40 majors and programs. The curriculum includes a year-long humanities course, broad distribution requirements, and a senior thesis. A 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio and small conference-style classes allow faculty members to truly mentor students and engage with them in individual discussions. Reed also offers a graduate program leading to a master of arts degree in liberal studies.

ABOUT The National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…” NSF is vital because we support basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future. This type of support:

  • Is a primary driver of the U.S. economy.
  • Enhances the nation’s security.
  • Advances knowledge to sustain global leadership.

With an annual budget of $8.5 billion (FY 2021), we are the funding source for approximately 25 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

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Green Power And Good Design Cut Data Center Energy Consumption

Within the United States, the data centers necessary to run the internet and store information use 1.8 percent of all electricity. Worldwide, data centers consume roughly 1 percent of total electricity. By some estimates, that figure could reach 8 percent by 2030. As more people stream video and work online and businesses increasingly expand their data storage and internet usage, power demands for data centers will only increase. Confronted by the energy-intensive nature of data centers, industry leaders and researchers are working to cut energy consumption and switch to green power sources that do not add CO2 to the atmosphere.

10-Year Research Program Seeks Solutions

The University of Twente in the Netherlands announced a 10-year program at its Centre for Energy Innovation to identify how to control the power demands of data centers. Over 100 scientists will explore solutions such as better equipment that uses less power and produces less heat, combined with artificial intelligence to closely manage all data center operations.

Server room of BalticServers. Credit: BalticServers

Cooling Challenges

The servers in data centers produce huge quantities of heat, and data centers have always needed extensive cooling systems to prevent damage to equipment. The energy used just to cool a center presents a primary target in the battle for efficiency. A study from EkkoSense calculated that a 30 percent reduction in cooling power usage would prevent 3 million tons of CO2 pollution.

Data center design can greatly impact cooling needs. The green data center company Lunavi uses design to limit reliance on energy-hogging air conditioners. Good design can promote natural cooling processes that supplement air conditioning. The integration of data centers with solar panels and other sources of green energy will also limit or eliminate the pollution associated with their power consumption.

Do you think innovations in the coming decades will allow data centers to call themselves green?

ABOUT The University of Twente

At the University of Twente, we are pioneers in fusing technology, science and engineering with social sciences to impact the world around us. Our driving force as students, scientists and educators is a deep sense of connection with people who share a curious, entrepreneurial spirit.

Since the University of Twente’s founding in 1961, we have been deeply connected with the rich industrial heritage of our region and the well-being of its population. We proudly carry that forward, both at home and internationally. Today we are a catalyst to many high-tech communities and sectors with strong partnerships in a wide range of industries and societal domains. We participate in ground-breaking, globe-spanning networks and programs. We maintain lifelong connections with more than 50,000 alumni worldwide.

ABOUT EkkoSense

EkkoSense has the people, immersive software, innovative sensors and expert thermal services to help optimize your critical facilities and remove thermal risk for your organization. This expertise gives EkkoSense early insight into key technologies such as low-cost Internet of Things sensors, 3D software and AI/Machine Learning enabled advanced analytics – and that translates directly into quantifiable reductions in data center cooling costs and thermal risk for your organization.

EkkoSense has continued to invest in the development of its EkkoSoft Critical SaaS 3D visualization and analytics solution for data centers, which is increasingly becoming the smart choice for organizations looking to optimize the performance of their data center capacity, power and cooling.

ABOUT Lunavi

At Lunavi we believe in the power of people to illuminate the path forward. You can throw technology at problems all day, but if you don’t have the right high-performing team-based culture, you’ll find yourself in an uphill battle. It is this unique combination of people, process, and technology that sets us apart.

Our team lives by strong core values to do right by the customer and provide an exceptional client experience. We seek to understand your organization and what makes you tick. Only then can we fully realize the business outcomes driven by your applications, data, and technology services.

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